Reading in support of an endless pursuit.

The Myths of Happiness
By Sonja Lyubomirsky

Bearing the alluring subtitle “What Should Make You Happy, But Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, But Does,” Lyubomirsky’s latest approaches bliss as a territory for which our proverbial maps are often upside-down. Tackling the flaws in conventional wisdom, The Myths of Happiness details why major life achievements often fail to meet our high expectations, while what we usually call failure can arouse our most engaged and insightful states of mind. Rationality as a prelude to pleasure.

The Happiness Project
By Gretchen Rubin

Call it a self-help variety pack or social science with a heartbeat. After a frustrated period of spinning her wheels (and an epiphany on a slow-moving city bus), lawyer-turned-writer Rubin began her odyssey toward elation, affirming Sartre’s notion that “we must act out passion before we can feel it,, and trying out role models from Aristotle to Oprah along the way.  Emphasizing  novelty and provocation as keys to personal satisfaction, Rubin melds a versatile view of emotional intelligence with an explorer’s thirst for adventure.  

The Happiness Advantage
By Shawn Achor

While many comparable works detail actions which will lead to subsequent happiness, Shawn Achor reverses the order, suggesting that realized self-worth and confidence are the building blocks through which our goals are best achieved. His book culminates a decade spent researching “positive psychology” at Harvard, and teaching a seminar in happiness that became the university’s most popular course.  Advantage makes a powerful case that the ability to express optimism can serve as a formative act of courage.   

Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life
By Winifred Gallagher

Might the fullest life be found by those with the ability to sharply “zoom in” on their passions?  In Rapt, Winifred Gallagher posits that our mood is most directly in tune with that upon which we choose to focus our attention.  Productivity clichés get deflated along the way, as when Gallagher cognitive scientist David Meyer states that “Einstein didn’t invent the theory of relativity while multi-tasking at the Swiss patent office.”  Gallagher’s thesis — that catharsis is found in clarifying our interests and devoting to them the emphasis they deserve — brings pinpoint precision to a field often jumbled by generality.

The Inimitable Jeeves
By P. G. Wodehouse

Here’s happiness itself, transformed into fiction by Wodehouse’s alchemical genius. Just try to get through any single story of the hijinks of playboy Bertie Wooster and his devoted valet, Reginald Jeeves (or as Jeeves refers to himself, “the gentleman’s personal gentleman”), without feeling your heart lift.  Who among us couldn’t be a bit happier upon reading young Bingo Little’s address of his pal Bertie, delivered with a smile: “You always were a fat-headed worm without any soul, weren’t you?” Don’t ask us to explain: it’s simply magic.

Image of Hotei, god of happiness by Andrea Schaffer.