7 Books You Should Read in 2017

Become happier and healthier with these engaging, research-based titles.

Posted Jan 12, 2017

I’m frequently asked to name my favorite popular-press books about well-being, happiness, and positive psychology. With the new year upon us and our resolutions in full force, I thought this might be a good time to share some of my top picks.

Note that, while the psychology section of your local bookstore may be teeming with titles that promise to improve or even revolutionize your life, they are not all based on research. But, rest assured: all of these titles are, in fact, research-based and are written by experts, but they are also extremely engaging reads. They've deeply enhanced my knowledge and appreciation of the field while being accessible to a wide-ranging audience.

If you want a user-friendly introduction to happiness research: The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky.

One of the world’s leading experts on the science of happiness, Dr. Lyubomirsky offers data-driven advice on how to become lastingly happier. She discusses how and why activities like acts of kindness, savoring, expressing gratitude, forgiving, and curtailing social comparisons can enhance your life, and gives clear advice on how to put the advice into practice. This one is simply a must.

If you want to spend your money for maximum happiness: Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton.

Think money can’t buy you happiness? Experts Dunn and Norton argue that maybe – just maybe – it can, if you know the secrets of how to spend it right. Armed with humorous anecdotes and actionable tips, these two social psychologists share their research on how to turn dollars into good feelings. One of my favorite things about this book is that many of the tips can actually end up saving you money!

If you're determined to approach health and weight-management with some sanity, try: Secrets from the Eating Lab by Traci Mann and Slim by Design by Brian Wansink.

Because weight loss tops most people's resolution lists, this one gets two endorsements. If you're grappling with the frustration of failed dieting attempts, no one will ease your mind like researcher Traci Mann. In the first half of Secrets from the Eating Lab, she explains -- better than anyone ever has -- exactly why traditional diets don't work, and then offers more reasonable, sustainable tips that just might. Wansink's creative eating research is put to work in Slim by Design to offer surprisingly simple ways to restructure our daily environments to make it easier to choose healthy behaviors (see also his fantastic Mindless Eating). For these authors, weight loss isn't about tallying points or exerting a superhuman amount of willpower. It's about intentionally changing your behavior and mindset to bring about desired goals.

If you resolve to step away from Facebook in 2017: The Village Effect by Susan Pinker.

Armed with rich stories and fascinating data, Pinker convincingly argues that face-to-face contact is essential for health and happiness. You'll learn why even shallow social contacts can enrich your life, why a text message can't compare to a phone call, and why loneliness can be as toxic as smoking. After reading this book, you’ll want to call a friend, join a club, plan a dinner party, and - most definitely - scale back your social media use.

If you’re interested in feeling all the feels: The Upside of Your Dark Side, by Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd Kashdan.

Sure, we all want to be happier. But we also want - and need - to experience the full range of emotions. Biswas-Diener and Kashdan argue that emotions like sadness, anger, pride, and fear serve vital functions. Anger can motivate us to make changes. Fear signals threat. While we don't want anger, sadness, or fear to take over and overwhelm us - like they so often can - these emotions can enhance our lives in meaningful ways. Here, you can learn how to embrace them all.

If you want to learn one sweeping secret for success: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth. From classrooms to boardrooms, grit has become the latest buzzword. And for very good reason. Duckworth's research has demonstrated how and why grit is predictive of success in a number of realms, even more so than IQ. In this new book, learn more about grit, why you should care about it, and how to foster it in yourself and in the people you know.

Note: While I am acquainted with some of these researchers, I have no financial stake in these endorsements, and opinions are entirely my own.