Ciara's Reviews > Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America

Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich
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Dec 17, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: read-in-2009
Read in December, 2009

another book i wanted to like more than i did. also a book that makes me realize that i need to expand my book categories a little. anyway...i contemplated buying this book, but i saw barbara ehrenreich's interview on "the daily show" & found it really frustrating (is it absolutely necessary to be so hyperbolic & smug on national television?), so i settled for putting it on hold at the library. & i'm glad i did, because i was really disappointed.

i was hoping for a smart, clever, somewhat mean-spirited book that i could use to formulate my own arguments with anarcho-punk types that talk about "keeping it posi". not that i expected barbara ehrenreich to have a lot of experience with anarcho-punks, of course. but still--there's pretty much nothing in this book that relates to my own crusade against mindless positivity. there's a lot of stuff that tries to debunk claims that positive thinking has immune system benefits. there's a whole lot of stuff about the development of motivational products as a major american industry. there's a lot of stuff about so-called "positivity preachers" who claim that "god wants to prosper you". there's a lot of stuff about the secret. ehrenreich basically touches on every element of mainstream "positive thinking" & shines a big bright spotlight on how absurd & self-serving it is, which is great, but you know. tell me something i don't already know.

i guess the biggest issue is that the book is written in such a tone that anyone who is inclined to agree with ehreneich from the outset is going to be "in on the joke," so to speak, & chuckling at how dumb & self-centered she makes all these positivity hucksters seem. & anyone who is big on the whole positive thinking thing is going to dismiss her as cranky & crabby & up to no good. as is typical with ehrenreich books, there's no middle ground, no attempt to avoid rhetorical excess, not even a sliver of an attempt at objectivity. that's not necessarily something that i really object to a whole hell of a lot, but...it does get a bit tiresome. reading this book was basically like having coffee with someone who just sits there & says, "look at all these morons. isn't it great that we're so much smarter than everyone else?" well...sure. the world is full of morons & we're smarter than everyone else. so the fuck what?

also, it clocked in at a slim, generously-margined, & large-fonted 200 pages. SURELY there is more to say about the culture of positive thinking? & how it "destroyed america"? the entire chapter about how positive thinking spurred on the financial crisis seemed tacked on for the sake of having a timely PR talking point (even though i don't necessarily disagree with her basis thesis that chapter).

i am quite relieved i didn't waste any money on this book. it was worth a quick & easy read, but call me when there's an expanded edition.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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John I agree with nearly everything said in this review...I did buy the book and regretted it as I was hoping for more substance.


message 2: by Liza (new) - added it

Liza Thank you for this review! I'm currently somewhere in the middle, and I'm underwhelmed and annoyed to say the least!


Aleksandra "book i wanted to like more than i did" sums it up nicely.


message 4: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Oh my I didn't even read the book yet just everyone's reviews. And I was already thinking of crabby and cranky. I am not super off the chart positive. But I hate debbie downers and people that piss and moan all the time. Shit happens move on. Be a little positive I say but not off the chart "The Secret" kind of BS. Thanks for the review you just saved me from wasting my time.


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