The Antidote Paperback – 3 Jan 2013
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"An excellent book; Burkeman makes us see that our current approach, in which we want happiness but search for certainty - often in the shape of material goods - is counterproductive. We're on a treadmill of disappointment. So Burkeman explores a better way, and tells us about the philosophers and thinkers who have inspired him" (***** Daily Telegraph)
"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)
"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)
"He has written some of the most truthful and useful words on [happiness] to be published in recent years. This is a marvellous synthesis of good sense, which would make a bracing detox for the self-help junkie" (Julian Baggini Guardian)
"If life can only have one destination, then, Burkeman argues, we should enjoy the journey as much as we can and deal with the terminus when it comes. It's a simple idea, but an exhilarating and satisfying one" (Observer)
"Addictive, wise and very funny. Burkeman never takes himself too seriously, but the rest of us should." (Tim Harford author of THE UNDERCOVER ECONOMIST)
"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)
"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)
"Wry, thought-provoking and often hilarious" (Irish Independent)
"[The Antidote] has performed a neat trick by appealing to both the self-help superfan and the self-help cynic... it's immensely readable and rewarding" (The Stylist)
'A bracing detox for the self-help junkie' GuardianSee all Product description
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Its been a distinctly mixed reading experience, although I really do have to recommend this one. If nothing else Burkeman is a very good writer, he weaves together analogies, knowledge of theory, research and reporting his own experiences when he has tried out certain recommendations himself very well. Its more a page turner than I had expected. The contents are clear, there's great supporting endnotes and references and a good supporting index, all of which make it easy to find what you are looking for quickly, although, as I say, its such a well written book that its easy to read and read chapters at a time too.
Burkeman explores stoicisim, buddhism's non-attachment principles, even meets with the author who created Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, a sort of revitalised stoicism, criticises goal setting, the focus upon the self, talks about the benefits of insecurity, embracing your failures at the museum of failure and finally focuses in on the tradition of momento mori (remember you will die).
I have had some acquaintance with these ideas prior to reading Burkeman, indeed, some of my perspective has been shaped by Erich Fromm who initially promoted Zen Buddhism and some ideas now associated with the so called Optimisation Movement but was pretty scathing about how those ideas were commercialised in his day, the promotion of "easy/effortless fixes" and he really seemed to disapprove of the Human Potential Movement. Burkeman's presentation is good, no prior acquaintance with the ideas is necessary to enjoy the book, or even benefit from some of the insights I would say, it is an antidote to the sorts of positive thinking he finds vexing, and I suspect much of his potential readership too.
The book is similar to Psychobabble: Exploding the myths of the self help generation by Dr Stephen Briers but I think Oliver Burkeman's book is the better of the two, it could just be personal preference but I think the pace of narrative and writing style is more engaging. I would also say cheering or encouraging but that may just be my own personal perspective.
For the past decade or so I have been studying and dipping into psychology, NLP, self-help books and CD's from all sorts of 'gurus', some made sense, some had wild promises with titles like 'super ultimate success in 99 guaranteed steps if you follow my 3 hour plan to the letter' etc etc... I had very mixed results and luckily avoided accepting the invites to 'seminars' that took you to even more heights of success - (for a few thousand quid of course).
In the same way Richard Carlson's 'Stop Thinking and Start Living' gave me a eureka moment I found 'The Antidote' brought balance and relief from the rabbit trails I had been pursuing. It was like someone disengaging the brain from being stuck in high revs to suddenly freewheeling down the hill and taking in the view.
I no longer worry about journals, daily mantras and visualisations and rigid steps to success... (that I wasn't doing anyway because it wasn't working for me), instead I'm quite enjoying the present, planning the next move and being pro-active but without the stress or ridiculous expectations I'd been setting myself. And it helped answer the question for me that I had been pondering... 'If these self-help guys have it so sussed, why do I buy more books from other people like them who have also got it sussed!?'
The book discusses Oliver's worldwide travels and interviews with interesting people through topics like accepting death as part of life, change and the ups and downs of life, finding 'contentment' over 'pursuit of happiness', stoicism, living for the moment rather than imagining you've achieved future goals etc (which apparently make us less likely to strive for them anyway) ... if you watch the little film promoting it on his website it's pretty good at explaining more. It's not offering or pushing solutions either.... just different ideas.
Mr Burkeman writes more like a novelist, it's easy to read and it's the kind of book you'll want to re-read or dip into. It's also going to save me lots of money and time adding more self-help books to my collection.