Shawn Achor’s Bookshelf

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and Big Potential share the books that make him happy.

Shawn Achor

How’s this for a cool job description? Shawn Achor is one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. And he knows what he’s talking about too—he has received several distinguished teaching awards from Harvard University, his research on happiness made the cover of the Harvard Business Review, his TED talk is one of the most popular all time with over 17 million views, and his lecture airing on PBS has been seen by millions. The Harvard graduate went on to earn a Masters degree from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics and then in 2007, he founded Good Think to share his research with the world.

The author of three books on happiness, Shawn Achor has recently published his fourth, titled Big Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being. In it, he argues that, in a world that thrives on competition and individual achievement, we are measuring and pursuing potential all wrong. By pursuing success in isolation—pushing others away as we push ourselves too hard—we are not just limiting our potential, we are becoming more stressed and disconnected than ever. He reveals a better approach, showing that success and happiness are not competitive sports. Rather, they depend almost entirely on how well we connect with, relate to, and learn from each other. When we help others become better, we reach new levels of potential, as well.

Shawn Achor shared with Read it Forward the books on his bookshelf that inspire him to achieve his greatest potential. Click on the white dots on each book’s spine to read his thoughts about the title.

Shawn Achor

Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change by Michelle Gielan

Broadcasting Happiness is pure genius and written by my favorite author—who I happen to be married to. The book teaches readers how to broadcast the happiness advantage out to others. I love this book and her.

The Essential C. S. Lewis by Lyle W. Dorsett

C. S. Lewis is the guy I want to be. As a writer, he found ways to make complicated ideas come to life, even for children. Read his allegorical tale The Great Divorce, even if you aren’t spiritual. He is the reason why I went to Divinity School.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

Daniel Pink is a model for how people should write. He has written several books, but he knocks it out of the park with When, which looks at the scientific secrets of perfect timing. I think his books should be mandatory business reading.

The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the Digital Era by Amy Blankson

What happens when a unicorn goes to Harvard and Yale, then wrestles with one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for happiness? A great book by an even better sister.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant

Smart, nuanced and incredibly prolific, Adam is in an elite league of people who can make research practical without losing the science. And he has been a kind friend to me.

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell

I like to think of Rob Bell as a modern-day C. S. Lewis. Some people have brilliant depth; others are good storytellers—Rob Bell is both. If you get a chance to see him on tour, go!

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is the loveliest author (who is not my wife). She makes you fall in love with her words (and her) while also learning to fall in love yourself, too.  That’s big magic!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss is my favorite author that is not C. S. Lewis. His storytelling is unparalleled (Brandon Sanderson is a close second).  Patrick, message me so I can gush about why a happiness researcher has read your books 10 times (twice a year for 5 years) and why I can’t wait to read them again.

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SHAWN ACHOR is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in the most popular class at Harvard. Shawn has become one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between happiness and success. His research on happiness made the cover of Harvard Business Review, his TED talk is one of the most popular all time with over 4 million views, and his lecture airing on PBS has been seen by millions. Shawn teaches for the Advanced Management Program at Wharton Business School, and collaborates on research with Yale and Columbia Universities. Shawn graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and earned a Masters degree from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist ethics. In 2007, Shawn founded Good Think to share his research with the world. Subsequently, Shawn has lectured or researched in 51 countries, speaking to CEOs in China, schoolchildren in South Africa, doctors in Dubai, and farmers in Zimbabwe. He has spoken to the royal family in Abu Dhabi, doctors at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and worked with the U.S. Department of Health to promote happiness. In 2012, Shawn helped lead the Everyday Matters campaign with the National MS Society and Genzyme to show how happiness remains a choice for those struggling with a chronic illness.

About Abbe Wright

Abbe Wright

ABBE WRIGHT is the Editor of Read It Forward. As a kid, she used to get in trouble at summer camp for using a flashlight to read inside her sleeping bag after lights out, but these days, she lives in Brooklyn, where nobody minds if she stays up late reading. She has written for Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Cut and tweets about books (and The Bachelor) at @abbewright.

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