on 9 February 2009
I was won over by the accessbility of the writing and the endearing way in which the narrator contrasts the 'big' ideas with the challenges he faces in his own everyday existence. Laurence Shorter writes with assurance but is unafraid to to lay himself bare. I found by the end of reading the book it had managed to awake some pretty dormant positive attitudes and my outlook had noticeably brightened - a result that is surely worth a few quid of anyone's money?
on 11 September 2010
Laurence Shorter's ¨ The Optimist ¨ is a great read, one of those that I could not put down. The writing is funny and thought provoking at the same time. I found myself asking some rather deep and yet simple questions about life in general and the society we live in today. His spans the globe meeting all kinds of people, famous ones and regular everyday folks like you and I, the journey is most interesting and you will at least see some things in a new light. As one who has not bothered reading the paper and listening to the news for about a year now I have truly found that I do not need to!!!There is less clutter in life, less stuff to worry about,you can ¨wake up and smell the coffee¨ life is simpler, more enjoyable and I and my wife are much happier. Dare I say you will be less 'pessimistic' and more optimistic !! A definite recommended read, great job Mr.Shorter !!
on 5 May 2010
One man's very personal search for meaning and optimism in the face of constant bad news in the media, and too many pessimistic friends and family. Accepting his connection to Western values and attachments, he searches for a way to develop his JBF (Jump out of Bed Factor), through consultations and interviews with successful people from all walks of life - people who have developed their own mental models for success.
He doesn't develop any grand unified model for optimism or success, but seems to find his own way through observing others and questioning their approach. His beliefs make it challenging for him to accept contradictory notions at the same time, but he comes to accept that success requires passion and drive to want something badly at the same time as building strength to carry on whether it happens or not. Developing the attitude of life as one great experiment.
That's all OK as a personal journal of discovery, but it is disappointing in conclusion for the reader seeking more. The book promises a lot, in interviews with the big names and obscure success stories ... but ultimately is one person's diary rather than anything more illuminating.
on 15 March 2009
I can't believe that some readers have rated this book as 1 star! I think this is exactly what Lawrence is talking about in his book. The bloke comes up with a great idea and then puts it into practice. He makes loads of brilliant points and manages to make us laugh and think along the way. The book challenges our current way of thinking while managing to avoid jargon and big words. It's awesome and I loved it
For people to score it as 1 or 2 stars says it all. As a society, we're stuck in a habit of being negative. Pessimism rules. It's a doddle to be critical. Energy vampires are infectious!
I'd advise anyone to read Lawrence's book and take it in the manner he intended. As a bit of light relief in a doom-laden society
PS, writing this review has made me happy!
on 7 February 2009
What do we most need at a time of near universal gloom and feeble-minded pessimism? A shot of optimism, that's what. It's one of Laurence Shorter's triumphs to provide this welcome boost, to remind us of what we already have rather than what we think we need and put a smile on our faces while he's at it. Insightful, highly amusing and a wonderful read. Memorable encounters with some of our planet's most optimistic minds make this a lively and informative romp across a subject that has exercised homo sapiens from the earliest times. Bravo!
on 3 February 2009
Over time, in general, things turn out for the best - that's the historical lesson anyway. And I think that a lot of us experience that in our own lives too: We end up with the right person, or we end up happily alone for the right reasons. We find the occupation that interests us, or are glad that we quit our job. We realise that we are happier now than we used to be. So why is it sometimes so hard to be optimistic, to believe that things simply will get better for us, and the world, in the long run? Reading 'The Optimist' helped me to access my own logical and inherent optimism again, even today. Maybe it can help you too.
The book follows Laurence Shorter's many trials as he brightly struggles to identify the essence of optimistic feeling, and grasp the optimism opportunity. His description of his own life living with his father while in his mid-30s and unfortunate love life, is juxtaposed with a gripping account of his own route to optimistic thinking during which Laurence meets a generally random selection of optimists, some famous and some just, well, quite random. Some of the off-the-cuff repartee with the interviewees, and also just people the author meets during his quest, is inspired, and while the interviews are often unsatisfactory, the author's treatment of them is invariably superb.
