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Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  2,110 ratings  ·  187 reviews
Everyone says they want to be happy. But that's much more easily said than done. What does being happy actually mean? And how do you even know when you feel it?

Across the millennia, philosophers have thought long and hard about happiness, and come up with all sorts of different definitions and ideas for how we might live a happier life. Here, Derren explores the history of
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 22nd 2016 by Bantam Press
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Richard Estep
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Not to mince words, I believe that Derren’s latest book will be truly life-changing for the right type of reader. It is that rarest of books: one that I felt had been written for me personally. There’s very little about magic or illusion in here. This is essentially a 400+ page discourse on the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism, and how one might usefully and practically apply it to their own life in order to help bring about that most elusive of goals: Happiness.

Stoicism wasn’t anything new
Nov 24, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf

If life is about the stories we build, then one of my most cohesive narratives is reading. It’s fair to say most everyone spends their entire life reading, so I suppose I am no exception, but even so, I like to count it as a hobby, rather than a necessity of life. And part of that story is that I never give up on a book, no matter how poorly-written, boring or just plain baffling.

I gave up on Happy.

It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? Because knowing Derren Brown there’s probably a twist
Jade Wilkinson
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
(No spoilers included here) It is so frustrating knowing that people will choose not to read this book because they don't like Derren Brown, or that many fans of Derren are picking this up, getting 100 pages in and giving up because it's 'too intellectual.'

A fantastic book of essays drawing on ancient philosophy, psychological methods, and general observation, exploring genuine ways to think differently. Not dressing itself up as a self-help book is entirely correct but misleading, because it r
K.J. Charles
I am not into self help books but that's alright because nor is Derren Brown. I picked this up on the grounds that you won't get a better guide to knowing how human minds tick / can be manipulated, and found it actually strikingly useful, especially in the middle section focusing on Stoicism. There are a lot of very good quotes, a lot of really easy memorable nuggets of useful thought; I highlighted a huge amount.

I would say that despite the best efforts of both the Stoics and Brown it comes ac
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Yep, there is no secret formula, no only recipe for all best things.
Other stories, like the one we sense the girl at the stage door is learning from her mother, become deeply ingrained and in many ways define who we are. We tell ourselves tales about the future: ‘Oh, I’m an awkward misfit who looks terrible and always will.’ Or, ‘I’ll never have a fulfilling relationship.’ Other stories are about the past: ‘I’m like this because my parents treated me in a particular way.’ Or, ‘I’m an unlucky p
Dec 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
My love for Derren Brown’s work as a philosopher magician made me eager to pick up his book on happiness, which draws much from the Stoics view of life. I’ve recently found that Stoicism resonates a lot with me, and I was eager to see how Derren Brown uses their wisdom, his own experience, and other schools of thought to talk about finding happiness in the every day.

Even though I feel like most of the ideologies in this book were familiar to me, Derren’s way of delving into each thought methodic
An interesting read coming from an author who believes that the modern day "positive" attitude which is being forced down people's throats is more, rather than less, bullshit. I do agree, and have been happily hating on the self-help industry for years. Coming from the perspective of someone who has had her fair share of diabetes-inducing positive thinking thrown to her face as if it's the Lord's blessing, it was refreshing to read a book where such ideas were rejected. When I say rejected, don' ...more
Sean Goh
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sweeping in its scope, unexpected in its provenance. The last few chapters on death are a bit drier, but the book ends well. Hopefully like our lives. But that's up to the story you write for yourself.
You don’t make decisions based on your experiences.
You make them based on the stories of your experiences.
You should be more concerned with this remembering self.
Pampering the experiencing self is not enough; you want memories too.
Your bestial experiencing self has an attention span of about th
Juliana Graham
Jun 22, 2017 rated it liked it
This was quite hard going but interesting. Derren Brown looks primarily at Stoicism and how it can be applied to every day, modern life. However, the lessons on not focussing on material goods or career trajectories and so on were of no help to me at all as I'm very confident that I don't do that anyway. It was hard to come away with much that I could apply to my own life - it's all well and good saying that it's not external events that make you feel sad or happy but your interpretation of thos ...more
Aimee Went
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The only thing to say about this book is that it is life-changing. If you're scared, worries, depressed, or are simply unsatisfied with where your life is in the here and now in whatever capacity, you should at the very least give this book a go.

