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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars too many celebrities featured, 23 Mar 2010
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This review is from: Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out (Paperback)
The book is okay, and has reasonable advice, presented in a reasonable way (and which echoes advice provided in lots of self-help / happiness books these days). Some interesting personal stories as well.

The book relies heavily however on case studies from the '100 happy' - which were apparently the 100 happiest people they could find in America, people who should serve as inspirations to the rest of us. And a major blow to credibility here is how many of these '100 happy' are celebrities or self-help gurus. There's Goldie Hawn, Catherine Oxenberg and (I don't feel like going back to the book to dredge up the names, but basically about 80% of the names are either film / TV stars or are people who sell self-help books such as The Secret) - only a very small minority of them are ordinary people with ordinary lives.

Perhaps it shouldn't have, but that seriously reduced my appreciation of this book. I just can't believe that so many celebrities are that happy, never mind that they are so over-represented in the list of the top. Biographies of famous people tend to indicate that they are often deeply insecure people, driven by a need to gain external approval. Maybe these are the exceptions, presented in this book - but it seems unlikely that there should be so many of them.

And then the self-help gurus. Okay, one might argue that they've devoted their lives to the cause, so maybe they've worked a thing or two out. But... they have a vested interest, don't they? I can't help but think there were all sorts of negotiations going on, with publishers hoping to promote other books by holding up the authors as examples of The Way.

Basically, there is often so much pressure to be happy (or rather, such a sense of failure associated with not being happy), especially in the US, that self reports of happiness just aren't that reliable. Especially when they come from people whose livelihood relies upon convincing others of that fact.

Summary: okay book, but big credibility gaps IMO.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Sep 2010 16:21:46 BDT
Oh for Heaven's Sake! Ok, 1.) I am an American (but also German, and live in Italy with an Italian husband, so I do have the European point of view...) 2.) I have listened to a couple of interviews with Marci S where she does talk about this book. 3.) Yes, it is true that I have not yet read the book/listened to the audiotape, but I do take issue with this sweeping statement that there is all of this pressure on AMERICANS to be HAPPY. As a British subject, explain to me, please, what in the world is so wrong with wanting to know about-and possibly how to be-happy and happiness? Do the British not want to be happy? Have their upper lips frozen in place from all the stiff-upper-lipping? (and, yes, I DO "stiff upper lip" myself, all the time...I suppose it comes from my EUROPEAN upbringing...) From the interviews I have heard with Marci S. she seems to have taken a fairly scientific view of this thing called HAPPINESS. A thing, by the way, that seems to have eluded most of us, Americans, AND EUROPEANS (and, no, I will NOT make a special category for you British...You have entered the EU, albeit kicking and screaming, deal with it!). You complain about how there are too many celebrities featured in this book, and then in the next sentence how statistically, celebrities are the most UNhappy people on Earth: By your very logic, I want to read/listen to this book! Because, heck! (like that little Americanism I put in?) if Marci S. has found a reasonable percentage of the statistically UNhappy people on Earth who are actually HAPPY and are BENEFITTING and making the world BETTER from said happiness then, hey, I WANT to know about it!

As for this strange idea that we Americans are somehow FORCED into happiness, what newspaper are you reading? CALIFORNIANS, maybe, I don't know, I am a NewYorker, the quintessantial existentialists (and if you can show me a more depressing group of people, I'd like to buy you a drink!). Frankly, thanks to my living in Europe, and been educated by the Europeans (OK, the French...I think I can safely assert that I have paid my dues in therapy hours...) I hope I have gone beyond labels enough to say that, hey, whatever gets you through the night! Stop the American bashing! It really is only a distraction from your own blocks and problems.Focus on yourself so that you can ultimately focus on others, including Americans! :):):) The Bush years (and I do mean Senior AND JUnior) were the world's darkness before the dawn, but there is a new regime now...one of hope. One of optimism...one that says yes! You CAN! (and I mean this in both the gramatical as in, you have the ABILITY, and the "non-gramatical" as in, you not only have the PERMISSION but the RIGHT to be HAPPY!) If your governmnt/parents/church/general beliefs etc... do not support this than perhaps it is time to rethink these things! "The pursuit of happiness" is in the American Bill of Rights, why is it such an offense to the British? Is it because "we" used to be your colony? If so, may I respectfully ask that you GET OVER IT! It has been, what? 200 and some years? By being happy, you allow so many others to be happy, and they will allow so many others, and so and so on...In no time, the WORLD will be happy and then it will be INCONCEIVABLE for an ignorant, hillbilly preacher in Florida to even THINK about saying he will burn KORANS on Sept.11, or riots to break out at football games (and, yes, I mean "soccer"), or stoning and hanging of women who only want to make love to the one they truly LOVE, or ANYONE being made to believe that they have no right to learn...WHATEVER they want to learn, be it ENGliISH or MATHS, or even reading their own LANGUAGE! It is HAPPINESS that will overcome HATE. In a crazy way, HAPPINESS is the latest, most powerful weapon of mass destruction...

