I committed to reading two books every month in 2013, one nonfiction or business book and fiction book. Here are this month’s selections:

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. A new age-y story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd who travels to the pyramids in Egypt in search of his (always capitalized) Personal Legend. The new age flights of fancy are grounded by a number of Biblical references (King Melchizedek himself is featured prominently in the story) and I loved the book’s theme of trusting one’s instincts and dreams, as they are messages from the supernatural and windows to truth.

That being said, I am still not sure how to feel about this book. On one hand I was inspired by the tale, on the other hand, Santiago did not have a mortgage and kids who need braces. ★★★

Learned Optimism by Martin E. P. Seligman, PhD. Dr. Seligman is a psychologist who spent much of this career studying the effects of optimism in human mental health. Dr. Seligman argues, I think rightly, that pessimism leads to a feeling of helplessness and is the leading cause of depression, anxiety and most other common mental disorders.

There is a 48 question quiz to help the reader understand his or her personal level of optimism. I was positively shocked to find that I am relatively pessimistic, particularly about good things continuing, believing, in essence, that any success I experience is a fluke.

The good doctor does not leave us stranded, however. Part Three of the book provides ways to combat pessimism, including a method to improve one’s awareness of pessimistic self-talk and tools to disrupt and dispute one’s pessimistic thoughts.

Regardless of who you are and where you are in your journey, Learned Optimism provides an excellent roadmap to a happier life. ★★★★