A true positive psychology book blends rigorous science with good practice. Here are some we recommend, in random order. This list is quite incomplete, these books were selected to provide a deeper understanding of character strengths. Compiled by Ryan M. Niemiec, VIA Education Director.

  1. Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman. This is the first book to outline the VIA Classification and many key theories and principles of positive psychology (e.g., the pleasure, engagement, and meaning pathways to authentic happiness).
  2. Character Strengths and Virtues by Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman. This is a classic, praised widely by scholars from various disciplines. It represents the most rigorous work done in positive psychology to date and digs into the philosophical and scientific underpinnings of character, as well as rationale for the VIA Classification of strengths and virtues. While it is very dense and scholarly, it is by far the deepest dive on the topic.
  3. A Primer in Positive Psychology by Chris Peterson. A widely popular textbook, this is one of the most thorough and readable books on positive psychology, with good chapters on character strengths and other types of strength (e.g., interests, talents).
  4. A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues by Andre Comte-Sponville. A philosophical yet often practical book examining virtues/strengths, about half of which are outlined in the VIA Classification.
  5. Curious? by Todd Kashdan. A popular trade book authored by a researcher/ scholar that takes a deep dive into one of the least discussed character strengths throughout time: curiosity.
  6. Thanks! by Robert Emmons. A popular trade book authored by a researcher/ scholar that takes a deep dive into one of the most discussed character strengths of the last ten years: gratitude.
  7. Humility: The Quiet Virtue by Everett Worthington. A tiny, lesser known book by a character strengths researcher who helps the reader get a well-rounded, practical understanding of this relatively uncommon character strength.
  8. Awe: The Delights and Dangers of Our Eleventh Emotion by Paul Pearsall. One of the only research-based books on an area that relates to the character strength known as appreciation of beauty & excellence.
  9. The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. While not explicitly about character strengths, each of the 12 science-based interventions for building happiness that’s discussed can also be viewed as interventions for working character strengths.
  10. Positive Psychology at the Movies by Ryan Niemiec and Danny Wedding. While I personally would not place this here, others say it belongs here, as does Amazon’s top 10 list. This book examines each of the character strengths through the lens of popular and independent films and the inspiring characters therein.