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America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks

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3.81  ·  Rating details ·  850 ratings  ·  162 reviews
A New York Post Best Book of 2016

A New York Times Editor's Choice


"Ruth Whippman's writing is nothing short of a genius" - Ira Israel, The Huffington Post

"a whip sharp British Bill Bryson"- Sunday Times

Are you happy? Right now? Happy enough? As happy as everyone else? Could you be happier if you tried harder?

After she packed up her British worldview (that most things were
...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by St. Martin's Press (first published March 10th 2016)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Cheri
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Cheri by: Taryn
Although I wouldn’t personally consider this book to be considered a light, the subject matter, this takes a light approach to the American “pursuit of happiness.”

Moving from London to the San Francisco Bay Area was more than a climate change for Ruth Whippman. She was completely unprepared for the American belief in the need for life to include, at the bare minimum, Happiness. Blame it on the Founding Fathers, they forgot that disclosure needed that pursuit of does not always equal achieving
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Carmen
Jan 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No One
But the more conversations I have about happiness, the more I absorb the idea that there's a glittering happy-ever-after out there for the taking, the more I start to overthink the whole thing, compulsively monitoring how I am feeling and hyper-parenting my emotions. Am I happy? Right at this moment? What about now? And now? Am I happy enough? As happy as everyone else? What about Meghan? Is she happier than me?

This book was disappointing. There were A LOT of problems with it.

1.) First and
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Rebecca
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I call this niche genre anti-self-help. (Two other great examples are Smile or Die by Barbara Ehrenreich (also known as Bright-Sided) and Promise Land by Jessica Lamb-Shapiro; for more on the positive psychology movement see One Simple Idea.) Whippman has a particularly interesting perspective as a British Jew who moved to California for her husband’s work. With sharp humor and natural British cynicism, she investigates various manifestations of the American obsession with happiness, including ...more
Diane
May 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This book will be a comfort to anyone who has ever felt guilty about not feeling happy enough.

Ruth Whippman is a British journalist who moved to California when her husband got a job there. She became fascinated by America's obsession with the pursuit of happiness, even though it doesn't seem to be making us any happier. In fact, chasing happiness seems to be causing more anxiety.


Paradoxically, the more people valued and were encouraged to value happiness as a separate life goal, the less happy
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Taryn
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Is it possible to hunt down a happy life, or is the Great American Search for Happiness creating a nation of nervous wrecks?


A lighthearted investigation into the American obsession with happiness. When Ruth Whippman moved from London to San Francisco, it was a big culture shock. The American "deep cultural aversion to negativity" was at odds with the more cynical attitudes she grew up with. The pervasiveness of conversations about happiness inspired her to investigate the American search for
...more
Malena Watrous
Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. It's really not a "self-help" book so much as an examination of our current self-help culture, in which we're constantly told to keep gratitude journals and pay for meditation classes and improve ourselves in a perpetual quest for happiness--yet, as Whippman points out humorously and astutely--we aren't getting any happier. She came here from Britain and can see with clarity and wit the ways that we are nutty, even as some part of her is (or was) attracted to the ...more
India Clamp
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Got happy onboard? Sighing more than smiling? Yoga pants give you happiness?

Fluid and nakedly honest with its almost scientific analysis of the ADD---most commonly termed as “The American Condition”---running barefoot on a mine field and is happiness found in a foreign taco south of the border then trashed like a cheap churro in Tijuana, Mexico?