As I said, I have not read/listened to this book and so, yes, everything you say may indeed be true, and I do thank you for your critique, believe it or not, because it has given me where to "be careful"...That is, where to pay close attention, if you will. What I wanted to say was, in the words of John Lenon (one of "yours", remember) "all we are saying is give peace (happiness) a chance..."

Thank you for your attention,
SVBB

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Sep 2010 06:29:52 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 Sep 2010 06:32:09 BDT
I am American too. I felt a lot of pressure to be happy when I lived in the US. I don't feel that now that I live in the UK. I didn't say that the pressure to be happy was exclusive to the US, just that it was particularly evident there (at least, in my experience). Why are you so sensitive?

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Sep 2010 08:37:28 BDT
I am sorry if I over reacted. I suppose I just don't understand this "pressure to be happy" concept. I mean, were there actually people who made you feel that you had to be happy, "or else"? Is it that you were forced to discuss happiness at every turn? Please believe me when I say that I am not being at all sarcastic here. I really do want to know! Perhaps it really was that way when I lived in the States. I have been an expat in one place or another for about 8 years now so, yes, perhaps I have "lost touch". All I remember on this issue is that people either didn't really care (except your friends, of course) or would actually try to bring you down if you were happy! Far from pressuring you to be happy, the feeling seemed to be that it was somehow socially unacceptable to be too happy! So, yes, this "pressure to be happy" concept came as a shock, I can tell you and, yes, I likely lashed out because here was someone trying to "legitimize" this feeling that should not only not have to be "legitimized" but should be cherished, and your comment hit that sore spot. My sincere apologies! I have just started listening to the audio book and so far so good, though I haven't hit the interviews yet. I can understand how too many celebrities could get annoying so we'll see. I was surprised at just how happy for no reason I actually am based on her questionnaire. Thus far, I would probably rate the book a 3 1/2 out of 5. She has not yet knocked my socks off but I can see where it is an excellent book for those who "scored lower" on the questionnaire. To be fair to her, as I said before, I am really only at the very beginning of the book. Hope all is well with you and yours, SVBB

In reply to an earlier post on 24 Sep 2010 15:24:48 BDT
An emphatic yes to both of your first two questions! I think there may be regional differences however. The US is a big country after all (I grew up in the south, which I didn't find to be that different from the US as it is portrayed in a lot of Hollywood films - just a bit more religious, and even more smiling required). I had a friend from New York once though, and I never noticed that she felt any need to pretend to be happy. I loved that about her :)

It was definitely socially unacceptable to admit to unhappiness where I grew up - like you were showing disrespect to God and not showing gratitude for how wonderful life is. And... surely you've heard expressions like children being told, "If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to cry about!" - I used to hear that all the time when I was growing up (and as an adult, I heard it said to other children), but I have never once heard anyone in the UK say something like that to their child. I recall once my father was congratulating my sister on how well she'd brought up her daughter, "She seems to be such a happy little girl". And my sister said, without batting an eyelash, "She'd better be happy!". And how often have you ever heard a Hollywood star or US politician admit that they find life a bit hard going? I never have, I only ever hear them talk about how blessed they are, how grateful they are for all that life has given them. Which is a lovely attitude in theory, but becomes a bit sick-making when you feel that it is just put on for show (which I think it often is, otherwise you wouldn't see these same Hollywood stars ruining their lives with self-destructive behavious). British stars are more likely to admit that they suffer from depression, and Winston Churchill was well known for having frequent battles with the 'black dog' of depression (modern UK politicians are learning from their US counterparts, how destructive negativity is in terms of luring voters, so I'd never expect Tony Blair or David Cameron or whoever to admit to having difficulties).

When I lived in the US, if I ever felt down and admitted it, my friends' first reaction was almost always, "You should see a therapist", as if any degree of unhappiness is pathological and requires specialist treatment. In the 20 years I have lived in the UK (I lived 22 in the US), I have never had a single person suggest I see a therapist - reports of unhappiness are more likely to be responded to with a hug, offer of tea and a "tell me all about it". It makes unhappiness so much easier to deal with, when it's treated as a normal and transient occurance, rather than something weird and deviant that needs treatment.
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