Customer Reviews


129 Reviews
5 star:
 (81)
4 star:
 (26)
3 star:
 (14)
2 star:
 (5)
1 star:
 (3)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to be
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...
Published on 8 July 2012 by Eleanor

versus
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All rather smug and self-indulgent.
I don’t think the British are great devotees of Positive Thinking with or without the capitals. We tend to have a more defensive, ironic stance, though I don’t think that that should be equated with negativity. So in one respect anyway Burkeman is setting up something of an aunt Sally as far as many of his readers go.

At first I thought that...
Published 3 months ago by Bluecashmere.


‹ Previous | 1 213 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to be, 8 July 2012
By 
Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All rather smug and self-indulgent., 12 Sep 2014
By 
Bluecashmere. (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking (Paperback)
I don’t think the British are great devotees of Positive Thinking with or without the capitals. We tend to have a more defensive, ironic stance, though I don’t think that that should be equated with negativity. So in one respect anyway Burkeman is setting up something of an aunt Sally as far as many of his readers go.

At first I thought that “The Antidote” was going to be a light-hearted, scarcely profound analysis. In fact it becomes more serious, but keeps little steady focus on its opponent, and fails to maintain a consistently developed argument. I have to confess that I found it all rather dull and repetitive. One would expect a certain wordiness from a Guardian journalist, but I feel that the essence here could have been boiled down to something much more concise and with a much sharper cutting edge. Burkeman quotes Hamlet; “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” and I suppose that insofar as the book has a discernible theme this is it. However, this can become an excuse for rambling off at a variety of tangents and here I find the author unequivocally guilty. The book is not unintelligent but certainly not “exhilarating” as one critic claims.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, open minded, interesting and a good read, 29 Aug 2012
By 
JK "J. K." (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
OK; I didn't really get too much of the philosophy but I did enjoy reading The Antidote. Oliver Burkeman is hilarious. His dry, cutting sense of humour turned something which could have so quickly become pompous and preaching into an absolute pleasure and a joy to read. Amazingly enough, because I enjoyed the reading experience and had a smile on my face, I've taken in more of the content than I have with any self-help book but; I can't say I've altered my way of thinking to any great degree. The Antidote will introduce you to the concept; "..does the pursuit of happiness make us miserable..", Burkeman throws in a widely diverse group of people, theories and arguments in an open handed, often humorous manner, as he attempts to convince you that yes, it does. There are some powerful and interesting voices in the book and it's diverse, you couldn't accuse Burkeman of being single minded, he has gone out of his way to cover all of the bases.

In summary I'd say The Antidote is well worth the read even if you don't normally delve into this type of literature. Not overly long, interesting, funny and written in a way that grabs the attention without ever becoming dry or taking itself too seriously. You won't feel disappointed if you come away from this experience disagreeing with the concept, Burkeman is gentle enough to leave that up to you, but who knows, maybe you'll find The Antidote life changing, so give it a go.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Discomforting Degree of Honesty, 24 Feb 2014
By 
clahain (Las Vegas, Nevada) - See all my reviews
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. I don't think this is Burkeman's contention at all. He seems to be prescribing an unsentimental common sense. Like, save for retirement because, though you may die before you need the money, it'll be worse to be old and destitute. Or, if your cholesterol is high, skip the fried food--sure, you're going to die anyway, but why rush into it?

According to the author, rather than being a depressing way to live, this close attention to reality, especially the reality of our own mortality, can actually lead to a meaningful and--dare we suggest--joyful life. So, in the end, THE ANTIDOTE isn't an argument against optimism and positive thinking. The question it addresses is far more basic and useful than that. Namely, does it really matter whether the glass is half full or half empty if you don't appreciate the contents?

Reading this book requires and open mind and some bravery, but it's worth the effort.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genuinely lovely, well written, well thought out guide to happiness., 24 Aug 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I loved this book. It's as if Bill Bryson or Louis Theroux had performed a road trip into the world of self help. Yet the book has Burkeman's excellent style as a rational, intelligent journalist at heart and this work is both readable and important. Why important? Because it is the first book I have ever read that effortlessly and amusingly conveys hundreds of philosophical and psychological points on happiness into a coherent whole in a way that makes it a pleasure to consume. It should be required reading for all 18 year olds! I am 47 ... Buy it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction to important thinkers, 24 Dec 2012
By 
This review is from: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The pursuit of happiness reconceived, 16 Dec 2012
By 
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking (Paperback)
Oliver Burkeman has written this book out of dissatisfaction with the self-help industry, with its mantras of empowerment, its cult of 'positive thinking' and its inveterate habit of treating success and happiness as a right for all. 'The Antidote' draws together strands from a variety of philosophical and spiritual traditions that share a common attitude towards the active pursuit of happiness: they believe it to be a mistaken strategy, self-defeating because grounded in ignorance - sometimes willed ignorance - of the facts of human existence.

