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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking Hardcover – 21 Jun 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (21 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847678645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847678645
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.4 x 21.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Oliver Burkeman is a feature writer for The Guardian newspaper. He is a winner of the Foreign Press Association's Young Journalist of the Year award, and has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize. He writes a popular weekly column on psychology, This Column Will Change Your Life, and has reported from London, Washington and New York.

For Oliver Burkeman's blog and a selection of his writing, visit

Product Description


'Does the pursuit of happiness make us miserable? In this elegant and erudite book, Oliver Burkeman explores the riddle of joy in the 21st century. This book doesn't set out to make you happy, but that may just be why it works.' --JONAH LEHRER, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works

'Addictive, wise and very funny. Burkeman never takes himself too seriously, but the rest of us should.' --TIM HARFORD, author of Adapt and The Undercover Economist

'Quietly subversive, beautifully written, persuasive and profound, Oliver Burkeman's book will make you think - and smile' -- ALEX BELLOS, author of Alex's Adventures in Numberland

'The Antidote is a gem. Countering a self-help tradition in which "positive thinking" too often takes the place of actual thinking, Oliver Burkeman returns our attention to several of philosophy's deeper traditions and does so with a light hand and a wry sense of humor. You'll come away from this book enriched - and, yes, even a little happier' --DANIEL H. PINK, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

'A happiness how-to-do without the cringey bits. Help! Is quite possibly invaluable' --Daily Mail on Help!

'This is a genuinely useful book; Burkeman is not in the business of pouring automatic scorn; he really does want us to become slightly happier . . . Help! is win-win. If you do find yourself with those problems which, though potentially tractable, are disproportionately aggravating, then you will find solace and good advice here. If you do not, or rather think you do not, then you will be amused anyway. Either way, you won't need to read another self-help book again' --NICHOLAS LEZARD, GUARDIAN, (on Help!)

Book Description

'A bracing detox for the self-help junkie' Guardian --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Eleanor TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 8 July 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In "The Antidote" Oliver Burkeman argues that happiness (whatever that is) can not be achieved through manic positive thinking, motivational pep talks, or narrowly-focused goal setting. Instead one can find a fulfilling way to live by embracing uncertainty and giving negative thoughts their due. In eight chapters we meet Stoics, Buddhists, and other thinkers who all possess:

"A willingness to adopt an oblique stance towards one's own inner life; to pause and take a step back; to turn to face what others might flee from; and to realise that the shortest apparent route to a positive mood is rarely a sure path to a more profound kind of happiness."

Burkeman emphasizes that, unlike so many motivational speakers, he is not intending to offer fail-safe rules for a happy life. Instead he thoughtfully and thoroughly explores topics we might usually shy away from, arriving at wise advice. I already feel calmer and more content having been immersed in his ideas, and perversely I'm looking forward to a chance to test his techniques.

Having greatly enjoyed and valued Burkeman's previous book Help!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done, I was worried that "The Antidote" would cover too much of the same ground. This new book, however, felt fresh and readable offering a more sustained and meaty thesis than the short articles in "Help", whilst still retaining the humour and anecdotes that made the first book such a pleasure.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By clahain on 24 Feb. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Reading THE ANTIDOTE: HAPPINESS FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN'T STAND POSITIVE THINKING isn't a comfortable experience. I'd run into an excerpt in the online magazine BRAIN PICKINGS and was prepared for a snide, curmudgeonly critique of our be-happy-or-something's-wrong-with-you culture. And Burkeman certainly demonstrates many of the hallmarks of a grumpy old man. He's skeptical, judgmental, argumentative. He also seems to be onto something that most of us, in our rush to capture joy and fulfillment in a (recycled) bottle, never manage to grasp: prayers, wishes and abundance spells aside, things do not always work out for the best. Worse, as good as things might be at the moment, it'll all head downhill as we inevitably age and die.

One day the sun will rise without us.

That's the plain truth of the matter. It's also, according to Burkeman, why it's so important that we live our time here on earth with our eyes wide open. Even if it's hard. And scary.

Burkman gathers evidence from various schools of philosophy/religion/psychology. One of the most entertaining parts of the book is the chapter about his week in the forests of Massachusetts attempting Buddhist meditation. His evaluation of the power our momentary (and often inaccurate) thoughts/judgments have over our perception of our world is fascinating.

I also enjoyed his discussion of Stoicism, basically, the idea that emotional pain results not from outside events themselves, but from our judgement about those events. This isn't, as many people believe, an attitude of "life's terrible so deal with it." It's more "plan for the worst and hope it doesn't turn out quite so bad." Some would call this crass pessimism or even nihilism, the belief that life is essentially meaningless.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By FLB TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Sept. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I got this book mainly for my husband who is an out and out pessimist, he works on the principle 'expect the worse and if it happens then you are not disappointed, if a good thing happens instead then you come away happy, either way you are never dissapointed'' this he claims is his theory of pessimism and happiness.

I read this book after my husband came waving it in my face claiming that he had been right all along. I am a born optimist and doubted this claim so I read the book, OMG it may be that my husband is right (now can I admit it to him?).

What Oliver Burkeman says is more or less what my husband has been saying all along, we should stop this mindless pursuit of happiness charging around looking for nirvana. We should instead embrace all the things that go wrong in our lives and look for the goodness in them, can I ever look my husband in the face again?

OB observes that for a population so obsessed with seeking happiness we are absolutely rubbish at finding it, money does not make you happy (although husband does say 'better to cry in a mercedes than a mini!!')Romance and family life all often lead to stresses that we don't want or need.

Using an eclectic mix of guides OB leads us through finding happiness in unusual places, who would consider using a buddhist and a terrorism expert to guide us to harmony?

A thought provoking book and well worth the effort of reading it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rutherbooks on 24 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
As with Burkeman's previous book ('Help'), this mixes a deceptively easy-going writing style, some good jokes and a comprehensive review of the territory. He has done his homework, and the first-hand reporting of site visits and interviews show the skills of a deft journalist. If you don't know the work of the Stoics, Albert Ellis, Alan Watts, Eckhart Tolle or (latterly) Steve Shapiro, this is a very entertaining, well-written introduction: if you have read any of their work, then you might be left wanting just a little more insight or originality.
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