It's no surprise that one of positive psychology's leading gurus on living well nourishes his mind and body at the same time. Best-selling author Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, walks no fewer than 10,000 steps each day while listening to biographies downloaded from Audible.com.
"Every psychologist should steep themselves in biography," says Seligman. "It is the mother lode of ideas about human motivation, failure and success, and the pursuit of what makes life worth living."
Hearing modern history from the voices of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and George W. Bush as they read their autobiographies inspired Seligman to read his new book "Flourish" (Simon & Schuster, 2011) for its audio version.
gradPSYCH asked Seligman to share his favorite biographies from 2010.
• "A Journey: My Political Life" by Tony Blair
"This is one of the best autobiographies I have ever read. Blair's idealism, particularly in his unwavering commitment to fighting terrorism and the deep respect and alliance with Presidents Clinton and Bush, shines through. This cost him his job. The infighting with Gordon Brown and the difference between New Labour and the tired old socialism of mid-century is something every American should be aware of. Tony Blair is an intellectual heavyweight, and ... my No. 1 choice for a dinner companion."
• "Colonel Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris
"This is the third and final volume of a masterpiece that it has taken Morris 30 years to complete. The story of Theodore Roosevelt after the presidency, it defines the very concept of twentieth century masculinity. It becomes clear why Teddy Roosevelt is up there on Mount Rushmore."
• "Washington: A Life" by Ron Chernow
"Chernow breathes life and greatness back into the wooden figure that conventional history has embalmed. Washington's courage — he was in continual mouth pain most of his adult life — his torturing ambivalence about slavery, his hatred and love of everything British, and his underlying aristocracy, are psychological issues worth pondering."
• "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
"This should be required reading for every citizen. Chances are, you don't like President Bush much, since he left office with a low approval rating, particularly among psychologists. This candid volume might change your mind. His humanity, his plainness and his resolution all come across loud and clear. It is a revelation to hear his own views on stem cells, on Iraq, on the Patriot Act, and on Afghanistan, after eight years of only hearing the press's views of his views."
In each issue, gradPSYCH asks a famous psychologist to share his or her favorite reads, websites and other media. To suggest our next candidate, email Sadie Dingfelder.
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