Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
This book exhaustively examines the work habits of 161 writers, composers, artists, scientists, philosophers, and more. It’s fascinating to see the range of habits—and it makes clear that while brilliant people vary tremendously in the specific habits they follow, they all know very well what habits work for them, and they make a great effort to maintain those routines.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
I’m not a long-distance runner, and I have no desire to become one, but Murakami’s description of why he runs and how it has changed him—and how he’s managed to stick to such a grueling routine for so many years—is fascinating.
I found this book very helpful as I was researching Better Than Before. It’s an eternally fascinating question: when and how do we change?
Pack of Two
My family recently got a dog (Barnaby!) and when we began contemplating this step, I started obsessively reading books about dogs, especially memoirs involving dogs. I can only make sense of my own experiences by reading. This book is fascinating on many levels, about happiness and habits, even if you’re not interested in dogs.
Why We Get Fat
It’s no exaggeration to say this book has had more effect on my habits (also, my father’s habits) than practically anything else I’ve ever read. I was so persuaded by his arguments about nutrition that my eating habits changed, for the better, overnight. No small steps, no gradual change, no looking back—bam.
Give and Take
This book takes a very sophisticated, complex look at when and why giving—or taking—helps or hurts us. It’s not a simple answer like “It’s always better to give!” or “Take whatever you can!” Give and Take looks at networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation—how giving and taking shapes our work and personal lives.
My Life in France
This wonderful book describes how Child fell in love with France and became utterly absorbed in learning about French cooking and cookbook writing. I must confess that I have very little interest in the ruling passion of Julia Child’s life: food. But that doesn’t matter. Child’s enthusiasm, her love of her subject and the zest with which she tackled even the drudgery involved, her respect for the masters in her field and her curiosity constantly to learn more, sweeps me along. She’s one of my patron saints.
Into the Wild
A young man graduated from college, abandoned his possessions, got rid of his money, and began a long journey. He walked into the wild and died there. Krakauer retraces his steps and grapples with his motives. What was Christopher McCandless’s vision of a happy, satisfying life? What was he seeking? Absolutely riveting.
The Life of Samuel Johnson
This book isn’t for everyone, but I have to include it because reading Samuel Johnson has taught me so much about myself—and human nature generally. It was reading Johnson that made it plain to me: we’re not very different from other people, but those differences are very important.
Outer Order, Inner Calm
I love to read. Reading is my treehouse and my cubicle; it shapes my life and my habits; it’s a tremendous source of happiness and always leaves me feeling better. When researching my books about happiness and habits—Better Than Before, The Happiness Project, and Happier at Home—I read piles and piles of books. And like most bibliophiles, I love to urge others to read my favorite books. I hope you enjoy this list of uplifting books that leave you feeling better than when you started them.
And if you want even more book recommendations, join my online book club! Once a month, I suggest one book about happiness or habits; one outstanding work of children’s literature (I’m a huge fan of kid lit); and one eccentric pick (books that I love but admittedly reflect my idiosyncratic tastes).
Featured Image: humonia/iStock; Author Photo: Elena Seibert