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The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,949 ratings  ·  397 reviews
“A remarkable journey. I laughed. I cried. I got another cat.”  —Lily Tomlin

“Paula Poundstone is the funniest human being I have ever known.” —Peter Sagal, host of Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! and author of The Book of Vice

“Is there a secret to happiness?” asks comedian Paula Poundstone. "I don’t know how or why anyone would keep it a secret. It seems rather cruel, rea
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by Algonquin Books
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jana Blazek
May 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-kindle
It's good brain candy.
This book provides about three
heps of happiness.
Shruti Ramanujam
I liked reading this book despite not having previous knowledge of Paula Poundstone. She conducts happiness experiments throughout this book, which are written in lab record format. Paula is obviously a witty person. I love self-deprecatory jokes and those are aplenty in this book. I was snorting occasionally at some of her jokes.

This witty human loves Harry Potter as much as we all do–she has cats named Sirius and Tonks! The occasional Potter-related jokes had me cackling while reading the book
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, non-fiction

I associate Poundstone most closely with NPR, though I do remember seeing her do standup on Carson’s Tonight Show. I knew next to nothing about her personal life, so it was surprising when so much of the book dealt with her three kids. I was perplexed by the name of one of the kids, which she kept pronouncing as Thomasee. It remained a mystery until I looked it up, and found she was saying Thomas E.

I enjoy her humor, which is observational and not cruel. I was thrilled when she said she hated
Liza Fireman
Apr 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. Paula is witty, funny, and just in general quite amazing. She wrote this book trying to find the secret of happiness, and she does so trying new things, or being more consistent with normal things, and with a lot of humor and good writing.
Is there a secret to happiness? I don’t know how or why anyone would keep it a secret. It seems rather cruel, really. If I knew it, I couldn’t go to Target without stopping at customer service just inside the door, grabbing the microp
Carla Johnson-Hicks
Paula Poundstone has a memorable voice, so when I selected this audiobook, I was quite thrilled that she also narrates it. It made it very enjoyable. Besides that, her experiments in happiness had me giggling out loud many times. I did not know anything about her personal life, but I could see my kids in the anecdotes she told. Her kids are a hoot and act like normal kids everywhere, especially when it comes to the way they react to their mom. She is amazing in taking a normal life event and tel ...more
Patricia Hamill
If I were asked to pin a moral to this story, I’d say that trying new things can result in unexpected adventures. Sometimes those adventures are fun, sometimes aggravating, and sometimes rewarding. This book is a lot of fun, but I think there is real meaning among the gags, the embarrassments, the moody teens, and the cats.

And even more surprisingly, I found this book to be somewhat scientific despite the tongue-in-cheek disclaimer in the title and the heavy use of ironically scientific report
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There aren't many books that just make me laugh out loud and this one did, often. Came into it with just a little familiarity with Poundstone; left with sometimes feeling I knew too much about her family. She's a single mom to three adopted children and owned by many cats and a couple of dogs.
This book took 7 years to write; she took her study seriously and wrote the chapters on different "happiness methods" in a lab report format (but with much self-deprecating humor). She tries exercise, dan
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it
received a free copy of this book from the author/publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Comedian Paula Poundstone is determined to find the perfect recipe for happiness and in this book details a series of different experiments she set herself to help her be happy. From fitness, life organisation and dancing, Poundstone gave everything a whirl.

I liked this book for what it was which was just a comedic take on trying new things, basically. I admired Poundstone's gumption to j
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I frankly was not sure what to expect when I first started reading this book, which I received courtesy of NetGalley. I mainly know Paula Poundstone from "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!" on NPR, where I always enjoy her appearances, and so I thought that at the very least, this would make for a decently enjoyable read.

As it turns out, I underestimated this book immensely. When I wasn't laughing at her various, valiant and also often awkward attempts to find a "hep" or two of happiness in her diver
Alex Simons
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I found this book to be very funny in places, it was also surprisingly sad. I am a huge fan of Paula Poundstone, and I applaud her for digging deep into her often fraught relationships with her children, her worries about money, rebuilding her reputation after some bad years - leading her to the happiness project she recounts here. She reminds the reader that not everything is rosy in life, and sometimes things never get resolved, but we can find ways to push through it by trying new thing ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't help but be sucked in by this book. It's not what I expected at all. It's very funny at times, but it's more of a straight memoir about her life with her kids than I thought it would be. I met Paula at the American Library Association Midwinter conference, where I got this book. Her standup that night overlapped quite a bit with the book, but instead of seeming redundant, it expanded on the stories she told there and made me feel like I was really getting to know her. And the premise ...more
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
Laughed out loud, empathized, nodded along and teared up. Humor is very subjective and personal-- and I feel this book will resonate best with people who have raised children--the goal of which is to raise good adults. It is a love letter/ memoir to her now-adult children.
~ Cheryl ~
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing

I occasionally read books written by comics whose humor I like, because I know it will be good for a few hearty laughs. I’m not expecting Hemingway; I’m in it for the chuckles. But this book proved to be more than a collection of good stand-up material. In this book, Paula Poundstone is her usual witty self, but she is also vulnerable, observant, and – dare I say – philosophical. For as many laugh-out-loud moments, there were at least as many poignant ones.

