My favorite books about happiness at work

Alexander KjerulfOver the last 4 years, I must have read some 3-400 books related to happiness at work, and the ones listed here are the ones that have truly inspired me, moved me and made me think. They’re also all well written and a pleasure to read. Enjoy!

Hal Rosenbluth: The customer comes second
The story of a company that put its employees first and got amazing results from it.

Timothy Gallwey: The inner game of work
The most inspiring approach to learning at work I have ever seen.

Harrison Owen: Open Space Technology
Explains Open Space Meetings – the most insanely efficient and fun meeting form I have ever tried. For 10-1000 people. From 3 hours to 5 days.

Peter Block : The answer to how is yes
Whenever we start a new project, most of us go straight to “How?” But the right place to start is to ask “Why?” If you can’t find a reason that makes you go “Yes!” you probably shouldn’t do it.

Kevin and Jackie Freiberg: Nuts!
The story of Southwest Airlines, one of the happiest and most successful companies I know. A classic book!

Paul Watzlawick: Change
When do people change and when do they actively resist change? This book has some amazing knowledge on the paradoxical nature of personal change. One of my all-time favorites.

Robert Wright: Non zero
The world is becoming better and better. It pays to be nice. Those who cooperate are more efficient than those who compete. This book has many positive messages, all backed up by science. It’s also a great read.

Ricardo Semler: The Seven-Day Weekend
The story of Semco, the Brazilian company where workers choose their own salaries, work hours and managers. If you only read one book about happiness at work, make it this one.

The Lazy Way to Success
If work feels hard, you’re not doing it right. Fred Gratzon, entrepreneur and millionaire, explains why it always pays to be lazy.

Martin Seligman: Learned Optimism
Seligman explains Positive Psychology, why positive people lead better lives and how to learn to be positive.

Richard Layard: Happiness, Lessons from a new Science
How could you run a nation, based on making people as happy as possible? Interestingy, Layard is currently advising British politicians on this.

David L. Cooperrider, Diana Whitney and Jacqueline M. Starvos: The Appreciative Inquiry Handbook
Appreciative Inquiry is the most efficient tool I know for creating efficient, positive change in organizations and this book explains it simply.

Tim Sanders: Love is the Killer App
Explains why love, not greed or fear, is the most powerful force in business.

Annette Simmons: The Story Factor
The best book I know about applying storytelling in the business world.

Richard Reeves: Happy Mondays
You would never accept a romantic relationship that was sort of OK??? or stay with a spouse who is you know, nothing special, but Im used to him/her???. So why should you accept anything less than true fulfillment on the job?

Alfie Kohn: No contest
Competition is everywhere in the business world, but contrary to popular belief, competition makes us less efficient and less happy.

There are many more book reviews on the blog – more than a hundred in fact.

8 thoughts on “My favorite books about happiness at work”

  1. Did you read Semler’s book, Maverick? I like this even more than The Seven-Day Weekend.

    I read your book and I was delighted to find references to Seligman and Peter Block. Peter Block’s book, Stewardship, influenced several people including Dennis Bakke at AES (Joy at Work).

    I intend to follow up on some of your other references. This is a great list!


  2. Hi Graham. I have read Maverick – it’s excellent too! I prefer Seven-Day because it was written ten years later and contains even more practical experiences and ideas.

    Peter Block is a great thinker – I had the pleasure of meeting him once and he’s also a very nice person!

    Please go wild with the books on the list, you can’t go wrong with any of them.

  3. Wonderful to see Peter Block, Robert Wright, Ricardo Semler, Marty Seligman, and the too often-overlooked Alfie Kohn on one list. Non-zero is one of my all time favorites and Layard’s Happiness was a great read in 2006.

    You may want to look at Csikszentmihalyi’s Finding Flow. Flow itself is a classic.

    I’ll look for Block’s title (this one had escaped by attention) and Gallwey’s book. Thanks for the list (and for plowing through what I’m sure was a lot of ho-hum titles to find these gems).

    Have a great 2007! The world needs more happy work places.

  4. Thanks Ron. I enjoyed both Flow and Finding Flow – the only reason I don’t include them on this list is that I’m a little sceptical of the notion of flow as a way to make people happy. Block is always worth a read and Gallwey’s book is particularly interesting!

    I wish you a spectacular 2007 as well!

    Btw: I took a look at your blog. It rocks!

  5. I am reading Daniel Gilberts ‘Stumbling on happiness’ at the moment, which gives an insight in research on this fuzzy concept of ‘happiness’. Fun reading with lots of scientific backgrounds.

  6. Hello Alex,
    I found your name and link through my studies of RTCT, Dr. William Glasser’s work called Reality Therapy and Choice Theory. While his writings do not directly address the work field, it find it very important to learn especially about his theory, since it explains a lot as to how and why people, and that of course includes me, behave. It changed my life very much and being German I always need to know some of the ‘Whys” behind what I do, think, and feel.
    Also starting to read your great book online, knowing Choice Theory gives me an understanding which is different from reading the book without knowing Choice Theory.. Again while your book is for the work place, it gave me some good inspirations to use in caounseling, parenting and other areas, and I think that is what makes the difference between a book and a good book.

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