Caitlin's Reviews > Stumbling on Happiness

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd Gilbert
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May 05, 2007

liked it
bookshelves: psychology, american
Recommended for: anyone except most moralists and libertarians... so... none of my friends. ;b
Read in April, 2007

April 2007, first impression: So far, this book is witty, eye-opening and really fun. Also really well researched. He references Daniel C. Dennett in the first five pages, so how could I not love it?

May 2007, upon completion: Update...

Ultimately, I decided to give this book three stars because I believe that it is a ballsy and well-executed attempt to take on an impossibly difficult problem (happiness - that's a biggie). For the most part, I admire Gilbert's methods, though they ALL become incredibly frustrating somewhere around page 200. The book is witty, incredibly well researched, and Gilbert is (mostly) unwilling to extrapolate the massive amounts of data he compiles into proscriptive solutions for finding happiness.

Fortunately, these make the book:

* pretty easy to follow
* informative and enlightening (if you're not already familiar with most of the research - some of the psychological effects he outlines are well-known to the point of being cliché, but many are either head-scratchers or jaw-droppers on their own merits or are interpreted here in interesting ways which bolster his mostly critical (rather than constructive) thesis)
* very NOT another preachy or rosy-tinted self-help franchise (yet).

Unfortunately:

* the tone ultimately makes the book repetitive and tiresome (much like being in the room with an otherwise intelligent person who laughs a little too much at their own jokes)
* the research often obfuscates rather than elucidates already fuzzy points (again, he makes his criticisms clear, but sometimes it's unclear what he is actually trying to *say* by pointing them out)
* for most of the book it seems as though he's really verging on some great ideas, but doesn't want to stick his neck out for them, which leaves the reader exhausted trying to generate their own implications and solutions for the problems he identifies...

You can read the rest of my review here (it was too long for goodreads): http://caitfish.livejournal.com/14552...

And a subsuquent review after some more thought:
http://caitfish.livejournal.com/14589...
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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David Caitlin: I agree that this book definitely deteriorated towards the end, but ended up giving it 4 stars, if only because the author can be very funny indeed, and I thought his examples interesting and well-chosen.

And yes, Dennett references are a definite plus.

I very much enjoyed your review, but am boycotting this new feature on goodreads, because I fail to see its point.


Björn I agree with your reviews, especially about the unfulfilling treatment of fulfillment. I liked the book more than you (perhaps because a lot of its content was new to me) but I didn't like his thesis or his conclusions. I'm also not sure it provided any utility, but his assertions are interesting to think about.


message 3: by Siva (new) - added it

Siva I haven't yet read the book, but based on my impression from your review, I think it's good that the author doesn't sick his neck out to make absolute statements. It is nice if he gives you all the information and let's you draw your own conclusions. That said, I'll have to read the book and will update my comment one I get my hands on the book.


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