This is the week the Riskies traditionally talk about our favorites of the year, books, movies, maybe even TV shows. I’m the world’s worst read Riskie, but this year I do have a few favorites to discuss. Self-Help books!

I’m fond of self-help books, any kind of self-help books from diet to motivational to inspirational. This past year I’ve been on a happiness kick and the book world has been kind enough to indulge me.

I’m a great believer in happiness. I think we can choose to be happy by choosing the way we think and the way we act. These three books just reinforced my belief and offered me some new surprises as well.

Happy For No Reason by Marci Shimoff presents a series of interviews of happy people. Each illustrates an important aspect of achieving happiness. The lessons are practical, but it was the stories themselves that I found inspirational and sometimes downright moving. For example, she tells of a young, blue eyed, blonde-haired woman stranded by a flash flood while on a bus traveling through Bangladesh. All of a sudden she was in the midst of nearby villagers dying of starvation and dysentery. Inspired by a “Smiling man” for hours she wound up moving through the crowd, singing to the dying people, comforting them, and stroking their foreheads, offering some comfort and peace as they died. Afterwards she never forgot the power of a smile.

59 Seconds: Think a Little Change a Lot by Richard Wiseman is not confined to discussing happiness, but achievement of happiness is a part of the book. What I love about this book is that it is research based. The research behind every “technique” Wiseman discusses is explained before he goes into its practical application. Again, for me the research is the fascinating part, not the “how-to.” For example, in a debunking of positive thinking Wiseman described research in which one group was asked to write down and focus on a description of an ideal future and the other group was asked to write down and focus on the happiest experience of their lives. The happiest experience group wound up significantly happier with their lives three months later.

What Happy People Know by Dan Baker, Ph.D. Baker is a psychologist who has used the science of happiness in his clinical practice. He avoids the “disease model” of psychiatric problems and shows through a series of examples how having patients discuss and dwell on their unhappiness actually impedes their improvement. Instead he builds on their successes and their strengths. He tells of working on a anorexia unit and realizing that he could not change his patient’s self-hatred. Instead he focused on what she loved most-her dog. By focusing on her love and her strengths, she lost her self-hatred and worked on eating normally again. I loved this approach to psychotherapy (possibly due to my past life as a psychotherapist) and I loved reading his “case histories.”

Do you read self-help or motivational books? Do you have any favorites? Any recommendations? I received $150 in Amazon cards for Christmas and they are burning a hole in my pocket. If I could buy only one book, self-help or not, what would you recommend I buy?