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The Happy Depressive: In Pursuit of Personal and Political Happiness [Paperback]

Alastair Campbell
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 April 2012

Are you happy? Does it matter?

Increasingly, governments seem to think so. As the UK government conducts its first happiness survey, Alastair Campbell looks at happiness as a political as well as a personal issue; what it should mean to us, what it means to him. Taking in economic and political theories, he questions how happiness can survive in a grossly negative media culture, and how it could inform social policy.

But happiness is also deeply personal. Campbell, who suffers from depression, looks in the mirror and finds a bittersweet reflection, a life divided between the bad and not-so-bad days, where the highest achievements in his professional life could leave him numb, and he can somehow look back on a catastrophic breakdown twenty-five years ago as the best thing that happened to him. He writes too of what he has learned from the recent death of his best friend, further informing his view that the pursuit of happiness is a long game.

Originally published as part of the Brain Shots series, the pre-eminent source for high-quality, short-form digital non-fiction.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (12 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099579820
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099579823
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 82,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alastair Campbell was born in Keighley, Yorkshire in 1957, the son of a vet. Having graduated from Cambridge University in modern languages, he went into journalism, principally with the Mirror Group. When Tony Blair became leader of the Labour Party, Campbell worked for him first as press secretary, then as official spokesman and director of communications and strategy from 1994 to 2003. He continued to act as an advisor to Mr Blair and the Labour Party, including during the 2005 election campaign. Since then, he has been engaged mainly in writing, public speaking and working for Leukaemia Research, where he is chairman of fundraising.

Product Description


"Through exploring what happiness is, where it comes from, what it stands for and how it can be created and maintained both personally and politically, Alastair reveals a side of himself that many readers have probably never seen before or didn't know even existed." (Ilona Burton Mind Blog)

Book Description

Now in print, Alastair Campbell's timely and thought-provoking short book, The Happy Depressive.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly recommended 13 Jan 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This is an excellent and thought-provoking read. The Happy Depressive isn't another self-help book but then I don't think Alastair Campbell set out to write one of those. The book sees the author draw very candidly upon many of his own personal experiences, setting them in a context that will be recognised by most readers, whether or not their lives have been affected by mental illness. The book challenges the political classes to consider more carefully than ever before how policies impact the wellbeing of individuals, communities and countries. This is especially relevant in this period of austerity.

Where the book is particularly effective is in distinguishing between depression and unhappiness. Depression, like any other illness, pays no respect to relationships, income or lifestyle. If this book achieves just one thing, I hope it can help explain to sufferers and non-sufferers that a feeling of unhappiness is not the same as a state of depression and perhaps more importantly, depressives can feel great happiness. That's why the title of the book really works.

So I would thoroughly recommend this book to you if you suffer from depression or don't, if you are in a relationship with a sufferer or not, if you're a parent, a political animal or party animal! I hope this isn't the last time Alastair Campbell writes on these issues.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Happy Depressive 23 Jan 2012
By L4books
Format:Kindle Edition
What is happiness? That's the question Alastair Campbell tries to answer in this searingly honest account of living with depression.
Yes, the politics and policies that can contribute to our happiness are examined, but the most moving sections are his personal battles with the down days.

It's hard not to read the part about his breakdown, without tears. The picture of this strong, clever man, reduced to piling his possessions on the floor, and being arrested, is heart-wrenching.

As Tony Blair's Director of Communications, he was a formidable figure in British politics. You may like him or loathe him. But few would deny that it takes huge guts to admit things like his battle with alcohol.

The methods for coping are in here too -- with an acknowledgment that they're not always foolproof.

And he writes openly about the nature of friendship and family, including the death of close friends, that will make you think carefully about what and whom you value in your life.

I was reading it on a grim, grey, wet January morning. When I finished, I looked out the window, and a patch of blue had appeared. Read this, it will make you think, and be happier.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was lucky enough to hear Alastair Campbell give "The Happiness Lecture" in Birmingham last year, and reading this e-book reminded me just how much I'd enjoyed the lecture at the time. Although this is short, Campbell has much to say about his two main themes. Firstly, the role governments should play in happiness creation, and secondly, how and when individuals can be truly happy. Of course, Campbell's work as a journalist and within government and also his struggle with depression mean that his is a view that is worth listening to. He is very willing to draw on personal experiences to develop his arguments whether about the trial of following a football team that plays four hours away from where you live, the sheer panic of suffering a breakdown or the emotions felt watching a dear friend die of cancer. As others have noted, it continues Campbell's efforts break down the taboo about mental illness but it is also much much more. This is a quick read, packed with insight and I thoroughly recommend it as an antidote to the materialism and short-term gratification we all too often mistake for happiness.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading 14 Jan 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
(Bought 13 January 2012 - Kindle)

"I hope that by the time I die I will have played a part in ending the stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness". Alastair Campbell, I think you've played that part already, and this book will help you do more to achieve this goal.

I bought this book on a whim, because a friend Tweeted that she'd bought it (internet marketers, take note: it wasn't even a review. It was a note that she'd bought it). And I'm glad I did. Loosely based on Campbell's Happiness Lecture at Birmingham University (my alma mater and ex-employer, but no, I didn't manage to get to the lecture), this extended essay is a very honest and personal discussion of what it's like to be depressed: what it's actually like, in detail. It's also a musing on what "happiness" is and whether a depressed person is every truly happy, and a discussion of the things that help Campbell, and might help other people. He's careful to avoid preaching and telling people what to do, but the concrete examples about how altruism, exercise and the application of his mind to new things help him will surely bring comfort to people who aren't so used to managing their depression. I'd forgotten he's a runner, but that made sense - running certainly keeps me sane, and not just because I've got a busy lifestyle. And there's much more to identify with, personally - I'm glad I'm not the only person to sob my way through Olympic or other major sporting events, for a start!

But it's not all personal stuff: the political features heavily, too - but that shouldn't put people off, as it's the author's main arena, or was for many years, and he has much to say that's of real and practical interest.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars More of an Essay
Whilst an interesting enough read in its way, this book is much more of an elongated essay than anything else. Read more
Published 3 months ago by BabyBoomer1
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Inspiring
little disappointed a disjointed read, thought there would be more to it open ended ... continue to wait for an ending
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected
Ok the book was informative and gave an insight into Campbell's psych but I thought there might be more by way of in depth analysis of his struggle to maintain a high profile... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Alf
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
this is an excellent short and inspiring read from a man who has battled alcoholism and speaks out for those of us with mental health issues. I highly recommend this
Published 5 months ago by joninetyone
4.0 out of 5 stars Short essay on his musings on happiness
This was a nice, quick read which reads more like an essay than a novel (though if you are familiar with his other diaries work you may be expecting this). Read more
Published 6 months ago by Cei
5.0 out of 5 stars Really Good Read
Excellent read, really helps to put depression in to perspective. Recommend everyone reads this whether you suffer from depression or not
Published 8 months ago by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars What a good read
This was such a great book.Read it all the way through in one sitting.As a psychiatrist who has also faced anxiety and depression but is keeping smiling,I take my hat off to... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Sheila Dawson
3.0 out of 5 stars slightly disappointing
A bit too much emphasis on Campbell's politics and not enough about his depression for my liking - a bit disappointing.
Published 12 months ago by Simon66
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
If you want to understand why depression is not simply having a bad day or backing a few losers read this.
Published 12 months ago by John Cherry
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended
It's commendable when someone speaks out about mental-health, particularly when that someone is very much in the public-eye. Whatever your thoughts, or opinions about Mr. Read more
Published 14 months ago by MinkyR
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