On this journey Whippman goes undercover via self-help course for conversion to happiness on tap. Hanging out in one of the “most-sad cities” then goes
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Benoit Lelièvre
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Welp. That was concerning. Excellent, too. I was already very much aware that happiness had become a commodity for my generation and began this audiobook with the firm intention to catch Ruth Whippman's bias and put her thesis in perspective and guess what? Whippman does a good job at doing that herself and then some. She managed to teach me a thing or two on how widespread and hollow this obsession with happiness is. Whippman researched her subject dilligently and policed her own bias as well ...more
Martha Conway
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was one of the best books I've read all year. It's hard-hitting journalism about the various ways in which Americans try to find (and hold onto) happiness, with a personal story behind it that makes the ride all the more engaging. What is happiness? How do we get it? Do studies show that we're actually happier if we do X, Y, or Z? The book tackles these questions and more, and is both interesting and informative. Plus, I literally laughed aloud while I was reading it. If Joan Didion ...more
Laura Bloom
Jul 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Anxiety of Happiness is highly enjoyable. Ruth Whippman's descriptions of family life, texting, and drinking wine in the park - to pick a random three examples - made me laugh out loud with pleasure and recognition.

What makes this a particularly satisfying read, though, and lifts this book above the others in its ‘stranger in a strange land’ genre, is that it’s also an acutely analysed polemic against the ‘happiness industry', giving words to something that before now I had been aware of,
...more
Leigh Carroll
Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was so looking forward to reading this book, because I've really enjoyed Ruth Whippman's essays in the Guardian, NY Times, Time Magazine etc. I took it with me on a solo weekend trip to Portland and devoured it in a couple of days, staying up way too late to finish chapter after chapter. I literally laughed out loud (LLOLd) numerous times. Ruth somehow manages to completely capture distinctly American neuroses without it being at all derogatory. She chronicles her experiences with a total ...more
Jennifer
Apr 11, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5*

Ruth Whippman is a Brit living in America. She finds herself engaged in frequent conversations about happiness, which for her was not a topic of conversation she was used to having. What is it about Americans and their preoccupation with being happy? America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks takes a look at this very question.

Americans spend billions of dollars a year to find happiness. We look within ourselves, making the search for happiness a
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Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Oct 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
In the footsteps of Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright Sided and Oliver Burkeman's The Antidote, Ruth Whippman serves up a sarcastic and funny look at the American pursuit of happiness. It's actually written in our Declaration of Independence and we seem to have a patriotic duty to pursue, if not find, happiness. What Whippman finds is that this pursuit itself seems to cause us (and her) great anxiety. We are constantly comparing our own happiness to that of others and failing to measure up. We need to ...more
Lorraine Elgar
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, I received a copy of this book in the post in exchange for an honest review but I admit straight away the title appealed to me .

Being depressed, happiness is the ultimate thing for me and trying to achieve in nigh on impossible. So of course I wanted to know more about Ruth Whippman s quest and if she managed to achieve it.

What I actually found was a hilarious expose of the "Happiness" business - a multi million pound one at that.

In between snorting, sniggering, literally laughing out loud
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Helena Echlin
Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing

Whippman is what you'd get if you crossed Jon Ronson with American happiness expert Gretchen Rubin - and gave them both a couple of glasses of wine. While Gretchen Rubin’s idea of being crazy is to buy padded hangers for her V-necked sweaters, Whippman is always up for a hilarious gonzo adventure, be it three-days in the Landmark Forum (the cult of self-transformation that half the people in Northern California seem to swear by), spending a weekend with some unexpectedly inspiring Mormons or
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April
Oct 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Every American should read this!!! Wish I could rate this 6 stars!
Nicochico
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
A mix between British humour and substance to make you think and chuckle. Highlight of the book was her adventures with the Mormons and how quickly the "likes" on Facebook have inflated.
Jenna
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
A really interesting book about America's obsession with happiness. Being happy. Convincing yourself and others that you're happy and how it's actually having the opposite effect.
Susan
Nov 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
In some ways, this is like a typical pop sociology book. What makes it interesting is what precipitated its writing. The author is a Brit who moved to California for her husband's job in the tech industry. Something about the "land of the free" struck her - she heard more talk about finding happiness in her first six months here than she had heard in her entire previous life in Britain. Yet, for all its talk, people seemed less happy here than in Britain. Was it because we talk about happiness ...more
Cheryl
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt slightly uncomfortable when reading certain sections, such as the ones dealing with the Mormon lifestyle, because it all felt a bit condescending and stereotypical, and I skimmed over other parts when they started getting too bogged down in psychobabble, but overall, I agreed with her basic premise that spending time with your friends in real life rather than online and getting involved with your community are the best ways to find routes into happiness. The tone of the book frequently ...more
David
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
The last few pages of this chapter, where she talks about a program in Britain that weighs people's happiness, reminded me of an episode of Black Mirror. If you haven't seen it, Black Mirror is a brilliant show in the tradition of The Twilight Zone. In this episode, everyone wears devices that allows them to rate their interactions with other people. Through this, each person has a rating which everyone else can see. Thus, you need to be happy and kind all the time because any bad interaction ...more
The Stoic
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it
America the Anxious by Ruth Whippman is a well-written and witty book.

