My 11 Favourite Books on Mindfulness, Meditation and Happiness

A lot of people have been asking me for book recommendations on mindfulness, meditation, and happiness. This blog post lists and reviews my top 11 books that I have read so far which I would highly recommend. Some of the books listed have been truly life changing for me and so many of them have inspired a lot of the posts I write. All the books are vastly different from one another and cover a range of different topics, so hopefully everyone will find something in the list to their liking!

Some of the books listed are written by Buddhists, including the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, while others are written from top psychologists including Kristen Neff, while another is written by a celebrity. The topics range from compassion, joy, suffering, relationships, emotions, letting go and how to deal with negative emotions. All the books listed can be read without any knowledge or practise of mindfulness. The books that have had the biggest impact on me personally are listed in the top 3, while the others are in no particular order:

(Note: For those who struggle to read due to an illness such as M.E. I have added how many pages each book contains and I have rated all the books on how hard they are to read – from “Easy”, to “Moderate”, to “Hard”. The ones which I have labelled “Easy” are generally the shorter books which are concise and to the point, while those I have labelled “hard” are the longer books with often some science in them. If you do not suffer with ill health or have no problems reading, you can ignore this! This is simply for those who struggle to read so they can know which books are easiest.)

  1. “Self-Compassion” by Kristin Neff
Main topics: Self-Compassion, common humanity, and mindfulness
Although some of the other books cover “self-compassion”, this book really goes into the depths of it and explains just how important it is. Since reading this book I have really taken the advice to heart, and I am now practising self-compassion daily and it has made such a huge difference to my life. With the everyday pressures in Western Society this book needs to be prescribed to anyone who suffers from self-criticism, stress, anxiety, depression, or physical illness – so basically everyone! This book gave me the idea for the posts, “How to Cope with Bad Days” and “The stories Behind What You Can’t See”. (Pages – 305. Reading difficulty – Hard)
 
  1. “Practising Happiness” by Ruth A.Baer
Main topics: Mindfulness and dealing with negative emotions
For me, this book is one of the best books out there for truly knowing how to understand and deal with your negative emotions. I now look at my negative emotions and thoughts in a completely different way thanks to this book. It is the perfect introduction for how practising mindfulness can help you achieve happiness and understand your thoughts. I think the title also stands out for me, “Practising Happiness”, because happiness is just that – practising and learning how to be happy! This book inspired me to write the posts, “How to Mindfully Respond to Situations”, “Part 1: Why You Need to Practise Being Kind to Yourself”, and “Part 2: 12 Ways to Practise Being Kind to Yourself” (I hadn’t read “Self-Compassion” when I wrote these posts otherwise I would have used that book too). (Pages – 332. Reading difficult – Hard)
 
  1. “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” by Robin S. Sharma
Main topics: How to live life to the full
Originally when I started this book I thought it was a bit of waffle and perhaps a bit too “out there” for me, but like all the other books I got my highlighter out and ploughed on. Only on reaching half way did I then realise just how many lessons this book teaches you! It is only a small book, but I found myself highlighting every other word because it is jam packed with advice and life lessons. I’ve never used my highlighter so much in one book! This book is truly stunning and it is the kind of book you will re-read again and again and still learn something new. This book was life-changing for me and it has truly changed the way I look at life. (Pages – 208. Reading difficult – Moderate)
 
  1. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brene Brown
Main topics: Perfectionism, courage, letting go, wholehearted living
Although this book is titled as one of those “self-help” books, I’m not sure I’d put it under that category because it doesn’t offer any practical advice or exercises to try, instead it offers you a huge amount of insight into how we should live our life instead of how we are “supposed” to live it. After reading this book you can’t help but want to embrace all your flaws and imperfections, and tell others around you it’s okay to just be you. I really enjoyed this book because it was very different from any book I ever read, and the emphasis on being true to yourself and not pleasing other people is an important message I think all our generation needs to hear. It’s the kind of book I wish I had read in school because it gives you that overwhelming reminder that we all feel shame at times, and we all want to try to fit in and “be cool”, but if we want to be happy within ourselves we need to let go of that expectation. (Pages – 138. Reading difficulty – Easy)
 
  1. “The Art of Happiness” by Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler
Main topics: Happiness, loneliness, compassion
The first thing to be aware of this book is that it isn’t written by Dalai Lama, it is written by a Western Psychologist named Howard Cutler. It is mostly presented as interviews or meetings between himself and the Dalai Lama. I thoroughly enjoyed all segments that were pure quotes from the Dalai Lama. To me, the Dalai Lama has such a wonderful perspective and insight. I should warn you that the narrator, the psychologist, is far from a mindful person! I think a lot of people found his questions and attitude in the book very frustrating and distracting, however, having said that I still think it is worth a read because there are pockets of genuine rare insight in the book by the Dalai Lama. This book helped me create the posts, “Avoid Loneliness by Connecting with Others” and “Inner Happiness and Ways to Help You Achieve it”. (Pages – 268. Reading difficulty – Moderate)
 
  1. “Mindfulness For Creativity” by Danny Penman
Main topics: Meditation, mindfulness, and creativity
Having read two out of three of Danny Penman mindfulness books, the other one being, “Mindfulness: A practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World”, I personally found the “Mindfulness for creativity” more helpful. I think this was because I much preferred the meditations in this book compared to the other one, but I also learnt a lot more in this book, whereas in the other one it covered topics I already had a lot of knowledge on. If you are a blogger, run your own business, or your job requires you to come up with ideas and to think outside the box, I would highly recommend this book. If you are still very new to mindfulness then I would recommend the other book, ““Mindfulness: A practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World”, because I feel the creativity book is for more advanced meditators. I would like to say though that this book asks you to meditate twice a day, six out of seven days a week, which I think is far too unrealistic. I started out meditating one day a week for the first year!! It’s up to you how you use this book, but I think this is a high expectation for most beginner meditators. (Pages – 224. Reading difficulty – hard)
 
  1. “The Dalai Lama’s Book of Wisdom” by Dalai Lama
Main topics: All the components of life
This book may be small, but it is full of inspirational quotes and sayings by the Dalia Lama that relate from joy, anger, death, giving and receiving. The thing I adore about the Dalia lama and his teachings is that despite his very Buddhist background, he never forces this upon anyone and always talks in a way which makes his words and wisdom appropriate for absolutely everybody, regardless of religion or atheism. He has a strong desire for people to become more compassionate and this book is the perfect reference book for those reminders. You can pick it up and put it down at any time and you will constantly be coming back to it! (Pages – 128. Reading difficulty – Easy)
 
  1. “The Pocket” by Thich Nhat Hanh
Main topics: Mindfulness, Emotions, Relationships and Peace
This book is very similar in style to the “Dalia Lama’s Book of Wisdom” – it is a short book but again jam packed with inspiration, wisdom and advice. Thich Nhat Hanh explains in such a simple way how to live a meditative, peaceful and joyful life. It’s one of those books you want to keep re-reading as each time you read it you gain more from it. It’s a perfect little reminder of what matters. (Pages – 240. Reading difficult – Moderate)
 
  1. “Happy” by Fearne Cotton
Main topics: Everyday happiness and creativity
I adore the simplicity of this book, it is beautifully presented and very straight forwarded. What I like about this book is that it doesn’t tell you what to do, Fearne simple lays out very basic ideas for you which you are then meant to build from and apply to your own life. Throughout each chapter and at the end there are places for you to write and fill in with a pen. When I started this book I was lazy and filled it out mentally. I was about halfway through the book thinking it was okay but not great, and I then decided to pick up a pen and go back through the book and fill it out properly – and it went from okay to brilliant. You need to do all the work if you want to see an outcome and benefit from this book, which I think is the best approach for achieving happiness. Overall I think this book is a perfect starting point, especially for a more modern younger generation as it covers more apt topics such as social media, comparison, and friendship groups moving on. Just don’t be fooled by its simplicity, it’s there to only lay the ideas in your head; the rest is up to you. (Pages – 272. Reading difficulty – Easy)
 
  1. “The Book of Joy” by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
Main topics: Compassion, kindness, happiness and joy
The book of Joy is a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu about finding joy and happiness in the face of suffering. This book was truly wonderful; I found myself smiling and laughing at the continuous banter and teasing between the two men and felt truly moved by their deep friendship and even shed a tear at their departure together. The book couldn’t have been better written from the perspective of these two considering all the suffering and turmoil they have had in their lives. They cover a lot of topics, from grief, loneliness, anxiety and depression, to forgiveness, compassion, humility, kindness and humour. It is beautifully written and offers a lot of very helpful exercises at the end to help implement many of the discussions throughout the book. This book is filled with so much insight, perspective and inspiration. It is truly one of a kind. We get to hear from the two most esteemed spiritual figures of our generation on how they are so happy and joyous despite all the suffering in the world. This book was a privilege to read. (Page numbers – 354. Reading difficulty – Hard)
 
  1. “No Mud, No Lotus” by Thich Nhat Hanh
Main Topics: Suffering, meditation and mindfulness
This is one of my favourite books describing perfectly what suffering is and covering the misconceptions that suffering is not something we can run away from. The writing style in this book is very simple and is easy to follow, and it gives you great practical advice for finding peace in everyday life. (Page numbers – 128. Reading difficulty – Easy)

Metta, E xx

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