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The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong
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The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  442 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
"We think of our version of a happy life as more like physics than like pop songs; we expect the people of the next century to agree with our basic tenets—for instance, that broccoli is good for a happy life and that opium is bad—but they will not. Our rules for living are more like the history of pop songs. They make weird sense only to the people of each given time perio ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published April 10th 2007 by HarperOne (first published 2007)
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Todd
Jul 04, 2008 Todd rated it really liked it
I'm not a fan of self help and self improvement books. In fact, I think 99.9% of them are pure bullshit. Fortunately, "The Happiness Myth" is not one of them. Rather than trying to present her readers with another lame new age formula for happiness, Jennifer Michael Hecht uses her training as a historian to look back at the ways people have pursued happiness over the whole course of human history, point out some basic traits that seem to have worked over and over agin, and compare them with our ...more
Olivia Maia
Mar 18, 2017 Olivia Maia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
gostei mais pelas informações históricas do que pelo conjunto do ensaio (justamente porque me parece que falta unidade). de qualquer forma é interessante por botar algumas noções e ideais de felicidade em perspectiva.
Elaine Nelson
Jun 13, 2008 Elaine Nelson rated it it was amazing
This may in fact be the most useful bit of philosophy I've ever read. The general premise: understanding the crazy things that made people happy in the past, or that people thought would make them happy, will help you (dear reader) see and consider how crazy our own ideas are now. And for me at least, it worked.

She covers all the big topics: sex, money, drugs, food, and celebrations, with lots of exceptionally weird info along the way. Most useful, though, is her division of "happiness" into 3
...more
Tamlynem
Jan 17, 2010 Tamlynem rated it it was amazing
This book changed my view on several topics--drugs and life-perspective are two that come to mind. One of the themes that she talks about is "Take what's yours." It sounds like settling, but it also is about being satisfied with what you have. It's a little zen, I guess. She quotes Marcus Aurelius a lot.
On drugs, she points out that they have been a part of cultural celebrations for all of human history and that our current definition of "drug" is arbitrary. Also she cites some lesser-known hist
...more
McNeil
Dec 08, 2009 McNeil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to McNeil by: Speaking of Faith
Shelves: nonfiction
I think a lengthy quotation from the book would best sum it up: "This book has also addressed the matter of truth for its own sake--not to do with happiness, but with reality. Consider a whole century of men and women straining to conserve the body's energy, minimizing sport and exertion in order not to overspend their reserves, and then the entire next century straining to exercise the body so that it will become more efficient. You have been told by physicists and yogis that reality is not wha ...more
Jake
Nov 13, 2013 Jake rated it really liked it
After reading Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson I had high hopes for this and it didn't disappoint. Hecht says that there are different types of happiness: Good Day Happiness which comes from good entertainment or taking a walk or getting a massage, Euphoria can be experienced through great sex or drugs or crowd celebrations, and A Happy Life gained through rewarding relationships, skills mastered, ...more
Melissa McCauley
Jan 30, 2015 Melissa McCauley rated it really liked it
“Money Can’t Buy Happiness” Um… YES IT CAN. Money can buy a safe place to live, food, clothing, healthcare, security for your family… Money means you can pay for an education and not have to work some soul-killing, back-breaking job that kills you by 40, and you have time to sit around and read a book like this. See? HAPPY

This book points out how much ridiculous bull our society puts out there. You should be ashamed of what you eat, you should be ashamed of how much you weigh, of how you have se
...more
Todd Martin
Jan 17, 2009 Todd Martin rated it liked it
Just to be clear ... “The Happiness Myth” is NOT a self help book. It's an academic look at the cultural and historic al attitudes and behaviors that were felt to contribute to happiness and how these views have shifted over time. Disparate topics include money, drugs, sex, food, wisdom and celebration.

It’s clear we have a complex relationship with the things that contribute to happiness. Examples of these shifting attitudes include:
Money as the root of all evil, yet the large role it plays in
...more
Dave
Dec 24, 2007 Dave rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Matt B.
This book was inaccurately named and that annoyed me. The main idea seems to be to consider how much culture influences our definitions and actions when it comes to happiness. There's some interesting perspective, historical, philosophical, and anthropological, though sometimes more than I wanted to handle.

