Stumbling on Happiness

I first came across Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness in the self-help-ish section of Premier bookstore. After reading the book, I can safely say that it should not have been in that section. In fact, after reading the book, I still can’t figure out where I’d have put the book if I were a bookseller. Fortunately, I’m not. This should not confuse you about how good the book is though: it is a really good book.

What is the book about? Well, you could say that it’s about what makes you (us) happy but it’s not about telling you what to do to make yourself happy. (See paragraph above.) Gilbert considers the our notions of happiness, the decisions we make, how our imagination affects our decisions and as the blurb says, “…combines psychology, neuroscience, economics, and philosophy” to explain the psychology of happiness.

The author draws from research studies and weaves a narrative that is entertaining–he clearly has a gift for writing. The best part of the book though is the way Gilbert uses humour to spice up the book: his sense of humour is terrific and it is always right on the money. It never feels inappropriate within the larger context of the book, which I think that’s a really hard thing to do, especially when you’re writing about science. (Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything is another book that achieves this.)

Stumbling on Happiness is one of those books that is both insightful and engaging and it’s really a book worth reading. The author interview at the end of the book is a perfect way to finish the book–just like you finish a good meal with a really good dessert.


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