These great reads will lift your spirits, from books about the psychological and neurological basis of happiness to happiness memoirs.

By Rebecca Renner
Updated January 14, 2020
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On those days when you need an extra boost, there are good books to read to help lift your spirits and make you feel happy. If you’re a science buff, you can snag a book about psychology and dig deeper into the neurological basis of happiness. Some of these books may also give you pointers on how to use science to your advantage and keep your rose-tinted frames on for good.

Happiness memoirs focus on the author, usually on one positive change they made to improve their life and their outlook. Sometimes this change is as simple as a shift in mindset. In other books, the author had to make a 180-degree flip to turn their life around.

Other books offer wisdom. Many nonfiction authors have overcome astounding hurdles in their lives to get where they are today. Some of the most empowering books don’t focus on the endpoint of success. Instead, they detail the arduous journey that the author took to reach their goal.

If you’re in a good mood, you can read any book, but if you want to give that mood even more of a boost, find good books that dig deeper into the ideas of happiness and success. Many of them have different messages, but most of these books have at least a few things in common, primarily that mindfulness, kindness, drive, and deliberate living will help you create the life that you want to live.

Read one of these 10 books to gain some wisdom about happiness, and keep your good mood going for the long haul.

Courtesy of Macmillan Publishers

1

After his mother became president, Alex Claremont-Diaz rose to stardom—and infamy. When pictures of his argument with a British prince are splashed all over the tabloids, heads of state devise a fake truce between the two. But what starts as a bogus friendship slowly turns into a romance they struggle to keep secret. If you’re looking for the sweet, romantic novel of the year, your search is over.

To buy: $10; amazon.com.

Courtesy of Catapult

2

The Mongol Derby is a distance horse race that’s touted as the longest, toughest race in the world. At the age of 19, Lara Prior-Palmer traveled across the world, and, with almost no training, she went on to become the first female and the youngest person ever to win. If you want to feel like you can accomplish anything in the face of even the most extreme odds, read Prior-Palmer’s lyrical memoir.

To buy: $15; amazon.com.

Courtesy of W.W. Norton

3

We all want to be happy. Our quest for happiness often motivates our choices, from how we make a living to our choice of partners and where we live. But happiness isn’t just some magical feeling produced by puppies and sunflowers. Psychologists and neuroscientists have been studying the science of happiness for decades. Learn their theories and more in this witty pop-sci take on the best of bliss.

To buy: $13; amazon.com.

Courtesy of Lake Union

4

Amy Byler’s life as a single mom is familiar. She’s overworked and tired when her estranged husband offers to take their kids for the summer. She’s so ready for a break, she accepts his offer and flees rural Pennsylvania for New York City—and the life she’s always dreamed of. If you’re ready for some escapism, too, pick up a copy of The Overdue Life, and delve into the Amy’s new world of sophistication, culture, and love.

To buy: $16; amazon.com.

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

5

Does your life feel a little stifling? It might be time to feed your creativity. As small as the act may seem, making something from the heart—whether that’s writing, cooking, painting, or crafting!—takes some serious bravery. Gilbert, who also wrote Eat, Pray, Love, should know. With Big Magic, Gilbert goes deep with the spiritual side of creativity.

To buy: $11; amazon.com.

Amazon.com

6

Are you feeling joyful? It might be time to learn about the hows and whys of joy. In Joyful, industrial designer Ingrid Fetell Lee examines some of the beautiful experiences that bring us joy. Learn more about your own happiness by delving into the neuroscience and psychology of delight. Through these insights, you may be able to keep your joyous mood going by looking around you every day.

To buy: $24, amazon.com.

Amazon.com

7

Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama has lived an accomplished life, but it hasn’t been without hardships. In Becoming, Obama weaves the story of her inspiring life, from the years she spent growing up on the South Side of Chicago to her life in the White House. You will earn to a new appreciation of the former First Lady when you learn about all the things she’s experienced—and triumphed over—and her story will inspire you to live a more daring life.

To buy: $18, amazon.com.

Amazon.com

8

One day, Gretchen Rubin decided to live her life to the fullest. So she started putting all the advice she could find about how to be happy to the test. Taking cues from spiritual practices, science, and pop culture, Rubin tried to discover how she could be truly happy. Now that you’re in a good mood, take it to the next level and pursue your bliss.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.

Amazon.com

9

It’s tempting to protect ourselves in life by hardening our exteriors. Contrary to what we may think, showing vulnerability may be our greatest strength. In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brené Brown shares 12 years of her research, demonstrating that vulnerability can be a source of courage and can forge lasting connections between people. Read Daring Greatly and learn how to cultivate deeper relationships with everyone in your life and feel empowered.

To buy: $10, amazon.com.

Amazon.com

10

You’re probably heard of Shonda Rhimes, the brilliant creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. At one point in her life, like so many of us, she had a habit of saying “no” and making excuses to get out of even the most exciting events. Even though she is a self-described introvert, Rhimes decided to stop making excuses. By saying “yes,” Rhimes changed her life. If you’re in a good mood, you’re probably ready to say “yes” to a bunch of new things. Let Rhimes give you an extra nudge of motivation.

To buy: $11, amazon.com.