Carlson died Wednesday after falling ill while on his way to New York as part of a tour to promote his new book, "Don't Get Scrooged," said Julie Mitchell, spokeswoman for HarperSanFrancisco, Carlson's publisher.
A psychologist, Carlson advocated tackling life with good humor, positive thinking and perspective.
"I know how much his books meant to people, how much people loved him," said Michael Barnard, owner of Danville's Rakestraw Books, which carried Carlson's books.
Born and raised in the east San Francisco Bay area, Carlson got a bachelor's degree from Pepperdine University and a doctorate in psychology from Sierra University.
His book, "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff," was on best-seller lists for two years. He would go on to write 20 books in all, including "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff in Love," co-written with Kris Carlson, his wife of 25 years. His latest book, "Don't Get Scrooged," was on how to handle holiday stress.
Survivors include his wife and their two teenage daughters, Jasmine and Kenna; two sisters, Kathleen Carlson Mowris of Olympic Village and Anna Carlson of La Selva Beach; and his parents, Barbara and Don Carlson of Orinda.
A private memorial service is planned next week. The family is requesting that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made to local food banks, Challenge Day, Girls Inc. or Children Inc.