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Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  783 ratings  ·  94 reviews
The author of the international bestseller Happiness makes a passionate case for altruism -- and why we need it now more than ever.

In Happiness, Matthieu Ricard demonstrated that true happiness is not tied to fleeting moments or sensations, but is an enduring state of soul rooted in mindfulness and compassion for others. Now he turns his lens from the personal to the glob
Hardcover, 864 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 4.25  · 
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Feb 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: l-french
This is the book that never ends. It just goes on and on, my friends. Ricard is ultimately unconvincing, but he makes some great observations on happiness. Ricard insists that we are born altruistic, yet spends the majority of the first half insisting that we can learn altruism and reiterating how we can do it (with pretty good advice), which defeats his point that it's inherent. The second half of the book is completely irrelevant to altruism and is just a collection of research on how we can s ...more
Apr 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: goodreads, dharma
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway.
There was a lot to get through in this book but everything was relevant. We all have the capacity for altruism as shown in the research the author presents. With more effort we can improve society with more attention and cultivation of this.
Thomas Edmund
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Somehow Aspirational, Down-to-Earth, Factual, Pulling-no-Punches, and Generally Enjoyable all at Once...

I picked this book up with slight trepidation. I mean Altruism in general - I'm very for it! However I wasn't too sure what the angle was going to be, and just what was going to flesh out this reasonably massive tome.

Really shouldn't have worried. Immediately Ricard drew me in with a dive into the sophistication of morally good behaviour - kind of like the non-fiction version of that episode o
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Altruism would have been to make this book a lot shorter.

As with all self-help, what matters is if it resonates. Maybe this is the book you need now, but it didn't do it for me. I felt it lost the forest for the trees. Be nice. OK. Nuff said. That doesn't really take 864 pages. I don't think the central point requires all the scientifical and Buddhist stuff, etc.
Mar 19, 2015 rated it liked it
There is a lot in this book, to like and/or dislike; if you are a devout meat eater, you may not wish to read this book. It gives insight into trying to be a better person, for yourself, your family and the planet. There are many hidden agendas that are brought to the forefront by companies, people, and the government. It also shows how far money changes people and how truly consumable a society we have become but only because we have been taught. Truly a read that makes one think.
Lennie Noiles
I wanted to love this book. It started off strong but soon it started preaching to the converted.
I'm sure there will be a lot of nodding heads from people who are already inclined to believe in Altruism and compassion, which I do.
I could find nothing here that was going to change peoples behaviors or beliefs.
Aug 06, 2015 rated it liked it
This book is only partly successful in that it successfully discusses how altruism can positively change an individual and by extension the world, but it never successfully explains how this would be globally effective in modern society (with sociopaths, Ayn Rand devotees, etc.).
deleted d
Dec 22, 2015 rated it liked it
altruism makes you feel better and is a part of human behaviour
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
Great concept, but read like a textbook. Would love the cliff notes version!
Michael Armijo
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My dear friend, Barbara Reynolds, who now lives in Petaluma, CA informed me in a handwritten letter that she’d seen Matthieu Ricard on some talk show and was intrigued about his book, ALTRUISM. It inspired me to order my own copy from I’m glad I did.
This book is almost like a text book about how to live a more enriched and fulfilling life by being compassionate through love and sharing. I loved the many lines and tips I received. It took me a long time to read as I wanted to enrich m
Adam Karapandzich
Dec 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I can only describe this book as the synthesis of what I believe in. This book can be broken down into two parts: the psychology of altruism and how humans must apply altruism to our global interactions if we intend on continuing to inhabit this planet. If you are new to the concept of sustainable development, this is a great place to start. Ricard cites dozens, if not hundreds of fantastic books to delve deeper with. I also found it to be one of the most rewarding reads I've ever completed; fro ...more
Jan 11, 2021 rated it liked it
An interesting premise, presenting many statistics to support the argument that altruism is essential. Whilst I agree with the overall tone, I found the book quite 'preachy' and felt that the main message could have been sold in half the page count. ...more
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ethics
A looooooooooooooong read, but full of fine gems and things to discuss, debate, and consider.
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I finished this over a month ago. However, I wanted to take the time to formulate a review because it's SO good. In all fairness, I didn't technically read it, but rather listened (thanks Hoopla/St Louis County Library!). As such, I don't have an easy way to reference quotes, etc.

That said, he mentions several times in the book wanting to present an overview of Altruism. If 800 pages or a 30 hour audio book counts as an overview, I can't imagine what he thinks of as in depth.

