When I think of positivity, I am thinking of how to adopt and maintain a constructive attitude. I am not thinking about pretending the world is fine. And at any rate, few people think all is well now so there’s probably little danger of that. However, this list of the best positive thinking books isn’t purely about how to think positively or just books on positivity more generally (or on self-care per se, but you can check out this and this for self-care or this for motivation).
While positive thinking is good in the short run, few can maintain positivity in the face of any and all obstacles. Instead, it requires regular work. I’ve chosen these positive thinking books to reflect a variety of ways to fuel that work. Hopefully they will increase your positivity and help you keep going no matter what difficulties you’re facing.
Tina Turner is one of the most inspirational and incredible musicians alive today. In her new book, Turner explains the Buddhist philosophy that guided her beginning in her 30s and helped her to create the happy life she leads now in her 80s. She writes that the insights she shares in the book are meant to help you become truly happy. However, this is not through positive thinking alone. Turner explains that the only way to do this is by overcoming the challenges you are facing now, no matter how impossible they may seem. If you read only one book on this list, make it this one.
Read This For Inspiration by Ashly Perez
This is the kind of book you can dip in and out of quickly. The entries are short and to the point. Perez has a color-coded system at the side of each entry with categories like gratitude, growth, or motivation. However, this is the kind of book you do not have to read cover-to-cover and her hope is that you will find these short entries, well, inspiring.
Edge: Turning Adversity Into Advantage by Laura Huang
This one is from a Harvard Business School professor who promises to teach you how to use your obstacles to your advantage. This reads like a typical business type book with a snappy anecdote at the start to grab you. Huang also uses “edge” as an acronym for “enrich, delight, guide, and effort,” which of course she explains further in the book. Although I don’t always love this kind of writing, I think it’s worth a shot since it offers a constructive, clearly outlined approach to positive thinking.
Uplifting Stories by Ione Butler
Butler is the founder and CEO of upliftingcontent.com, a social media platform devoted to what it sounds like – promoting content that reflects the good in people. This book is a collection of true stories to fuel your positive thinking. Whether you are just beginning your positive thinking journey or have been doing this for a while, you know that much of the world is sending more negativity out on a regular basis. This is one of the best positive thinking books available to help you cultivate positivity in the face of reality.
No doubt feeding our brains positivity with Butler’s book is a good way to start. However, we also have to feed our physical and spiritual selves and that is where Haile Thomas’s book comes in. Thomas takes a holistic approach that is body positive, guiding readers through plant-based, accessible recipes. The book also includes some interviews with individuals making changes in their immediate environment—something you might find nourishing for your spirit and motivating for your own positive thinking.
Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books by Cathy Rentzenbrink
For readers, this is the kind of slim book that will bring a smile to your face. Rentzenbrink shares her love of reading and how certain books have become her favorites. It’s a quiet and comforting read, and one that is particularly nice on audio (at least for me). Give this a try if the rest of the world seems like it is raining on your parade.
The Power of Chōwa: Finding Your Inner Strength Through the Japanese Concept of Balance and Harmony by Akemi Tanaka
Rather than focusing just on positive thinking, Tanaka strives to impart the concept of chōwa, which roughly translates to harmony and balance. While more positivity is good, you may also be searching for ways to feel the kind of calm and equilibrium that Tanaka writes about. If that’s your need at the moment, try her approach as it encompasses thinking about the self and others—and making adjustments as you go.
Deep Kindness by Houston Kraft
If you haven’t heard of this author, Houston Kraft started a group in his 1,800 student high school in which there were only two rules: 1) meet someone new everyday and 2) leave them better than you found them. This work was so motivating for him that he founded another group in college to focus on service, kindness, and being generous toward others. This eventually led him to speak in over 600 events on the importance of kindness all over the U.S. The book includes advice on how to reframe kindness into something we can all practice on a regular basis. On your positive thinking journey, Kraft provides ways to focus on others in a way that will undoubtedly benefit you as well.
I am Grapeful: All The Good Thymes I Want To Thank You For by Dillon and Kale Sprouts
Ok, mostly I included this because I like the silly title. Sometimes we can’t take ourselves too seriously and reading a book called I am Grapeful seems like the perfect way to do that. This “little book of upbeet and adorkable fruit and vegetable puns” will bring a little laughter to anyone who finds joy in such silliness. And anyway, look at that cover. This has to be one of the best positive thinking books for 2020. Who wouldn’t want to read that to help spur their positive thinking?
Better, Not Perfect by Max Bazerman
This is another book focused on practical advice on how to improve the world through maximizing value creation. It integrates both psychology and philosophy in a readable style. Particularly with a section entitled “Creating More Value for You and the World,” Bazerman seeks to offer usable advice that includes both the individual’s positive thinking and impact, and how this can affect the society and world we live in.
Humankind A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman
What if humans aren’t as inherently evil as we think? This is the basic approach of Bregman’s book and well worth a look if this premise intrigues you. While you are trying to think positively for yourself, why not try it out for humanity? I’ve added this to my list of the best positive thinking books because it doesn’t just focus on the individual. It is easy to separate ourselves from the wider world and believe—incorrectly but persistently—that we are separate from our environments. Not so. As living beings, we are inherently interconnected with the places we live in and the beings we live with. Bregman’s book could help you see the other people who surround you in a more hopeful, positive light.
I Tried To Change So You Don’t Have To by Loni Love
Maybe some of your positive thinking is going to involve accepting yourself more. If it is, then Love’s memoir is a good place to start. It’s fun to listen to her tell you about her life and along the way, you can gather some fuel for your own version of positive thinking. Like the title says, some of her life lessons are about accepting yourself and some are about change—just not always the kind expected of you.
Here For It: Or How To Save Your Soul In America by R. Eric Thomas
This is a memoir about growing up and finding your place and you meaning in life. Thomas is funny and self-reflective in this collection of essays. Very different readers will find something in this to relate to. He grew up in a loving home in an otherwise blighted part of the U.S. and explains how his different experiences of being an “other”—at private school, in his neighborhood, in his college experiences—helped him find the meaning and place he finds himself in today. Good for the positive thinking it requires sometimes to put all the disparate pieces of our identities together.
Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty
If you’ve somehow missed Shetty, he’s a former monk who is on a mission to spread more “ancient wisdom,” as he terms it. This is probably very accessible for people just starting out. He introduces this with a discussion not only of his background, but also with some research that has been done on monks from different religious traditions. They have certain abilities and strengths in common, and Shetty promises to take a novice through these in order to help that person cultivate a “monk-like” mindset. While not everyone is able to join an ashram, most anyone can benefit from using some of these techniques in daily life to fuel their positive thinking.
The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku
Eddie Jaku is a German Jew who survived the Holocaust. In 2020, he celebrated his 100th birthday and the publication of this book. In it, he writes about his harrowing experiences as well as about how to live a fulfilling and exceptionally positive life. This is an incredible memoir to add to any list of the best positive thinking books. Given all that this man lived through, you can see how positive thinking is possible even in the darkest of times.
Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma
Lastly, I cannot resist adding just one more that wasn’t published in 2020: Haben Girma’s 2019 book. If you need more encouragement to fight for your positivity, maybe her memoir can help with that. Read more about it here.
And that’s the last of my positive thinking books for 2020. Remember, it is easy to begin, but it is difficult to continue. And the life we all seek is built by continuing. I hope some of these titles appeal to you and help you keep going. With or without them, I sincerely hope you can cultivate the positivity you want in 2021 and beyond.