Haidt, Jonathan. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (Why the Meaningful Life Is Closer Than You Think) (New York: Basic Books, 2006)
When I first read some of Haidt's work, his book The Happiness Hypothesis made substantial progress toward the top of my to-be-read list. Haidt, a professor of psychology, writes about happiness from the perspective of his profession, discussing cognitive therapy, meditation, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow, and Maslow's peak experiences en route to illuminating the often-elusive concept of happiness. Haidt follows the lead of Peterson and Seligman in suggesting that:
...there are twenty-four principle character strengths, each leading to one of the six higher-level virtues. You can diagnose yourself by looking at the list below or by taking the strengths test (at www.authentichappiness.org).
1. Wisdom (Curiosity, Love of Learning, Judgment, Ingenuity, Emotional Intelligence, Perspective)
2. Courage (Valor, Perseverance, Integrity)
3. Humanity (Kindness, Loving)
4. Justice (Citizenship, Fairness, Leadership)
5. Temperance (Self-control, Prudence, Humility)
6. Transcendence (Appreciation of beauty and excellence, Gratitude, Hope, Spirituality, Forgiveness, Humor, Zest)
Although happiness may seem a simple subject, it acquires vast complexity upon examination. The social aspect of happiness manifests itself in neurobiology, as in this especially intriguing tidbit:
...the only theory that explains why animals in general have particular brain sizes is the one that maps brain size onto social group size. Robin Dunbar has demonstrated that within a given group of vertebrate species--primates, carnivores, ungulates, birds, reptiles, or fish--the logarithm of the brain size is almost perfectly proportional to the logarithm of the social group size. In other words, all over the animal kingdom, brains grow to manage larger and larger groups. Social animals are smart animals. (p. 53, from "Coevoution of neocortical size, group size and language in humans," Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 16, 681-735)
Haidt's Happiness Hypothesis is filled with such information, leading off in many happy tangents.