Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “On Balance” as Want to Read:
On Balance
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

On Balance

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  69 ratings  ·  8 reviews
“Balancing acts,” writes Adam Phillips, “are entertaining because they are risky, but there are situations in which it is more dangerous to keep your balance than to lose it.” In these exhilarating and casually brilliant essays, the philosopher and psychoanalyst examines literature, fairy tales, works of art, and case studies to reveal the paradoxes inherent in our appetit ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published July 1st 2010)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about On Balance, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about On Balance

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 230)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Tim Pendry
This has all the faults and benefits of a collection of smaller essays brought together to make a book.

Some of the pieces are startling good, enough to make the purchase of the book worthwhile, while others are utterly boring unless you are an academic fascinated with academic opinion on the opinions of dead poets.

Adam Phillips is an interesting intellectual. Of East European Jewish heritage but fully British (actually adoptive Welsh) in his outlook, he uses a Freudian psychoanalytic platform a
Full of insights on excess and our frustrations, on helplessness and its moral value, on fundamentalism (how we all harbour one), on children being difficult to test their parents worth, on the authenticity issue, on getting away with having sex without having to have sex, on getting lost and its merits (what is it you're at a loss about?). Those were some of the headlines, what is great about it is that you can read it in Hyde Park or Dianna' Fountain, or even under a tree when it rains and you ...more
Sean Goh
Nonsensically dense.

We can only really be realistic after we have tried our optimism out.

It is only our fantasies that are excessive, our appetites are sensible. (generally.)

There is always a magical belief that by destroying the thing that we love we destroy our need for it.
And having it all means not having to make choices.

People know they are in a relationship when they become a problem to each other.

The hell of a narcissist is the tyranny of his need for others.

Helplessness is the preconditi
I thought some of the essays were outstanding, some were difficult to follow, and some were of no interest to me. Overall, Adam Phillips uses the lens of psychoanalysis to explore ideas and ways of thinking that we never thought were worth examining.

In one chapter I was fascinated by his discussion of how we interpret situations that make us feel guilty for getting away with something (like stealing and not getting caught). There is also a great discussion of Diane Arbus’ black and white photos
(view spoiler) ...more
Michael Vagnetti
An apotheosis of kind of essay technique that is both fantastic and practical. Challenging, dashing essays on the constellation of behaviors involving balance and stability: excess, authenticity, disenchantment, truancy, sleep, getting away with things, and, most impressively, helplessness.

The writing is especially aware of how desire exists in language, and is often a literary reading of mental behavior. It tells the stories of how we think and act through the torque, texture, and friction of w
A hard slog at times but littered with exquisite gems.
Tom King
Either too deep or trying to be too deep for me.
Ian Cloudy
Ian Cloudy marked it as to-read
Apr 21, 2015
Lisa Yeager
Lisa Yeager marked it as to-read
Apr 16, 2015
Jamsheer marked it as to-read
Apr 13, 2015
Heather Donahue
Heather Donahue is currently reading it
Apr 12, 2015
Daisy marked it as to-read
Mar 17, 2015
Mary Taylor
Mary Taylor marked it as to-read
Mar 16, 2015
Laura marked it as to-read
Mar 12, 2015
Petra Van Goor
Petra Van Goor marked it as to-read
Mar 02, 2015
Allana marked it as to-read
Jan 20, 2015
Brian Phillips
Brian Phillips marked it as to-read
Feb 21, 2015
Krista marked it as to-read
Jan 07, 2015
Michele Media
Michele Media marked it as to-read
Jan 07, 2015
Eva marked it as to-read
Dec 24, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Otaku: Japan's Database Animals
  • A Dark Muse: A History of the Occult
  • Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper
  • The Red Goddess
  • Mirage Men: An Adventure into Paranoia, Espionage, Psychological Warfare, and UFOs
  • Strategy: A History
  • The Art Museum
  • Gothic
  • The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham: A Biography
  • Gothic Short Stories (Wordsworth Classics)
  • Introducing Lacan (Introducing)
  • Minds, Brains and Science (1984 Reith Lectures)
  • The Mind's New Science: A History Of The Cognitive Revolution
  • The Magical Revival
  • Bad Penny Blues
  • The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier
  • The Necropolis Railway (Jim Stringer, #1)
  • The Concept of Time
On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life On Kindness Monogamy Going Sane: Maps of Happiness

Share This Book

“Greed is a way of avoiding making choices: if I have everything I don't have to choose what I want. And choosing what I want means giving up some pleasures for other pleasures.” 8 likes
“The big secret about Art is that no one wants it to be true.” 6 likes
More quotes…