Here's my own "top 10" list for positive psychology books.
do not attach any meaning to this list other than that they are either
my personal favorites or strongly recommended to me by friends in the
By Ben Dean
1. Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
My father was a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II, so I've always
had a special interest in Frankl's moving account of his own experience as
a prisoner in Auschwitz. This book describes these experiences and then his
approach to therapy (logotherapy) which is based on his assumption that our
deepest desire is to find meaning and purpose in life. I now believe that
Frankl's striking ability to surmount his concentration camp experience was
due, in part, to a an unusually strong genetic predisposition toward hope
2. Authentic Happiness by Martin E. P. Seligman
Marty Seligman, Ph.D. is the founding father of Positive Psychology with
an extraordinary bio which you can peruse at www.authentichappiness.org.
In this book he integrates theory and research to map out how to lead a life
of positive emotion, engagement, and meaning. Use this book in conjunction
with the assessments at www.authentichappiness.org. (If you don't already
have Marty's Learned Optimism or The Optimistic Child, then I recommend adding
these classics to your positive psychology library as well.)
3. Handbook of Positive Psychology edited by C. R. Snyder and Shane Lopez
Published in 2001, the "Handbook" was the first systematic attempt
to bring together the leading scholars in the, then, emerging field of positive
psychology. Begins with an historical overview by Seligman. Ends assertively
with "The Future of Positive Psychology: A Declaration of Independence." Essential
for any positive psychology library.
4. A Psychology of Human Strengths: Fundamental Questions and Future Directions
for a Positive Psychology - edited by Lisa Aspinwall and Ursula Staudinger
If I were teaching a positive psychology class, this would be the textbook.
The editors ask chapter contributors (including Daniel Kahneman, Walter
Mischel, Robert Sternberg, Carol Ryff, and Alice Isen) to comment on the "potentials
and pitfalls" of a psychology of human strengths.
5. Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification - edited
by Christopher Peterson and Martin E.P. Seligman
The CSV, sometimes dubbed the "UnDSM is *the* must-have book for
anyone interested in coaching and positive psychology. Each chapter is
one of 24 Strengths--strengths such as curiosity, wisdom, zest, forgiveness,
and gratitude. Once you or your clients take the VIA Strengths Survey
at www.authentichappiness.org, look up your signature strengths in the
6. Positive Psychology in Practice edited by P. Alex Linley and Stephen
This is another must-have book for coaches. Rich with edited chapters
by some of the leading figures in positive psychology who outline the implications
of their work for practice. Filled with interesting ideas. In its foreword,
Marty Seligman writes: "This volume is the cutting edge of positive
psychology and the emblem of its future."
7. Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham H. Maslow
Maslow has been called the grandfather of positive psychology. In this classic
work (first published in 1968), Maslow writes about values, growth, well-being,
peak experiences, and self-actualization.
8. The Resilience Factor by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte
From the country's preeminent resilience research team, psychologists Karen
Reivich and Andrew Shatte. This book is superb. With an impressive integration
of theory and research, it offers seven practical strategies that have been
proven to increase people's capacity to overcome adversity, negotiate daily
obstacles, and bounce back from life-altering events. Highly recommended.
9. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
This is a must-read if you work with clients in business settings. Marcus
Buckingham (author of First, Break All the Rules) and the late Don Clifton,
Chair of the Gallup International Research & Education Center), call
for a "strengths revolution" in the workplace. Their premise is
that employees and managers can be much more effective at work and in life
by building on their strengths (rather than working on their weaknesses).
Their "StrengthsFinder"survey provides a nice complement to
the VIA Strengths Survey.
10. The Mating Mind by Geoffrey Miller
This is the most provocative book on the list. Evolutionary Psychologist
Geoffrey Miller presents a compelling argument that character strengths such
as creativity, humor, kindness, and leadership were shaped through sexual
Finally, in the spirit of Positive Psychology, let me add an 11th book to
my top ten list--a classic that should be on your bookshelf:
11. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
As you know, "flow" is the state in which we are so completely
absorbed in a task that we barely notice the passage of time. According
to Csikszentmihalyi (and the research he presents), the more challenging,
activities we can introduce into our lives, the happier we are. Among
other excellent books by Csikszentmihalyi is Finding Flow and Creativity.
wrote a book with Howard Gardner and William Damon called Good Work that
explores what it means to do socially responsible, excellent work.
A personal note: At one time, I thought "flow" was an either-or
state. You were either in flow or not in flow. In fact, it's more accurate
to view it as a continuum. On a ten-point scale, you could be at four, at
seven, at nine, and so on.
The first time I heard Marty (Seligman) speak, he shared a mnemonic to help
remember how Csikszentmihalyi's name is pronounced. Touch your "cheeks." Then
think (drugs) "sent me high". So it's "cheeks-sent-me-high" I
still can't spell his name, but I can finally pronounce it.
Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., is the Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology
at the University of Pennsylvania, the founder of the field of Positive Psychology,
a Past President of the American Psychological Association (1998), and the
author of 20 books including his most recent best seller, Authentic Happiness:
Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.
With Chris Peterson, he is co-author of the newly-released Character Strengths
and Virtues: A Classification and Handbook. He is also the co-founder of
Authentic Happiness Coaching LLC.
Ben Dean Ph.D. is a psychologist and founder of MentorCoach (www.mentorcoach.com),
an internationally recognized coach training program exclusively focused
on training helping professionals to become full-time or part-time coaches.
To immediately receive Ben's list of "The Top Ten Positive Psychology
Internet Resources", subscribe to either of his free coaching e-newsletters: "The
Therapist as Coach" for helping professionals (www.mentorcoach.com)
or "The eCoach Newsletter" for interdisciplinary professionals
(www.ecoach.com)." With Dr. Seligman, Ben is co-founder of Authentic
Happiness Coaching LLC.
AHC Speaking Schedule
Ben will be speaking on coaching and positive psychology in Washington DC
(2/11/05), Baltimore MD (2/13/04), Boston (2/25/05), New York City (2/27/05)
and at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium in Washington, DC (3/17-3/20/05).
Details soon to be at www.mentorcoach.com
Ben's Top 10 Positive Psychology
Books - Volume 2 Number 25