Download The Book of Joy Study Guide

Subscribe Now


The Book of Joy by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama is an inspiring book of how they have found joy and the "formula" for finding joy in this life. Co-written with author Douglas Abrams, The Book of Joy has a tagline—"A Catholic, a Buddhist, and a Jew walk into a bar..."—that belies the nature of the book. This book is about crossing spiritual boundaries and understanding the fundamental elements that lead to joy in this life, regardless of belief system.

The book is divided into three parts: "The Nature of True Joy," "The Obstacles of Joy," and "The Eight Pillars of Joy." The first part describes what joy is and how it crosses the boundaries between spiritual traditions. The authors reason that the central message of joy is venturing beyond the self. When we focus less on ourselves and forego our ego, we will begin to find joy in others. This is transcendental and is a central message in Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism: show love to others and extend them a helping hand, and in this way find your joy.

The second section deals with the things that separate us from our joy—namely vices and frustrations. It details the ideas of anger, jealousy, greed, frustration, fear, anxiety, and more that steal our joy from us by keeping us inwardly focused instead of fixated on helping and loving others. The obstacles are what we must fight in order to remain strong in joy.

The final section delineates the "Eight Pillars of Joy," the eight actions and ideas that will yield joy in our lives. Briefly, these are perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. Each of these ideas, relegated to their own chapters, illuminate different ways to focus on and care for others—preventing us from becoming too self-absorbed and allowing us to let go of the harm that befalls us from others. By following these principles, we can find joy and show love to the world.