Whippman is an excellent writer: her observations are sharp, her lines laugh-out-loud funny, and her research extensive. She dissects the American quest for happiness and concludes that all this search for happiness is causing a lot of anxiety among the seekers. She paints a picture of shallowness (and greed?) that pervades positive psychology and the teachings of self-help gurus. Happiness vending is a multi-billion dollar
...more
Chuck Chakrapani
Nov 03, 2016 rated it liked it
America the Anxious by Ruth Whippman is a well-written and witty book.

Whippman is an excellent writer: her observations are sharp, her lines laugh-out-loud funny, and her research extensive. She dissects the American quest for happiness and concludes that all this search for happiness is causing a lot of anxiety among the seekers. She paints a picture of shallowness (and greed?) that pervades positive psychology and the teachings of self-help gurus. Happiness vending is a multi-billion dollar
...more
Rian Nejar
Aug 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
A refreshingly honest, broad, and enlightening narrative of an immigrant's search for happiness in a land that pursues happiness.

Ruth Whippman pulls no punches in this humor-filled work. She explores, criticizes, debunks, and dispenses with a whole lot of ideas - many exploited commercially - of happiness and its pursuit in America. She spares nothing and no one - names (some changed) and organizations abound in the work with witty and insightful criticism rendering them and their wares
...more
Sarah
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Richard Guion
Nov 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Non-fiction isn't usually my cup of tea, but I was really entertained by this book! I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author who has a charming English accent. Whippman comes to the United States along with her husband, and while he is working at a tech company, she's learning how people are obsessed with happiness - how to get it, how to keep it, how it goes along with your work.

A few fascinating take-aways I had which will stick with me:

1. Self-help books are an industry, a big
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Debbie
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I got this book genuinely as a self help guide. However what I got was so much more interesting and now I don't want to go near self help at all.

This is a fascinating book about the American happiness industry. And terrifying. I for one wish that people at work were more involved in unions rather than dodgy big companies pushing corporate happiness whilst having awful employee rights. It makes me so angry.

I hope the uk doesn't get like this. It's bad enough working ridiculous hours without
...more
Leigh Carroll
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was so looking forward to reading this book, because I've really enjoyed Ruth Whippman's essays in the Guardian, NY Times, Time Magazine etc. I took it with me on a solo weekend trip to Portland and devoured it in a couple of days, staying up way too late to finish chapter after chapter. I literally laughed out loud (LLOLd) numerous times. Ruth somehow manages to completely capture distinctly American neuroses without it being at all derogatory. She chronicles her experiences with a total ...more
Laura Martin-Robinson
I loved this book...it was moving, laugh out loud funny, kind of terrifying (Cameron using unproven happiness theories to justify austerity) and so honest and intimate it was a bit like spending a long weekend with the author.

Whippman deftly handles the micro and macro, picking apart the mountains of happiness research and I found myself coming to the end of each chapter wanting to know what she was going to take on next. The book is a joy to read and kind of weirdly -considering its subject
...more
Poppy
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down! It's immensely enjoyable and insightful. With a sharp eye and natural curiosity, she covers such a universal subject with wit and dexterity. I can’t imagine anyone not taking a lot away from this book (unless you consider the happiness industry sacred perhaps, in which case, you should still read it… with an open mind). Definitely a writer to watch.
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