Not only is Derren's writing style an absolute joy to read in the same vein of entertainment and intelligence that his shows continuously bring, but this book is highly educational and thought-provoking. I've always been a fan of the Stoics and have trie
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've noticed some reviews beginning with the phrase "No spoilers." It's a self-help book, folks. I can't help but envision a SNL-style skit where a young man goes to church for the first time, hears the priest say "Jesus died for your sins" -- and then storms out shouting, "Thanks for RUINING it for me!"
Jan 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf, not-my-thing
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I couldn't finish this, it's just not my thing....
Thought this might stop me from being such a grumpy arse but it seems I shall remain one for the time being.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I like Derren Brown, bought this book on a whim, and was unsure what to expect.

Be reassured this is no celebrity memoir, indeed I was delighted to discover that Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine is actually a very intelligent and perceptive book which draws upon Derren’s personal history, psychology, and philosophy to create a helpful guide to happiness, or perhaps more accurately how to lead a good and considered life which will provide moments of happiness and satisfaction.
May 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
I find this book really hard to rate, might be more like 2.5 for me. It's not what I usually read so I'm probably not the target audience and I'd never heard of Derren Brown before. The reason I picked it up was because I wanted a pick-me-up after reading "Cat's Eye" (Atwood), typed "happy" into the search bar and voila... "Happy"

Now the first part of this book is kind of a quick introduction to western philosophical concepts of happiness, this is an important part if the reader is unfamiliar wi
Alex Leggatt
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Overall Verdict:
This book is a humorous, thought-provoking, well-researched book that has given me key tips to reframing my experience and achieving a more serene and tranquil state of mind. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in living and dying well.

Overview of Book:
In this book, illusionist and magician Derren Brown draws on ancient philosophy and modern psychology as an antidote to the abundance of self-help books, which all too often draw on pseudoscience and mere “p
Gary Knapton
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a joy from start to finish. A real road trip through the pinnacle of philosophy. Deep and wide. Interspersed with personal logs, helpful analogies and rooted in Stoic theory but arcing high and wide like a who's who of considered living. From Seneca to Kafka. From Stephen Gross to Marcus Aurelius. And all the gods in heaven.

Better still, Derren puts a strong case for not getting hung up on conflicting logic but rather enjoying a pick n mix approach in our bid to arrive at an under
Isn't it funny how you come to certain books at exactly the right time? I first saw this in a bookstore just before Christmas, had no real idea what it was about (I rarely read blurbs), but just had a 'sense' about it. I only got around to reading it now, but in between then I had got into Stoicism. And lo and behold, this is this book's main theme. Hurrah! It is an anti-self-help book but probably one of the most helpful books I have ever read. Yes, it's lofty at times and there are some tough ...more
Bruce Hatton
Oct 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Not my usual sort of read, but I heard the author talking about it on a radio programme recently which piqued my interest.
The book is intended as an antidote to the fraudulent claims of religions and - the secular equivalent - self-help "gurus" and their "positive thinking". These only help foster an unrealistic, solipsistic viewpoint which leads to an endless cycle of disappointment, guilt and self-recrimination when things don't turn out as promised - which is invariably always. Derren contras
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Izcila. Kaut kur jāiegravē, ka mūža beigās cilvēki visvairāk nožēlo, ka nav dzīvojuši tā, kā vēlas. Dzīves laikā mums visiem nāktu par labu mazāk kritizēt citu izvēles.
Lasīšu vēlreiz.
I can't actually rate this book, because I listened to it as an audiobook and the narrator was so terrible he ruined the entire experience. It took me four months to get through it in small, manageable chunks.
Ting Tong
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first 200 pages or so of this book are fascinating. It is so interesting to question where this obsession with being happy comes from and why it is such a novel part of our society. It is a useful thought experiment to think about how people lived when they were less focussed on being happy and their aim in life was something completely different. It got me thinking about how my own life would be if I wasn’t so driven to have it eternally smelling of roses. Would I be more accepting and tole ...more
Ali Schultz
As a performer and a magician, Derren is unparalleled. Sadly, when it comes to writing actual books, his skills don't shine through in quite the same way. Happy, for all its careful research, is indisputably pop philosophy/ pop psychology. Thus, it should be written in a tone that communicates personality, that makes the author shine through the research. Pop academia is very much reliant on the best communication of the material. Derren does not manage to communicate the material well, with his ...more
Chris Porter
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
As a fan of Derren Brown, a fan of self-development books and a student (in it's various forms) of happiness in 2016 - this was a great book to end the year, and my GoodReads reading challenge on.