Ricard touches on no
Oana-Mihaela Burz
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting and transcendental book that has altruism (or his lack in some chapters) as a main theme.
The title might be a little misleading, as it does not cover just the science and psychology of kindness alone, but if also gives a very integralistic context on when, where, why or how it should be applied in everyday life, in the global context, also considering the past, the present and the future.
At times it might seem that the author wanted to dive into a universal theory of altruism,
Dmitri Colebatch
A lovely set of information on a topic I passionately care about, but the book is written like a sermon with no feedback loop and reminds me of a boring lecture. Too much strained effort to make the author's point of view "valid" by way of research that is either not directly supporting the author's view, or is sketchy at best. It isn't clear what the author is advocating for, and my initial hopes for this book have been massively let down. ...more
Daniel Rickenbach
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an absolute must read if one is interested in more than a "Fox News" perspective of the world. I feel deeply moved after completing this work. It's importance speaks for itself. I'm glad some obscure librarian had this book on display at my local library. I will always treasure this find. It has deeply impacted my life. ...more
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Ricard presents an reasonably uncontroversial thesis: Altruism leads to a better world, so building altruistic institutions is the moral thing to do. Unfortunately, he is a little bit too credulous of Social Science (and particularly small-sample experimental social science). Fine, but not recommended.
Jul 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I thought the book was really good. I do think that there were some problems, though. I wasn't quite convinced by his argument that there's altruism in nature. There's some, but there's also a lot of predatory behavior. But I do think that book is needed and worthwhile. ...more
Keith Corbin
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Deep and powerful

One of the best books I have read in a long time. This well researched, lengthy tome shows so much about humanity and our potential. I do not know how this book will ultimately change my life,but I know it will.
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Overall good book, though a little long, and it goes off topic quite often. In the west we have this idea that Altruism has a secret layer of self-interest hiding beneath it. The book addresses this in chapter 13, though I wish it did so upfront.
Feb 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must read for everyone.
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
'Read' as an audiobook...recommend it consumed that way - though an exhaustive conversation, not difficult to digest. ...more
Teo 2050


Ricard M (2013) (29:45) Altruism - The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World


• The Force of Example
• The Challenges of Today
• The Necessity for Altruism

Part I: What Is Altruism?

01. The Nature of Altruism
• Some Definitions
• Action Alone Does Not Define Altruism
• It Is Motivation That Colors Our Actions
• The Importance of Valuing the Other’s Welfare
• Altruism Does Not Require “Sacrifice”
• Temporary Mental States and Lasting D
1.5 stars. Is there any true altruistic person today? He made the bold claim that 20% of people are altruistic. I think that's a gross exaggeration. And the author made it seem that sympathy is better than empathy. But society teaches otherwise. And I guess altruism wins between the three? The only solution he presented for having more altruism was really just a political stunt to help Global Warming.

How does he go talk about altruism for 29 hours and fails to mention abortion? The first 40% of
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is possibly the most comprehensive book I've ever read on any subject. It's over 600 pages! The Notes alone are over 100 pages! So what did I learn? Way too much to write in one review, and I'll probably be thinking it over for a long time.

Altruism has over 40 chapters, but only five main sections: What is altruism; The emergence of altruism; Cultivating altruism; Contrary forces; Building a more altruistic society.

Do you want to know the historical, philosophical, and scientific basis of w
Ethan Nguyen
Jan 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
To help others, you first need to be strong yourself. Daily meditation can help you cultivate altruism and do more good for others. To make society more altruistic, it’s crucial to fight inequality at all levels.

There are two types of altruism: one you are born with, and one you need to cultivate as you grow.
According to Buddhism, the true cause of suffering is ignorance; that is, a misunderstanding of reality. To foster altruism, it helps to take a deep look inside of yourself and then you'll r
Catherine Dix
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
So this is a monster of a book and I didn’t agree with every single word. There was a section in here about vegetarianism that I found a wee bit lacking based on what I know about how animals on the landscape contribute to planetary health. But overall, it’s quite comprehensive and, frankly, should be a textbook for, like, sophomores in high school. No stone is left unturned. It goes through the definitions of empathy, altruism, even institutional selfishness. How we eat, what we buy, who we ele ...more
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: research, fun, 2019
While this book is a long one, I felt it was worth every bit of time and effort invested in it. Ricard does an excellent job of unpacking the problem of modern economics by looking at how issues of altruism (an important component of human happiness) are missing from most models currently being used in the realm of national and international policy. He suggests possible ways of infusing an understanding of altruistic behavior into economic policy for the benefit of all. He does not suggest that ...more
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
We are confronted with so many challenges these days, from what we consume in terms of social media and entertainment to food and relationships, from wars and genocides to gender and other inequalities, from climate change to world wide health challenges. Unfortunately, we are responsible for many of them. Fortunately, for most of them we have solutions and we can change the course of what is happening. In his research based and wholehearted written book “Altruism”, Matthieu Ricard is presenting ...more
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Reading Along Wit...: Matthieu Ricard: “Altruism” 1 8 Jun 15, 2015 04:53AM  

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Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, trained as a molecular biologist before moving to Nepal to study Buddhism. He is the author of The Monk and the Philosopher (with his father, Jean-François Revel); The Quantum and the Lotus (with Trinh Thuan); Happiness; The Art of Meditation; Altruism: The Power of Compassion; A Plea for the Animals; and Beyond the Self: Conversations between Buddhism and Neurosc ...more

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