The most resonant section for me was in regards to different types of happiness. The author broke it down into three types- day to day, euphoria, and life-long. Her point was that trying to a
...more
-uht!
Jan 29, 2009 -uht! rated it really liked it
"When you hear that so-and-so has said something horrid about you, you remember the ninety-nine times when you have refrained from uttering the most just and well-deserved criticism of him, and forget the hundredth time when in an unguarded moment you have declared what you believe to be the truth about him. Is this the reward, you feel, for all your long forbearance? Yet from his point of view your conduct appears exactly what his appears to you; he never knows of the times when you have not sp ...more
Sylvester
Sep 28, 2010 Sylvester rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Enjoyed the author's investigations into the changing views on health, food, etc. Some of the weird fads out there! And I had no idea that Marcus Aurelius of all people was an opium addict - and Elizabeth Barrett Browning??!! Amazing! A lot of food for thought in this book. My favorite line - "The fact that something makes perfect sense doesn't mean it is true." And another one - "Think about how strange it is that the same culture would invent escalators, elevators, StairMaster machines and ste ...more
Adam
May 15, 2008 Adam rated it really liked it
There's a lot in here: Eating, Exercise, Sex and Treatments (e.g., massage...). Much like Freakonomics, it means to dispel conventional wisdom. It pursues that goal by not only tossing in a few figures that counter current perceptions, but - more interestingly - it does a good job of putting things in historical context. Basically, today's science is tomorrow's laughably outdated mysticism.

It's good beach reading: thought provoking but not hard to digest. I didn't agree with everything I read, b
...more
Nick
Oct 08, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it
Wonderful book which challenges a number of accepted viewpoints, such as that money can't buy happiness. The author is a very intelligent historian and philosopher, and 90% of the book is full of her intriguing insights into cultural history, always pushing the notion that what we accept as normal today (such as marijuana and cocaine being bad and illegal) was not necessarily always the case. I loved this book, although she does tend to run on a bit, and a large portion of the final chapters see ...more
EdMohs
Jul 13, 2007 EdMohs rated it liked it
Recommends it for: yes
I'm reading this book right now. I like this author. She modern yet is well studied in philosphical history and know how to draw out great comaparsions. Happiness studies are rage the right now with many books being published on the subject. She a provides good analysis and tells some unpleasant truth about our habits. Her style or metaphors sometimes loses me. But she provides some interesting history on drug use, excersize, eating ect. All'n'all a really fine teacher.
Jasmine
Feb 06, 2010 Jasmine rated it liked it
she tells it like it is then explains. in the old days they wore corsets to be beautiful these days were so into getting skinny its gross. we need to realize that corsets seem weird but getting paper thin isnt? no it is. it did make me happier and im not even finished yet. i am a happier person after reading this.
Ginny
Jan 07, 2008 Ginny rated it it was amazing
Fascinating history on how our culture shapes our perceptions of what we need to be happy, and how obediently we follow along. Read this to remind yourself to not be a slave to culture and to keep an open mind to other possibilities. Of note is her justification for recreational drug use.
Spike Dunn
Mar 31, 2008 Spike Dunn rated it it was amazing
Fantastic, but I wouldn't expect less from the writer of "Doubt: A History." Not about how happiness is a myth but about how what we think will make us happy (and what won't make us happy) is often false. She's just a damn good writer.
Elizabeth
from the library


I brought it back to supplement the books on Greek and Roman history with material on women's festivals and women's role in those societies. It is absolutely necessary to round out understanding.
Shelley
Feb 14, 2009 Shelley rated it it was amazing
This book is well-written, well-researched, AND it might make you happy. Read it!
Cara
Mar 23, 2011 Cara marked it as to-read
recommended by Jen Gresham
Jane
Jul 09, 2010 Jane rated it really liked it
My bookclub choice. Science of what it takes to be happy
Rebecca
Jan 21, 2010 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
I love Hecht's writing and will read anything she ever writes. That's a pledge!
I loved Doubt, too, and this is so enlightening and freeing. Read it!
Neal Schindler
Jun 15, 2010 Neal Schindler rated it really liked it
I loved this but never quite finished it. Hecht is maddeningly smart, and it's a surprisingly easy read. I should probably reread it at some point.
Steve
Jul 21, 2015 Steve is currently reading it
Boght at UofT Robarts Library by-weekly used books sale.
Shelley
Feb 01, 2009 Shelley added it
Recommends it for: deborah potter
must read...historical philosophical perspective on happiness
Kathy
Jul 12, 2008 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I not only read it, underlined passages, made notes in the margins, but sent copies to friends.
Ginn
Jan 12, 2009 Ginn rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A look at our cultural beliefs regarding happiness, putting the present in context of the past. I found it pretty enlightening, but I would have liked more examples of past behaviour.
Kitty
Dec 05, 2007 Kitty rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
A good book that made me feel a little less frantic about things. Also, great description of what used to happen when we stopped for coffee... mmm, pie...
Shelley
Feb 13, 2009 Shelley rated it it was amazing
This is a great book, AND it can make you happy. Well-written and well-researched, or at least it gives that impression. Read it!
Robert
Feb 09, 2010 Robert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this thought provoking. At times it was a little try. But really made me think.
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Jennifer Michael Hecht is a poet, historian, philosopher, and author.

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“How was life before Pop-Tarts, Prozac and padded playgrounds? They ate strudel, took opium and played on the grass.” 20 likes
“When we feel safe, when we feel we are with someone who basically agrees with us about the symbolic universe, we let down our defenses, confident that our companion understands the symbols that are usually wall up, and will act appropriately.” 1 likes
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