Recommended for those who are ready to think positive, but need some humorous and charming support to get their Jump-Out-Of-Bed-Factor back.
on 8 February 2009
The real strength of this book is in the many short interviews and meetings Shorter has with famous and non-famous people around the world. The different views on what constitutes optimism and what makes people tick is fascinating. Some of the views are genuinely thought provoking and inspiring. However, what lets this book down is Shorter himself. Rather than feeling sympathy for his rather sad position in life - no job and distant girlfriend - you end up feeling a bit irritated by him. After all, anyone with any common sense would know from the beginning of the book how his relationship with his girlfriend will ultimately end up. The kind of optimism Shorter himself displays is of a self-deluding kind. This is a shame, because it detracts from what could have been a much better, in fact really excellent, book if Shorter had kept himself out of it more.
on 17 March 2009
Who needs anti-depressants, happy endings or chocolate pudding when you can wallow in a book like this? It's very hard to package what is basically a historical review of the philosophy of happiness into something you can read on the loo, tube and plane. Shorter takes us on a journey around the world -- from New York to India, South Africa to London -- and asks the question we all wrestle with -- how can we be perpetually happy? -- in a subtle and engaging way. And he gives us answers, without ever resorting to Oprah-esque platitudes or the empty sillinesses of the self-help brigade. His self-deprecating wit throws Toby Young into shadows of mediocrity; his taut and elegant prose augurs well for future books; and his empathy and humanity are inspirational. Suck it up, cynics! Here is the New British Dream in its multi-coloured, fragile glory!
Although, in the course of writing this book, Mr. Shorter has - often by lying about, or at best misrepresenting, his motives and credentials - gained access to and interviewed an extremely extensive, and eclectic, group of people.
Yet the book is less about the thoughts, opinions and insights he is given from these people, than his own, far less interesting, reactions to having 'pulled it off' and met them.
Some of the interviewees seem extremely eccentric, even vacuous, some come across as self-serving self-publicists, and some come across as wise and intelligent people with real insights into the nature of the sources of happiness, from whom I would love to have heard more. I suspect the choice of which interviewee belongs in which category will vary from reader; however all of them are far more interesting than Mr. Shorter himself - yet he devotes far more space to his own ill-formed musings than to the results of his own research!
Having discovered, early on, that he can find no interviewees to support his original presupposition, he does not form a coherent plan of investigation, but flits randomly from one idea to another, as his moods take him. This is not a book written by someone with something to say; it is a frantic search for ideas by someone who has decided 'to write a book'.
If this seems like a personal attack on the author, it is not meant as such. It is simply that by making himself, and his thoughts, the subject of the book, Mr. Shorter reduces one's reaction to his book to how well one warms to him personally. (This prossibly explains the wide variation in rating from other reviewers.)
It should be pointed out that he is blithely far more dismissive himself, of any interviewee whose answers do not match his current preconceptions. There is no attempt at open-mindedness - anyone who espouses views that he was not expecting are dismissed as "not a true optimist"; the implication therefore being that he wasted his time talking to them!
When he persuades a young woman, who has gone through unbelievably traumatic experiences, to talk to him about them and explain how she has managed to maintain a positive outlook despite all this, only to dismiss her in a few paragraphs as he 'realises she is not an optimist', I found myself seething!
I had the impression that some of the more reflective of his interviewees also felt offended that their juvenile interviewer wanted to probe their experiences of torture, or bereavement, to help him cope with the terrible trauma of having a girlfriend who doesn't want to commit to him. It left a nasty taste.
Mr. Shorter is, of course, perfectly entitled to his own opinions on this, or any other subject. What made me hate this book was his arrogant assumption that his opinions were of far more interest than those of any of the people he met.
The only thing I, personally, got out of this book, other than a sense of frustration, were some references in the end papers to works by people whose well-reasoned theories sounded like a promising investigation into the subject of optimism as a philosophy.
on 2 March 2009
I bought this after hearing that it was hilarious and informative. It is very well-written, but I didnt laugh out loud much unfortunately! It did make me think about my situation and how we consume news/media, and I now ignore the papers on the commute into work which makes it a happier experience all round! Interesting and fun and encourages you to consider your life choices a lot more closely - but not one for those seeking definitive guidance.