These books are a mixture of philosophy, evolutionary biology, sociology, psychology, and a little poetry. All of them will lean you towards kindness and happiness, some by giving scientific explanations of kindness that help you to believe in it more easily as natural and human, some by giving practicable processes you can follow to gradually re-wire your brain for happiness.
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You can also check out The Reading Agency’s ‘Reading Well’ reading list, endorsed by health experts and with sections specific to mental health, dementia, young people, and long term conditions.
To me, the most important book I’ve ever read in it’s direct influence on my way of thinking and of seeing the world. Makes me joyously happy to read, very simple in style, some difficult ideas when they’re new but you’ll enjoy re-reading them.
Looks at the most provocative aspects of human nature – power, sex, violence, kindness, and morality – through our two closest cousins in the ape family, chimps and bonobos. Sort of bad cop / good cop of the apes, reflecting both sides of human behaviour.
Making a case for a morality grounded in biology, he shows that ethical behaviour, in humans and animals alike, is as much a matter of evolution as any other trait. A forerunner to The Age of Empathy.
My uncle gave me this when I was 19. It sat on my shelf for half a dozen years and then I couldn’t believe I’d ignored it for so long. A man who was one of the most important and powerful in the world understanding himself as invisibly tiny in the context of the universe. My love of the stoics started here.
A sort of manual for steps you can take to be happier, and in turn, kinder. Mo Gawdat has read very widely on the subject so you don’t have to. It moves from what happiness is (our default states, when born) to the things that block us from it and how to move past them. All laid out with a precision befitting of somebody with an engineering background.
A dose of stoic wisdom for every day of the (leap) year, to get your brain practiced in thinking in a way that will make your life happier. Written by someone who knows the stoics incredibly well and gives very good commentary that contextualises things to modern life.
Emotion and mood spread from one person to another. The authors show how this is due to our tendency to synchronise with each other. We mimic each other’s facial expression, voices, movements, etc. Then they offer practical suggestions for shaping the emotional tone of social encounters.
Thought I’d chuck in some poetry written to the theme. Some great stuff in here and it’s not all sugar-spun. These poems highlight some of the ambivalences and hypocrisies of kindness too.
Bernadette enacted kindness to a stranger every day for a year. This book tells what happened, and also loads of brilliant stuff she learned along the way.