Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Can Books Improve Your Happiness?

I'm obsessed with happiness. I've been reading books about happiness for more than ten years. 

I know quite a bit about happiness. I know that about 50% of happiness is inherited, leaving another 50% that we can work to improve. I know the most important things about happiness that we can try to control are finding a sense of purpose, daily physical movement, daily social contact, feeling gratitude, practicing positive thoughts, and being present in the moment.

I've posted several times in the past about happiness. Here are some of my favorites:
          Happiness Books* (*I know, I know, I just did a post on happiness books.)
          Books That Would Be on My Syllabus If I Taught Happiness 101
          Be-Happy Books (Fiction that promotes happiness)
          Reading. Happily. (The Myths of Happiness)
          Best Books on Happiness
          How Happy Are You? Would You Like to Be as Happy as Pollyanna?
          And the Pursuit of Happiness (Maira Kalman book)

Can reading books improve your happiness? Biblio-therapists (yes, there are such folks) say yes. I recently read an article in Good Housekeeping, "60 Books That Make You Happier." It's a list of books that can make you happier, compiled from biblio-therapists. It reminded me of The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies, a book I read a few years ago. 

I decided to take a look at books recommended by biblio-therapists and then share some books biblio-therapists recommend that resonated with me.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
ZAMM is the book that brought me down off the ledge. Pirsig, too, was up there, at one point in his life, and it was through his study of motorcycles and zen that brought him back to living in the present moment rather than in his head. I've read this book more times than any other book. Here is one long quote I really like:

"Peace of mind isn't at all superficial to technical work. It's the whole thing. That which produces it is good work and that which destroys it is bad work. The specs, the measuring instruments, the quality control, the final check-out, these are all means toward the end of satisfying the peace of mind of those responsible for the work. What really counts in the end is their peace of mind, nothing else. The reason for this is that peace of mind is a prerequisite for a perception of that Quality which is beyond romantic Quality and classic Quality and which unites the two, and which must accompany the work as it proceeds. The way to see what looks good and understand the reasons it looks good, and to be at one with this goodness as the work proceeds, is to cultivate an inner quietness, a peace of mind so that goodness can shine through."

Zen and Zen Classics by R. H. Blyth
I bought this book way back in the 90's when I accidentally joined the best book club I've ever belonged to, the Quality Paperback Book Club. Blyth is one of the few people who is able to write about zen in a zennish way. 

"Man is the eye with which the universe sees itself, and it is free to spit in its own eye if it so desires."

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
How many times did I read over this Teddy Roosevelt quote Brown uses in her book when I was struggling? "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron 
There's something so calming about Pema Chodron's writings. 

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Lamott shares the troubles of her life, and, oddly, always makes me laugh.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
One of my favorite stories. I love how the fox sees things:

“I am looking for friends. What does that mean -- tame?"

"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties." 

"To establish ties?" 

"Just that," said the fox. "To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world....” 

And if all else fails, try this one....

Better Than Chocolate: 50 Proven Ways to Feel Happier
This is an itsy-bitsy illustrated book with fifty ideas, all with science behind them, to feel a little happier. 

These are my go-to books when I am down. What are yours? Please share them with me.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!


  1. I never knew 50% of happiness is inherited. Seriously?
    Love how Little Prince made it to your list :)

  2. What an interesting post! Books is definitely my main source of happiness!

  3. Wow- I'd never really considered this at all! I love how creative your posts are!

  4. Great topic you chose for this week! I guess it makes sense now that I think about it that happiness can be 50% inherited *ponders further*

    My TTT

  5. Interesting selections this week. Great job!

  6. You inspire me to be a better person. Thank you.

  7. I didn't know about the 50% inherited part, obviously there's more known about happiness and how it works that I was aware of! Good to know. I've heard of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but don't know much about it, looks like it might be worth a closer look.

    Better Than Chocolate looks fun.

  8. Great list Deb - thanks.

    Mr Books and I read one a few years ago called Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert that struck a chord with both of us for it's practical, scientific outlook.
    I also really liked Lama Surya Das' book Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be.
    I've often wondered about ZAMM and whether it was for me or not.

  9. Thank you for sharing about these books and discussing this topic. I never heard the term biblio therapist but I'm adding it to my vocabulary- very interesting. I'd love to see their list of books..

  10. What a beautiful take on the topic! And I definitely agree about The Little Prince :)

  11. I strongly believe that books can improve your happiness. Depending on the topic, they can put you in bad places as well though, so it`s important to have trigger warnings. But yeah, reading always puts me in a good mood. For a feel good vibe I normally go to YA or a childhood classic.

    Carmen / Carmen`s Reading Corner


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