Gratitude is a state of mind, not just a feeling, and one of the nice things about being thankful is that it can lift your spirits. Everyone from spiritual leaders to self-help writers has noticed that something special happens to our perspective when we take the time to thank others.
Doing so can be a powerful way to improve your outlook and remember what is good, rather than just what isn’t going well.
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To keep gratitude in your mind, reading more books that emphasize the power of thankfulness can help. You also may find that reading books about gratitude with your children or grandchildren not only teaches them the attitudes that your family values. It also helps them focus on the positives in their lives.
Books on Gratitude for Adults
Adults encounter many highs and lows in life. Some books help us notice the good over the bad so that we can truly reap the benefits of thankfulness.
1. The Little Book of Gratitude: Create a Life of Happiness and Wellbeing by Giving Thanks by Robert A. Emmons
The Little Book of Gratitude is a simple, explanatory set of gratitude practices that can help you to find the positive aspects of each part of your life. Using strategies like creating a gratitude journal can be a proactive way to create the kinds of changes you want to see in your life.
2. Gratitude by Oliver Sacks
A famous psychologist, Oliver Sacks became more and more philosophical throughout his life, combining his researched insights with his own wisdom.
He knew he had only a few months left to live. He chose to spend that time writing about the feelings of having had a successful, meaningful life rather than bemoaning the end of it. Gratitude is a powerful meditation on the benefits of thankfulness.
3. BlessBack: Thank Those Who Shaped Your Life by Julie Saffrin
Rather than a general attitude of thankfulness, BlessBack discusses how important it is to actually tell the special people in your life how grateful you are for them.
It combines research with practical advice to help you show people how much you appreciate them. Doing so helps your mood and makes them feel good at the same time. The idea that we should focus on the needs of others to feel appreciated ends up making the world more of a place we all want to live in.
4. Living in Gratitude: A Journey That Will Change Your Life by Angeles Arrien
Living in Gratitude is an interdisciplinary exploration discussing how we can find the roots of what makes us ungrateful and work up from there to a feeling of real thankfulness.
Noticing how a lack of forgiveness for past slights and other trouble in our lives can cloud our capacity for gratitude, Arrien helps us find sources of joy and gratitude in every aspect of life.
5. 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik
Kralik’s story of choosing radical selflessness during a dark period in his life will inspire us all to focus on the positive and affirm those we love. This choice transformed his life and offers readers hope for changes in circumstances when they find ways to thank those who matter to them.
A Simple Act of Gratitude is written in simple and direct language, making it unusually approachable for people who aren’t always interested in reading.
6. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
Brené Brown has taught many lessons on how to be vulnerable in a world full of people who prefer to protect themselves. The Gifts of Imperfection reframes vulnerability as a gift we can be grateful for, where we notice that we are not perfect and use these moments as ways to connect more deeply to those around us.
Noticing our flaws and accepting them as part of the unique mix that makes us interesting can powerfully reframe a perfectionist mindset.
7. Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
Choosing Your Gratitude is a faith-based book that encourages thanking both God and others as a path to actual, lasting joy. It talks about how pursuing one’s agenda may lead to shorter-term happiness, but sustainable satisfaction and contentment are linked to being grateful for what one already has.
This mindful approach to one’s experience of the world can seep into your perspective on everything else, not just your faith experience.
8. Thanks a Thousand: A Gratitude Journey by A.J. Jacobs
A.J. Jacobs is famous for taking on ambitious experiments and writing about them, and Thanks a Thousand is no different.
After realizing that hundreds of people contribute labor to getting his morning cup of coffee grown, roasted, and transported to him, he set out on a journey to thank every single one of them. His journey teaches him about many things, including how interconnected we all are.
Books on Gratitude for Children or Students
Children have a range of levels of natural gratitude, but demonstrating the value of gratitude early through books can be a good way to motivate an attitude of thankfulness.
9. Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
Exploring gratitude and generosity, Thank You, Omu! will inspire children to see how giving is often better and more satisfying than receiving.
It shows gratitude through the lens of Omu and her kindness to share cups of soup with the neighbors.
10. Thankful by Eileen Spinelli
A story told in a poem, Thankful shows how different people find satisfaction and contentment in the positive but simple pleasures of their days. Readers can share their own gratitude ideas when reading this book together, increasing its impact.
11. Look and Be Grateful by Tomie dePaola
Much of gratitude has to do with paying careful attention, stopping to appreciate what we could just blow past in our hurry to do the next thing.
Look and Be Grateful is a beautiful, nearly meditative book that offers the opportunity for children to slow down and see the things that inspire wonder in their nearby spaces. It's a great book to use as a calm-down routine.
12. The Thank You Book by Mo Willems
Using an elephant and a pig, Mo Willems offers humor and conversation to show the ways we can express our gratitude and how it matters to those around us.
Children will love the silly and fun characters in The Thank You Book who they may have seen in other books.
13. Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes
When we think of gratitude, we often think of Thanksgiving. One valuable way to introduce the holiday to young readers is through this illustrated explanation of the things we give thanks for during this time of year.
Reading Thanks for Thanksgiving, your child will grow to understand that the holiday is about much more than eating delicious food and family time.
14. Thank You Bear by Greg E. Foley
For children who are not very old, a smaller board book-style story like Thank You Bear can serve as a nice introduction to gratitude and to understanding your friends and family well.
This book follows Bear as he carries a mystery box around, prompting children to want to get to the end of the story and see what is inside!
15. My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith
My Heart Fills with Happiness has exquisite drawings that reinforce the message that we should hold on tightly to the simple pleasures that bring us joy.
A child who is not in the best of moods could read this book and have a calm conversation about what brings them joy, even when they aren’t particularly happy. Learning to focus on the positive and return to oneself without staying upset or angry is an incredible skill to learn at a young age.
16. When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L.B. Deenihan
When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree takes on the adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” It contains wonderful lessons for how having to put in a little hard work can be its own reward, and how an activity or experience will often produce more satisfaction than just another toy or piece of electronics.
This book will help young readers see that they can be grateful even when things don’t go the way they were expecting.
Reading Our Way to an Attitude of Gratitude
There are many ways to create more gratitude in your life: a reverse bucket list, for instance, can give you some perspective of all that you’ve experienced and the joys you’ve felt. Books on happiness might be of help, as well.
On the other hand, losing someone important to you or worrying about the future can be stressful feelings that cloud our feelings of gratitude. Well-made documentaries about death and loss offer stories that help us feel less alone in our pain.