If there’s one thing that almost every human on earth wants more of out of life, it’s happiness. But what exactly does that mean? And what are the things that really result in deep, lasting happiness?

While for some, a “happy life” brings up visions of a big house and fancy car, I think that our society is increasingly waking up to the reality that true happiness comes from a more meaningful existence: connection with others, giving back to the world around us, and getting in touch with our spiritual selves.

When I look back over the books I’ve loved over the last few years, I’m struck at how many of them have spurred me along in my own journey towards finding deeper, more soulful happiness. Scroll on for 10 of my favorite book on happiness, and share in the comments if there are any I should add to my list!

p.s. Check out our list of the best vacation reads for this summer!

image by steve schlackman

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Worksby Dan Harris

This is the book that made me start meditating every morning. It takes everything you thought about meditation (that it’s just for monks, or requires a lot of time) and turns it on its head, reinforcing the message that meditation is really just a means to a more intentional life.

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun, by Gretchen Rubin

This is the QUEEN of all happiness books – a New York Times bestseller for a ridiculous amount of time, there are so many bits of wisdom in here that have worked their way into my psyche and informed the way I approach day-to-day life. Gretchen Rubin spends a year of her life testing out theories on what really increases happiness, and puts on her social scientist hat to record the findings so we can learn what works and what doesn’t.

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder,by Arianna Huffington

This is the book that transformed my sleep habits — which I’ve come to realize have a huge effect on my overall happiness all day long. Huffington shares her own medical and emotional crisis that sent her on a mission to change her life in pretty amazing ways. If the woman behind The Huffington Post can make time for sleep, relaxation, and unplugging, I think it’s safe to say that we can too!

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, by Brené Brown

You can’t have a list of books on more soulful living without including some major Brené action in there. I could honestly have included any of hers on here, but this is a good place to start – you’ll question all your previous assumptions about what it means to belong in our culture, and most importantly, get more in tune with your authentic self.

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon Self-Control, and my Other Experiments at Everyday Life, by Gretchen Rubin

This is a continuation of The Happiness Project (slide 2), but I gleaned so many new insights from Rubin’s personal experiment to transform her home into the happiest place possible, from her surroundings to her marriage to how she spent her time outside of working hours.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person, by Shonda Rhimes

The creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal chronicles her own journey to conquering her fears and living a bolder, more inspired life where she learned what it means to truly love oneself. If your fears often get in the way of the kind of person you aspire to be, this book’s for you.

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a More Soulful Way of Living, by Shauna Niequist

*sigh* I think need to read this book again. Everyone with perfectionist tendencies (hand raised) will totally identify with Niequist’s personal path from being burned out and overly-busy to finding a totally new way to live. It requires courage, simplifying, and saying no a lot. But as she shows in her own story, it’s what leads to getting in touch with your essential self. #worthit

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World, by Bob Goff

I recently picked up this sweet collection of wise and whimsical stories from Goff’s life. It’s a reminder that fun, joy, and meaning are waiting for us everyday, and often in the most unlikely places. This is a good one to read when you need reminders of how much good is in the world.

Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach

The OG book on happiness. One of my mom’s friends gave this to her when I was a teenager, and I loved it from the beginning and still love it now. There’s one entry for each day of the year, each meant to inspire us to awaken to quiet joys, simple pleasures, and the beauty that’s all around us if we just open our eyes to see it.

The Book With No Picturesby B.J. Novak

Okay, this one may not be as deep as the others on the list, but if you find yourself in need of a good laugh… Read this book to a kid under the age of 10, and I dare you not to giggle uncontrollably.

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Comments (9)
  1. 1
    Karina July 3, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Moorea Seal’s 52 Lists of Happiness journal!

  2. 2
    Amy July 3, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    You’re missing the best one Chossing Happiness by Alexandra Stoddard. I’ve read the others and they don’t compare.


  3. 3
    Inga July 5, 2018 at 6:37 am

    Many thanks! Now my vacation reading list is full!

  4. 4
    Tomato Chambray July 5, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    I absolutely love Shauna’s books. Can’t wait to check out the rest!

  5. 5
    Michelle July 18, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    Love these…a printable list would be great. 🙂

  6. 6
    bkcsquared July 24, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you for these!! I’ve been in a bit of slump lately & I think reading one (or all!) of these will help a lot. If you have any recommendations for podcasts with a similar message, I’d be all ears!! 🙂

    xo, B

  7. 7
    Amanda Gene July 14, 2019 at 11:44 am

    I got to check some of those books out. My mother did read the Simple Abundance when I was little. Maybe I should start with that book. 🙂

  8. 8
    Stacie Barton March 17, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    Would also recommend What Happy People Know by Dan Baker & Cameron Stauth. One of my ABSOLUTE favorite books. But looking forward to checking out some of these other ones!