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Our Favorite Books on How to Live a Happy and Meaningful Life



There are some good suggestions on this list, but the main thing about it is that it's based on personal psychology and thus the ways and means to acquire personal happiness/balance/success.

Missing from this list are any books that speak to:

  1. The growing emphasis on war, macho policing forces, and spreading militarism

  2. The growing hegemonic control of, for, and by corporations and what this disproportionate power emphasis means to actual human agency, mobility, freedom, and any chance at living a healthy/balanced life

  3. The growing range of ecological, environmental, geologic, and weather anomalies and how these are not only chipping away at that merry "happiness index," but placing many very real lives at risk

  4. What it means to live in a nation that self-identifies as Democratic when most to all of its political "choices" are managed by corporate entities

  5. The growing devaluation of the U.S. dollar based on the rampant graft and corruption that runs between the banking entities and Wall St.

There is something deeply narcissistic, I think, about focusing on personal happiness when all around us the world as we know it is imploding.

Practicing meditation, the art of forgiveness, retaining that attitude of gratitude, and being mindful of what it means to be a good person are certainly positive things... yet they pale in comparison with the true magnitude of the threats to health, well-being, and happiness that are encroaching upon sentient life (in all the ways I have just outlined, and more).

These books in metaphor suggest tending to one's garden while there's a tsunami rising a mile away.


Is it sane to be able to cope with and be comfortable with an insane society? These "self help" books have been in a state of plentitude since the 70s, a kind of commercial redo of hippie era "get your head togetherism." There was "Your Erroneous Zones" by Dr. Wayne Dyer (for a time there were pictures of his balding head, mustache, and hyperintense smile everywhere), There was "I'm OK, You're OK," "How To Be Your Own Best Friend," "How To Be Awake and Alive," "Creative Coping," "The You That Could Be." Most are reiterations of Norman Vincent Peale's "The Power of Positive Thinking" and most serve to get people to affect a positive buying in view of their social and, in particulate, workplace conditions, that being scared, annoyed and living a life of quiet desperation are problems with your private self and your inner attitudes toward your circumstances, and if you'd fix them you'd feel as good about everything as you think you're supposed to feel. Their message: fix your "self," the System is fine. But it isn't.


Though not a new book this year, I'd like to suggest "Resilience" by Andrew Zolli and a co-author who'se name escapes me at the moment. The sub-title is something like "Why Things Bounce Back," but another part of this is for systems, communities, people being able to adapt, maintain, and adjust to changing circumstances in the first place.


Try foisting one of these books on the guy living in a cardboard box on West 42 Street and collecting empty cans and bottles to keep himself fed since all the soup kitchens have closed down for lack of funding.


While taking into account the "topics" not included in the original book list, there is nothing inherently wrong with cultivating empathy, compassion, etc. This is actually something that our world needs and does not preclude the importance of the topics not included in the original list nor does it need imply that cultivating said attributes is narcissistic per se.


I agree wholeheartedly.