Burkeman takes his reader through the basic tenets of classical stoicism and a discussion of the Buddhist principle of non-attachment. He looks at the growth of 'positive thinking' as a secular cure-all, and argues that many of its ideas and much of its language can be located in the worldview of commerce and the businessman. Burkeman argues that this style of thinking is both incoherent in itself and in any case inappropriate as a guide to life, which in the nature of things offers many more instances of repeated failure and disappointment than of success and continuous happiness. A visit to the 'Museum of Failure' reinforces the fact that even in commerce far more products fail than succeed. Excessive goal-orientation may even turn mere failure into disaster.

A journalist by profession, Burkeman is writing for the intelligent general reader who - like the author - may be assumed to be at least mildly sceptical about the positive thinkers. However, he has avoided the easy path of feeding the reader's complacency by holding these people up to easy mockery; preferring instead to speak to a number of figures - Eckhart Tolle among them - who have argued for a 'negative way' through life and the renunciation of goal-oriented, achievement-oriented philosophies. There is a seriousness here that emerges repeatedly: for example, in the discussion of Ernest Becker's 'The Denial of Death', which ascribes much of human unhappiness to our inability to look steadily at the fact of personal and collective extinction.

This is probably not the book for a reader already extensively read in the Stoics or the Buddhist tradition. It is neither a rigorous work of philosophy nor a detailed plan for life. There were a couple of instances in which I felt that a more secure grounding in the sciences might have helped the author see flaws in the arguments of some of his interviewees; and he is more enthusiastic about the late Alan Watts than I can bring myself to be. But these are minor points and do not affect my judgement that this is a sane, readable, equable, persuasive guide to an admirable philosophical tradition. Given the subject matter, it helps considerably that Burkeman has a wry sense of humour that is never overplayed.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spot on, stop chasing happiness, embrace failures., 18 Sep 2012
By 
FLB (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not so much a self-help guide as an essay promoting one group of related theories, 15 July 2012
By 
David Burton "aenikata" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
If you're looking for a guide that will genuinely change your perspective and help you plan a better way of looking at things, this isn't really it.
As negative as that sounds, I did find this fairly thought-provoking and interesting, as it starts with a quick critique of the positive thinking movement, before moving on to outline groups such as the stoics who had a much greater effort at realism and how their perspective is, in the author's opinion, rather more useful.
For all the sniping at the positive thinking books for their target market being people who have already failed to be helped by other positive thinking books, the book is a little short on evidence that the author's preferred attitudes are more useful.
That said, it takes different movements which take similar views on life, and correlates them together. This is potentially useful if you're interested, like me, in comparing different theories in psychology and religion, and trying to find useful threads between them. A guide it isn't, really, but I do think the ideas it proposes are worth considering, and the range of movements that are tied together by it make it still an interesting read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Antidote - wiser, humbler, and happier for reading it., 4 Aug 2012
So what is The Antidote?

Acknowledging and considering the negative - instead of trying to suppress it with `positivity', getting more comfortable with it - making negative experiences less scary. There's a Stoical element of `feel the fear and do it anyway'. You render fears less potent by repeating and surviving a feared experience. And maybe, even, learning from it. Similarly, if you acknowledge and understand the negative, you may render it less potent.

This book puts balance back into the Tyranny of The Positive on the Self Help shelf. The more you experience and survive negative experiences, the more you trust yourself to survive them (although, to some extent, by mitigating them with healthy responses). So, rather than "trying to drown negativity out with relentless good cheer" (p9), is it more about learning to acknowledge, accept, and react to negative experiences thoughtfully. Balance this with meeting positive experiences with a certain amount of hazard-mitigating caution, moderation and reserve? Here you may have a more realistic `sweet spot' for healthy happy living.

If the only way to learn not to be overwhelmed by our negative experiences, or carried away by our positive experiences, is through experience, through doing and surviving, even thriving, then it's a journey with no short cuts.

Or is it?

This is where Burkeman's wry, reflective, investigative approach comes into its own. He tries things out and reports back. We get to learn from his torture by Barbie Girl. His trial by Chancery Lane. His face-off with death and the aisles of the Museum of Failure. Because the writing is personable, connected, honest, human, readable and funny, we get to really feel his experiences. So it's like we're learning by living through them. So, thanks, Oliver, for trying out so many odd and difficult and challenging things, and for talking to interesting, thought-provoking and quirky people for us. Thanks for doing this against the backdrop of all the research hours you've put into understanding well-being, or happiness. Thanks for the leg-work, the hours at the laptop, and most of all for reporting back. The book is a treasure. I feel wiser, humbler, and happier for reading it. Everyone should have a copy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 213 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
£6.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews