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Stumbling on Happiness
 
 

Stumbling on Happiness [Kindle Edition]

Daniel Gilbert
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)

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Review

‘“Stumbling on Happiness” is an absolutely fantastic book that will shatter your most deeply held convictions about how your own mind works. Ceaselessly entertaining, Gilbert is the perfect guide to some of the most interesting psychological research ever performed. Think you know what makes you happy? You won’t know for sure until you have read this book.’ Steven D. Levitt, author of ‘Freakonomics’

‘He does for psychology what Bill Bryson did for evolution.’ Scotsman

‘In “Stumbling on Happiness”, Daniel Gilbert shares his brilliant insights into our quirks of mind, and steers us toward happiness in the most delightful, engaging ways. If you stumble on this book, you’re guaranteed many doses of joy.’ Daniel Goleman, author of ‘Emotional Intelligence’

‘This is a brilliant book, a useful book, and a book that could quite possibly change the way you look at just about everything. And as a bonus, Gilbert writes like a cross between Malcolm Gladwell and David Sedaris.’ Seth Godin, author ‘All Marketers Are Liars’

‘Everyone will enjoy reading this book, and some of us will wish we could have written it. You will rarely have a chance to learn so much about so important a topic while having so much fun.’ Professor Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University, Winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics

Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

‘If you stumble on this book, you’re guaranteed many doses of joy.’

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1562 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0676978584
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (1 Jun 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9IZQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #14,947 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Greek review 6 Mar 2010
Format:Paperback
Gilbert chooses to deal with happiness because it is a fundamental aim and indisputable right of human life, a fact which is sometimes stated in a clear, constitutional way (like in the Declaration of Independence) and sometimes inferred from our actions.

The title of the book derives from the author's central position: we usually find happiness not by conscious effort but by chance.

Gilbert's argument is straightforward: our imagination is flawed - and indeed it has flaws similar to those of other basic functions of our brain, such as memory, vision and perception. Therefore, our ability to predict what will make us happy or how happy we shall be in a future situation is limited.

Using the findings of a large number of empirical studies, the award-winning writer focuses on the shortcomings inherent in our imagination, on the inadequacies which cause our predictions to be wrong. "Realism" is the first of these shortcomings: according to Gilbert, our imagination works fast, quietly and effectively in order to convince us of the "reliability" of its products and to appease our skepticism. The process is reminiscent of optical illusions, as well as of the way memory fills-in the gaps with information it never received but which fits in with the rest of the puzzle.

"Presentism" is the second shortcoming of the imagination: the future we envisage is not very different from the present we live in, thus making the available choices seem fewer that the ones that actually exist.

And if it is hard to imagine future events, it is even harder to predict the thoughts and feelings that these events will cause.
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83 of 87 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting but flawed book 19 May 2007
Format:Paperback
2007 Harper Perennial reissue of 1st edition (2006), 238 pages

My view of Stumbling on Happiness upon finishing it seems to be rather different to that I had whilst actually reading it. I read most of the book in a single day, zipping straight through it, very interested in what Gilbert had to say. However, I felt disappointed after I'd finished.

That may well say more about my wish for Gilbert to distil the secrets of happiness into concentrated form for easy consumption - which, unsurprisingly, turns out to be rather unrealistic - than it does about his book.

Even so, I think he could have done a better job of the conclusion. For example, the best practical advice he gave for coping with the entire theme of his book (that humans are very poor at both predicting and remembering what makes us happy) didn't even make it into the book (except by inference). It is contained in the Q&A section at the back of the above edition:

"Q: Does what you know about how the human brain works in any way help you to be happy?
A: Knowing that people overestimate the impact of almost every life event makes me a bit braver and a bit more relaxed because I know that whatever I'm worrying about now probably won't matter as much as I think it will."

Gilbert is also clearly a man who finds himself pretty amusing. I did too - some of the time - but he often became irritating. Gilbert himself is well aware of this, as he says in the short autobiographical section at the back:
"Admirers of my book call it personal, warm and funny, and critics call it juvenile, self-indulgent and annoying. I suspect that all these adjectives describe me pretty well."

Overall, the book contains plenty of interesting material but the flaws I've described detract from it. However, I suspect that Gilbert's writing style will act as a polariser and some people will love it, whilst others will find him insufferably smug.
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81 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all in the imagination. 20 April 2007
By Mrs. R.
Format:Paperback
Did you ever wake up with a hangover on Sunday morning and say, "I'll never drink again," then go out and do it again the following weekend. Well, then Stumbling on Happiness can explain why that happens. I won't give away the plot though.

Happiness is hot, which is probably a good thing. Now that science can measure what really makes us happy, some excellent books are coming out on the topic and with any luck they will help us to achieve it. Mind you, this involves dismantling a hundred years worth of western beliefs. Gilbert's take on it is that we think we know what's going to make us happy in future but we invariably get it wrong. Most of us can't predict what we're going to feel like in future; we can only imagine what life is like today, right now at the exact moment.

We can only feel pain when it's there; when it's not we don't plan for having it back again and vice versa. We plan for being in love while we're in love. We buy houses by the seaside when it's sunny. We order too much food when we're hungry and get stuck half way through. And we all think we're different from everyone else.

Except me, I know I am. But that's precisely his point.

This book is intelligent, fascinating, a little distressing - but only because it's full of observations which make you kick yourself for not noticing earlier. If you do manage to learn and internalise its message, then at the very least you won't over order next time you go for a Chinese meal and you may even avoid some terrible decisions about what you imagine will make you happy in future.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Helpful
Well written book with a good balance of humour and useful applicable basic psychology. I have used some of the analogies within the book and it helps people understand the cycles... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sarah Meharg
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful reflection
A helpful book backed up by scientific research but easily read. I would recommend it to friends and colleagues for further discussion.
Published 4 months ago by James Simpson
4.0 out of 5 stars Average until the end
I enjoyed this book but found that a lot of the time it was 'same old, same old'. Wasn't fully gripped until the last chapter and WOW, it really was an eye opener. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Rhys-Alexander Barker
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't stop reading
It's very difficult to find a book (specially non-fiction) that catches my attention, since I find it hard to concentrate myself. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Thaís Tozatto Maio
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but serious discussion of the science of happiness
I have reviewed several books on this and related subjects. This one is unusual because it is written in an extremely chatty style but it is deceptively intelligent. Read more
Published 6 months ago by hfffoman
4.0 out of 5 stars Engaging and insightful
Definitely some useful insights in this analysis. On the journey to knowing ourselves a little better, Gilbert helps nudge us along... Read more
Published 7 months ago by M. A. Fordham
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining
Well written easy to read and entertaining. A different way to look at the psychology of happiness. I would highly recommend this book
Published 9 months ago by miss jennifer a wilson
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly written, glib, far too long
This is a poorly written book that tells us something about happiness. It's written in that awful style that is common among self-help books, where instead of the author simply... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Scorchio
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing but slow and ultimately incomplete
The central thesis of this book is that we are unable to accurately imagine the future because we don't model important details accurately. Read more
Published 15 months ago by h3rne
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful journey through happiness
Loved this book. For a scientific view its full of humour and real life examples, Daniel Gilbert writes beautifully, happiness has never made more sense.
Published 19 months ago by pinchcliff
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