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7 Books for a Happy, Fulfilled Life

The right book can foster personal growth and help you lead a happier life.

Thema Bryant, president of the American Psychological Association and professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, says there are a few books that have helped her overcome past trauma, heal her self-care, and be kind to herself and others. has created more compassion for ,

“I like to highlight important passages to re-read and reflect on,” says Bryant, who is doing postdoctoral training in Harvard Medical Center’s Victims of Violence Program. “Because they change over time, we can gain new insights when we read them again.”

Here are seven books she recommends for anyone who wants to create a happy, fulfilling life for themselves.

1. The Self-Care Recipe: Powerful Solutions to Manage Stress, Reduce Anxiety, and Increase Well-Being

by Robin Gobin

good for: Those who neglect themselves and are often preoccupied with work or caring for others.

“Dr. Gobin, a psychologist, offers practical steps to improve your overall health,” says Bryant. “Unlike many self-help books, it includes an awareness of race, gender, and faith.”

2. All these rivers and you chose love

by Jaya John

good for: who needs to learn to be kind to themselves.

“I read this insightful book often in the morning as a good way to remind myself that I get to choose how I look and how I shape my day,” she says. “Showing compassion for myself and for others is an intentional act of grace.”

3. Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto

by Tricia Hersey

good for: Change agent, activist and advocate.

“It’s a beautiful reminder that while we’re working to improve the world around us, the world within us deserves care,” says Bryant. “Comfort is a revolutionary act, especially for racially marginalized people who are often pressured to focus on labor rather than fulfillment.”

4. Drama Free: A Guide to Managing Unhealthy Family Relationships

by Nedra Glover Tauwab

good for: Those who have conflicts and challenges in their family life.

“Nedra, a licensed therapist, gives science-informed steps to therapy and releases many times unhealthy family dynamics,” says Bryant.

5. Try Softening: A New Approach to Lift Us Out of Worry, Stress, and Survival Mode—And Into a Life of Connection and Joy

by Andy Kolber

good for: Survive the trauma.

“As a trauma survivor and trauma psychologist, I enjoyed this book,” says Bryant. “Surviving overwhelming experiences puts us in a state of survival, constantly fighting and defending ourselves. Aundi, a mindful practitioner, offers the keys to breathing, softening, and living with more peace ”

6. What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing

by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey

good for: Survive the trauma.

“It helps them connect the dots between their experience and their current life,” she says. “By understanding themselves better, people can take steps toward healing.”

7. Something Happened in Our Park: Standing Together After Gun Violence

by Ann Hazard, Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins

good for: Families who need help talking about gun violence.

“It’s a great resource written by three psychologists to help families have fruitful, therapeutic conversations after gun violence,” says Bryant. “It provides the motivation to work together to change the community, as well as the keys to healthy coping to overcome anxiety.”

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