Rebecca's Reviews > Stumbling on Happiness

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd Gilbert
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Jun 17, 2011

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bookshelves: pop-science
Read in May, 2012

This is another one of those books, like Blink or Outliers, where an author applies science in an unorthodox way, flings a bunch of interesting anecdotes and studies at you, and pretends to draw more conclusions than are actually warrented. You can tell because the cover is completely white with a single, extra shiny object slightly off-center and the title in a trendy modernist color.

I'll give Gilbert this--he's an unusually witty writer. I literally laughed out loud throughout this book. But I think in the end, it's fluff--in one ear and right out the other. I'm still not sure what I've actually absorbed.

Gilbert's basic thesis boils down to the fact that the trait that lets us build civilizations--imagination--constantly deludes us into misjudging what will make us happy. Which is good for civilization-building--without it, we'd probably be scratching our privates in a jungle with the bonobos. But since it's not something we can turn off, or are willing to, it means we'll all spend our lives chasing phantoms, trying to please a future self who will wonder what we were thinking.

I don't recall any glaring flaws in his argument, although there's not much that can easily be used to refute it here. If there's research counter to his results, it's not like I know what it is. For once, there are no sweeping pronouncements made--he pretty much shrugs his shoulders and says that it's human nature to be a little bit delusional, and there's really nothing to it. Kind of refreshing, actually.
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05/15/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Ben (new)

Ben Babcock Rebecca wrote: “You can tell because the cover is completely white with a single, extra shiny object slightly off-center and the title in a trendy modernist color.”

QFT. I totally liked your review after reading this sentence and then went back to read the rest. I just noticed this trend a few weeks ago while watching Colbert.


Rebecca QFT. I totally liked your review after reading this sentence and then went back to read the rest. I just noticed this trend a few weeks ago while watching Colbert."


I'm in marketing. I probably pay too much attention to this stuff. :)



Michelle Fairly apt review, but I have to say, I think Gladwell is a much better writer than Gilbert. I just finished this book and Outliers, and Gladwell tells a better story.


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