Can We be Happier? Evidence and Ethics

Richard Layard, Pelican, RRP£22

The answer to the question in the title is, in short, yes — and happiness, rather than economic growth, should be the ultimate aim of any successful country. The source of societal contentment is social trust and connectedness, argues Layard, an economist and policymaker who has long championed a “happiness index” to replace GDP (now adopted by New Zealand). Comes with an endorsement from the Dalai Lama, no less.

This Book Could Save your Life: The Science of Living Longer Better

Graham Lawton, John Murray, RRP£14.99

A bold claim but Graham Lawton, a veteran science writer from the ever-dependable New Scientist stable, delivers on his promise to sort the wheat of usable health information from the chaff of hype. Don’t obsess over vitamins but do exercise regularly, go outside daily and, if you want to copy the anti-ageing experts, consider fasting occasionally.

Covid-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened, and How to Stop the Next One

Debora Mackenzie, Bridge Street Press, RRP£18.99

Mackenzie, another feted writer with New Scientist, puts her experience of covering emerging diseases to excellent use here. She analyses clearly and authoritatively how the coronavirus pandemic played out, what governments should have done, and what we need to do when it happens again — as it undoubtedly will.

Summer Books 2020

All this week, FT writers and critics choose their favourites. Some highlights:
Monday: Andrew Hill on business
Tuesday: Martin Wolf on economics
Wednesday: Gideon Rachman on politics
Thursday: Maria Crawford on fiction
Friday: John Thornhill on technology
Saturday: Critics’ picks

The Natural Health Service: What the Great Outdoors Can Do For Your Mind

Isabel Hardman, Atlantic, RRP£16.99

Hardman, a political journalist, turned to nature as a way of dealing with trauma, taking up horseriding and wild swimming as alternatives to antidepressants. She examines the evidence that reconnecting with the natural world, as many have done during the coronavirus lockdown, boosts mental health. Packed with practical tips for those who feel a bit weedy about taking the plunge.

Dear Life: A Doctor’s Story of Love and Loss

Rachel Clarke, Little, Brown, RRP£16.99

As a palliative care doctor, Clarke looks after those who have come to the end of the medical road. She contrasts the drama of the emergency room, with its frantic mission to save lives, to the peacefulness of the hospice, with its noble aim of enabling good deaths. A compassionate examination of how reflecting on death can offer wisdom to the living.

What are your favourites from this list? And what books have we missed? Share your suggestions in the comments below

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