Saturday, March 30, 2013

Book 9: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman

Our Library Director, Janet Torsney, recommended The Antidote to me and sent me a neat video introduction to this book. You can find it here: The Antidote. I've never been into self-help books or any book that claimed to hold the secret to happiness or success (it always just seemed too easy!). I attempted to read The Secret, I perused How to Win Friends and Influence People, but, in general, they just aren't my cup of tea. The Antidote is not your typical self-help book (and perhaps not even in the same category). It is an exploration of happiness. Burkeman surveys experts and gurus in his quest to find out what it really means to be "happy" and how to get there. His surprising conclusion is: we are already there, and we just don't know it. In fact, it's our dogged effort to become happy that is precisely what is making us miserable.

I felt like a big ol' grouch reading this on the bus.

Burkeman, as well as many of the psychologists, philosophers, Buddhists, and modern-day gurus that he interviews, rejects the idea that "positive thinking" equates to happiness and provides the reader with an alternative route to happiness and success- one that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty.

My favorite little piece of wisdom in this book: When you're feeling unhappy or overwhelmed, always ask yourself, "Do I have a problem right now?" The answer is usually an emphatic "No." Our right-now problems are often simply problems that we are anxious to avoid in the future. Problems that stem from our fear of failure, insecurity, and uncertainty.

Burkeman has a wonderful wit and an admirable willingness to put himself in uncomfortable situations in the name of research. I'd highly recommend this book!

Here's a few quick reviews for other books that I've read in the past few weeks:

1. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker- The Earth's rotation is slowing down, and there are serious consequences for the human race. The premise is excellent, but the story is a predictable coming of age tale. The writing can be hard to swallow. Walker uses more metaphors and similes than a...just kidding.

2. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn- This book IS dark. I was in tears reading the passage about the satanic sacrifice of a cow. Flynn is a wonderful writer, and, while I was disappointed by the ending (which was a little too deus ex machina for me), I did appreciate Flynn's skill in crafting unforgettable characters.

3. After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey- Hainey's father dies when he is just six years old. At age 18, he finds discrepancies in several of his father's obituaries. At age 35, Hainey decides to investigate his father's death to find out the truth about how and where he died. I was really looking forward to reading this real-life mystery, but the reality of Hainey's ultimate discovery falls flat. Hainey's writing is choppy and his trip backwards and forwards through time is confusing.

4. Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill-Hill, the niece of Scientology Leader David Miscavige, speaks out against the Church of Scientology and its abusive practices. While this book won't win any awards for being well-written, the content is captivating.

Stay tuned for a review of "Drunk Tank Pink" by Adam Alter!

Sharlene Edwards
Program Director

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