Happiness looks different for different people. For some it means being surrounded by friends and family. For others it means working at a job they love. And for still others it means enjoying some peaceful alone time. But whatever your definition of happiness might be, the books in this list will help you find more of it.
Our curators Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Daniel Pink, and Adam Grant pick two exciting reads per season to share with Next Big Idea Club members. The rankings below, however, are based on the most popular “Book Bite” audio summaries in the Next Big Idea App. In other words, they are 2023’s best happiness books, according to our thousands of app users. So if you’re ready to discover the secrets of a happier, more fulfilled life, check out the 23 remarkable titles below.
23. Self-Made: Creating Our Identities from Da Vinci to the Kardashians
By Tara Isabella Burton
Through a series of chronological biographical essays on famous (and infamous) “self-creators” in the modern Western world, from the Renassiance to the Enlightenment to modern capitalism and finally to our present moment of mass media, Self-Made examines the theories and forces behind our never-ending need to curate ourselves. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Tara Isabella Burton, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
22. Soul Shift: The Weary Human’s Guide to Getting Unstuck and Reclaiming Your Path to Joy
By Rachel Macy Stafford
An acclaimed blogger and special education teacher offers a practical, inclusive guide to navigating a culture of distraction and depletion to find our way back to what delights our heart, makes us feel alive, and brings us peace. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Rachel Macy Stafford, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
21. A Pity Party Is Still a Party: A Feel-Good Guide to Feeling Bad
By Chelsea Harvey Garner
What if all the advice we’ve received about “looking on the bright side” is wrong? What if sadness is actually the key to happiness, and can even be… fun? A beloved psychotherapist is here to make that case, arguing that it’s not enough for us to tolerate hard feelings; we need to embrace them. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Chelsea Harvey Garner, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
20. Quitting: A Life Strategy: The Myth of Perseverance―and How the New Science of Giving Up Can Set You Free
By Julia Keller
Diving into the neuroscience of nope and the cultural messages that drive our reluctance to throw in the towel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist dismantles the myth of perseverance once and for all—because quitting can be an unexpected act of self-love. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Julia Keller, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
19. Real Life: The Journey from Isolation to Openness and Freedom
By Sharon Salzberg
Merging the insights of inspiring voices with her own understanding of mindfulness, a world-renowned meditation pioneer shows us how we can recover from the emotional effects of crisis. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Sharon Salzberg, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
18. Reasons Not to Worry: How to Be Stoic in Chaotic Times
By Brigid Delaney
In this heartfelt and soul-searching work, brimming with warmth, humor, and insight, a beloved Guardian columnist spends a year exploring how to pursue a rich and meaningful life, turning to the wisdom of the Stoics for insights into the deepest questions of existence. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Brigid Delaney, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
17. The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise
By Pico Iyer
Traveling from Iran to North Korea, from the Dalai Lama’s Himalayas to the ghostly temples of Japan, an acclaimed journalist brings together a lifetime of explorations to upend our ideas of utopia and ask how we might find peace in the midst of difficulty and suffering. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Pico Iyer, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
16. The Fun Habit: How the Pursuit of Joy and Wonder Can Change Your Life
By Mike Rucker
Discover the latest compelling scientific evidence for the potent and revitalizing value of fun, and how to make having fun a habitual and authentic part of your daily life. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Mike Rucker, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
15. Goodbye, Perfect: How to Stop Pleasing, Proving, and Pushing for Others… and Live for Yourself
By Homaira Kabir
A must-read leadership and self-care book for women who have fallen into the toxic traps of perfectionism, approval-seeking, and endless doing. Goodbye, Perfect teaches us how to embrace the gifts our lives embody, and reclaim joy, ease, and psychological well-being. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Homaira Kabir, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
14. Everyday Utopia: What 2,000 Years of Wild Experiments Can Teach Us About the Good Life
By Kristen Ghodsee
Everyday Utopia offers a radically hopeful vision for how to build more contented and connected societies, alongside a practical guide to what we all can do in the meantime to live the good life each and every day. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Kristen Ghodsee, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
13. Night Vision: Seeing Ourselves Through Dark Moods
By Mariana Alessandri
An Existentialist philosopher draws on the stories of a diverse group of nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophers and writers to help us see that our suffering is a sign not that we are broken but that we are tender, perceptive, and intelligent. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Mariana Alessandri, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
12. The Perfection Trap: Embracing the Power of Good Enough
By Thomas Curran
An acclaimed professor at the London School of Economics explores how the pursuit of perfection can become a dangerous obsession that leads to burnout and depression—keeping us from achieving our goals. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Thomas Curran, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
11. The Power of Awe: Overcome Burnout & Anxiety, Ease Chronic Pain, Find Clarity & Purpose―in Less Than 1 Minute Per Day
By Jake Eagle and Michael Amster
The A.W.E. Method ensures that awe and its many benefits are accessible to you at any time, in any place—sitting at a stoplight, cooking a meal, petting an animal, or listening to a loved one’s laugh. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by co-authors Jake Eagle and Michael Amster, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
10. Deeper Mindfulness: The New Way to Rediscover Calm in a Chaotic World
By Mark Williams and Danny Penman
From the authors of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, this anticipated follow-up allows both new and seasoned practitioners of mindfulness and meditation to deepen their practice and alleviate anxiety, stress, depression, and improve overall quality of life. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by co-authors Mark Williams and Danny Penman, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
9. Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World
By Gretchen Rubin
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project discovers a surprising path to a life of more energy, creativity, luck, and love: by tuning in to the five senses. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Gretchen Rubin, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
8. The Power of Saying No: The New Science of How to Say No that Puts You in Charge of Your Life
By Vanessa Patrick
An award-winning professor and researcher delves into the new science of saying no. She introduces the groundbreaking concept of “empowered refusal” and reveals surprising secrets about the power of the word no. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Vanessa Patrick, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
7. The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace and Power
By Katherine Morgan Schafler
Which of the five types of perfectionist are you? Classic, intense, Parisian, messy, or procrastinator? As you identify your unique perfectionist profile, you’ll learn how to manage each form of perfectionism to work for you, not against you. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Katherine Morgan Schafler, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
6. How to Think Like a Philosopher: Twelve Key Principles for More Humane, Balanced, and Rational Thinking
By Julian Baggini
In the face of disinformation and disaster, we cannot hot take, life hack, or meme our way to a better future. But how should we respond instead? How to Think like a Philosopher offers practical solutions to this question that are inspired by our most eminent philosophers, past and present. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Julian Baggini, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
5. Happiness Is Overrated: Simple Lessons on Finding Meaning in Each Moment
By Cuong Lu
Stop chasing happiness and reconnect to the meaning of each moment through this practical guide, told through vignettes of life training as a Buddhist monk under world-renowned spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by author Cuong Lu, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
4. Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier
By Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey
With insight, compassion, and hope, a Harvard professor and a global icon reveal how the tools of emotional self-management can change your life―immediately. They recommend practical, research-based practices to build the four pillars of happiness: family, friendship, work, and faith. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by co-author Arthur C. Brooks, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
3. Rise and Shine: How to Transform Your Life, Morning by Morning
By Kate Oliver and Toby Oliver
Based on the latest scientific research, as well as ancient traditions and insights gathered from decades of personal and professional experience, Rise and Shine offers thirty different practices that will encourage you to curate a morning routine that blends seamlessly with your lifestyle. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by co-author Toby Oliver, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
2. Sensitive: The Hidden Power of the Highly Sensitive Person in a Loud, Fast, Too-Much World
By Jenn Granneman and Andre Sólo
A paradigm-shifting look at a long-undervalued yet hugely beneficial personality trait, from the creators of the world’s largest community for highly sensitive people. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by co-author Andre Sólo, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
1. The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness
By Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz
What makes for a happy life, a fulfilling life? A good life? According to the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest scientific study of happiness ever conducted, the answer to these questions may be closer than you realize. Listen to our Book Bite summary, read by co-authors Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, in the Next Big Idea App or view on Amazon.
The Key Ideas in 15 Minutes
“If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books,” Roald Dahl once famously said. The only trouble is, reading even one book from cover to cover takes hours—and you may not have many hours to spare.
But imagine for a moment: What if you could read a groundbreaking new book every day? Or even better, what if you could invite a world-renowned thinker into your earbuds, where they personally describe the 5 key takeaways from their work in just 15 minutes?
With the Next Big Idea App, we’ve turned this fantasy into a reality. We partnered with hundreds of acclaimed authors to create “Book Bites,” short audio summaries of the latest nonfiction that are prepared and read aloud by the authors themselves. Discover cutting-edge leadership skills, productivity hacks, the science of happiness and well-being, and much more—all in the time it takes to drive to work or walk the dog.
Go Deeper with a Next Big Idea Club Membership
The Next Big Idea App is free for anyone to try—and if you love it, we invite you to become an official member of the Next Big Idea Club. Membership grants you unlimited access to Book Bites and unlocks early-release, ad-free episodes of our LinkedIn-partnered podcast. You also gain entry to our private online discussion group, where you can talk big ideas with fellow club members and join exclusive live Q&A sessions with featured authors.
For a more focused learning experience, we recommend a Hardcover or eBook Membership. Every few months, legendary authors and club curators Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink select two new nonfiction books as the must-reads of the season. We then send hardcover copies straight to your doorstep, or eBook versions to your favorite digital device. We also collaborate with the authors of selected books to produce original reading guides and premium video e-courses, 50-minute master classes that take you step by step through their most life-changing ideas. And yes, it’s all available through the Next Big Idea App.
Learn Faster, from the World’s Leading Thinkers
Whether you prefer to read, listen, or watch, the Next Big Idea is here to help you work smarter and live better. Wake up with an always-fresh Idea of the Day, the perfect shot of inspiration to go with your morning coffee. Then dive into one of our Challenges, hand-picked collections of Book Bites that form crash courses in subjects like communication, motivation, and career acceleration. Later, watch the playback of an interview with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Stanford psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt, or philosopher John Kaag. And be sure to check the “Events” tab in the app, so that you can join an upcoming live Q&A and personally chat with the next featured thought leader.
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