A majority of the book focuses on Stoic ideas. My biggest takeaway was his simple "sum-up" of Stoic belief (which I've struggled to define to others in the past).

Stoicism teaches:

1) It is not external events that make you feel bad/good/x/y/z but instead your interpretation of the event.

2) There are only
Helen Mears
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's hard to find words that do justice to this book. I may have to resort to just quoting what Alain de Botton says on the cover - 'Deeply informative, moving, wise and full of love'. It is all those things. And more. Brown debunks modern self-help while asking us to consider a return to classical ideas of leading a considered life and he shows himself to be a great thinker as well as a great entertainer.
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Emerging out of a talk Brown gave at the School of Life in London where he presented his career as a magician within the wider context of his intellectual and philosophical development (excerpts of which can be found on Youtube), this book is a hybrid of philosophical memoir, self-help guide and popular history of the idea of happiness.

A lapsed evangelical Christian, Brown is fascinated by the way ideas can be used to control and manipulate other people. Indeed, deconstructing the psychology of
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I will be honest: I bought this book because it was by Derren Brown. I was intrigued about what the psychological magician had to say on the subject of happiness. I didn't expect the book to make me happy but thought I might be bamboozled by some mind tricks!

However, this book is very upfront and down to earth. Criticising quick-fix self help books and eschewing religion, Brown encourages us to turn to philosophy to find meaning and happiness. This can of course come in many forms but he mainly
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Not quite what I was expecting (a light pop-psychology read or memoir). Instead this turned out to be a a long, philosophical argument in favour of Stoicism. Not unpleasant -- it gave me In Our Time and Philosophy Bites vibes (i.e. British academia) -- but I never really felt compelled to keep reading. The writing never surprised me; it was all very even and... typical. There were some moments where I felt Derren broke structure -- the parts about a woman he met who was dying, the parts about li ...more
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I wish I had read this book before university. There is a lot to digest, and I know I will benefit from a second read. The section on death was particularly interesting, as was the integration of stoic principles alongside modern day living. I enjoyed this book as it was logically thought-out in terms of its structure (it needs to be when dealing with such heavy topics) as well as being light-hearted in places. This is not a book to be rushed (it took me 7 months) as there are some monumental qu ...more
Dan McLaughlin
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have to admit I was somewhat sceptical - indeed taught by Derren Brown to be so in his previous books, Trick of the Mind and Confessions of a Conjuror - but this is not a cliched self-help book; it is an entertaining and informing look through the history and psychology of happiness.

There will be parts during your reading, when you have completed a chapter, where you will put the book down and have a good old contemplation about the information you have just consumed. It is thoughtful and int
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was pleasantly surprised to see a whole part of this book is concerned with how our limited time impacts our perception of happiness. With short time available, definitely worth considering how best to use it.

"The message to believe more and more in ourselves is precisely what we need less of."
"A large part of improving the self is to shift the focus from self to 'other'."
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“We see the illusion of individual predilection being maintained, for example, in the array of different styles of iPhone cases available to us. We wonder which of the provided range of colourful or sophisticated sheaths best communicates to the world our unique character. Thus we lean towards the wood effect, or the Batman one (ironically sported, of course), or the vintage Union Jack. Meanwhile, it is much harder to honestly ask ourselves whether our lives would be improved were we not to be attached to our devices quite as umbilically, and how much misery they bring us alongside the various conveniences and amusements. Whether we might be more authentically ourselves if, with a pioneering and curious spirit, we occasionally left them at home. It” 6 likes
“Many atheists might proudly proclaim that our lives have no ultimate meaning, yet the business of finding significance in one's life is perhaps the most important part of being human. When we drift into a life without meaning, we soon become a pack of symptoms and pathologies; and without any feeling of significance, many choose to end their lives altogether.” 5 likes
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