Picks and Pans Review: New Year Cheer

UPDATED 01/30/2006 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/30/2006 at 01:00 AM EST

'Tis the season … for long, dark days and books aimed at raising your spirits. Which ones will make you smile?

HAPPINESS: A HISTORY by Darrin M. McMahon Seeing happiness as our—right and feeling shame if we're sad—is a curse unique to modern life, this scholarly work argues. Good for grumpy cerebral types.

IT'S ALL IN YOUR HEAD by Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine We're “human beings … not human becomings,” writes life coach Pollan, who's of the thinking-makes-it-so school of fulfillment.

THE HAPPINESS HYPOTHESIS by Jonathan Haidt Science, religion, philosophy and literature can all help us understand ourselves and find contentment, says Haidt in this inspiring, nuanced study.

THE SPIRIT OF HAPPINESS by T. Byram Karasu, M.D. For psychiatrist Karasu, it's incorporating faith into daily existence that's key. Complete with exercises for “psycho-spiritual fitness.”

THE PROMISE OF HAPPINESS by Justin Cartwright No prescriptions here—just a terrific, archly funny novel about the vagaries of one quirky British family. Read it and you might find joy sneaking up on you.

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