Paula Poundstone (in earnest or in jest
Kristy Miller
It's not bad, but it's not great. Part autobiography/memoir of life with her children, and part study of the search for happiness, it doesn't really excel at either one. Though it was interesting to hear about her adventures with her kids, it was oddly jarring to keep hearing "Poundstone." That was, after all, part of the reason I read the book. My mother was a Poundstone, and Paula is a distant cousin. As far as searches for happiness go, might I suggest The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner (I ...more
Erin Cataldi
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Comedian Paula Poundstone (NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, HBO and Bravo comedy specials) pursues the secrets of happiness with a series of over the top unscientific studies. Whether it's learning to dance, getting in shape, getting closer to nature, or binge watching movies, Poundstone dedicates herself to trying anything that promises happiness and recording the results. Peppered with hilarious asides, family squabbles, failures, cat litter, and hands on research; listeners will find themse ...more
Lori Cox
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult
I was seeking a laugh-out-loud book but this wasn’t it. Humor is, admittedly, subjective and I was not familiar with this comedienne’s work on NPR so didn’t know what I was getting into. Paula was very honest with her rough times in life but a woman who owns 16 cats and sleeps on a sheet on the living room floor is hard for me to relate to. I kept wondering if Paula’s three children were ok with her exposing their quirks and faults to the world. In general, the writing did not flow very well, of ...more
Mindy Sink
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
I decided not to finish reading this book, but was curious to see if others were having a similar reaction. To my astonishment, I am alone in not loving this book. I feel sorry for the author/comedienne so am hesitant to write a very negative review. That said, here's my opinion after making it over 100 pages:


What is funny about a woman going broke, living in filth with her children and pets, being inept with modern life from being able to drive point a to point b to using a computer
Adam Bricker
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Sometimes being open about your faults combined with being funny can come off as self-deprecating, but I think Paula keeps a nice balance. The experiments are varied and honest. My favorite part is that she tried to find happiness in real life. She didn't totally uproot herself to the top of a Tibetan mountain or go into hiding...she tried to institute small happiness inducing changes will taking the kids to school and scooping kitty litter and traveling for work. Definitely worth the read and t ...more
Vincent Schaefer
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love books where I actually laugh out loud while reading. Very funny and touching
Allie Goetjen
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Paula- thank you for the baloos of light and laughs you provided in this book.
Felice Carter
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a good book to listen to - funny and touching.
Connie  Kuntz
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
So funny, so clear. Her chapter/memory of driving the Lambo with her son is wonderful.
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really, really like Paula Poundstone. I want to say that up front.

But the book was just okay. It didn't have nearly as much of her trademark wit, so I didn't laugh a lot, and it never achieved that deep introspection some books like this might get to, it just sort of floundered a bit.

I would read a chapter then read someone else's book, then go back and read another chapter. They are all stand-alone, so that worked, but I did it more as simply a way to survive the book and get through it.

It h
Sally Monaghan
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love Paula Poundstone. Love her!!!! This book is not what I expected. It was not just a laugh out loud exploration of goofy experiments. It mixes her search for moments of happiness (measured in heps and balous after two of her cats) with a sort of memoir about raising her children and her own struggles. I would say at least 85% of it was laugh out loud (camping with her daughter, meditation with the other daughter), but some of it was quite serious, and at times sad. She really just puts it a ...more
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book! I listened the audiobook, mostly because I'm a fan of "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" and I love her voice. But it ended up being a really delightful journey. Paula really let's her freak flag fly in this book, and it's so endearing.

It didn't make me "laugh out loud," but it kept me smiling. Very entertaining and all feel good.
Margaret Ashton
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
This book was very enjoyable. Paula is hilarious anyway, and I thought the way she approached the story of trying to find happiness while interweaving personal anecdotes was effective. Much of her story was so completely relatable... and I laughed out loud more than a few times.
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fun, interesting, funny, yet meaningful, and poignant. Comparable to listening to Paula on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, but more cats, more kids, and maybe more bitterness. I wanted to give her a hug by the time it was over. I want to listen more of her books! ...more
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love, love, love Paula Poundstone.
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Listened to audio book read by the author. She's honest and funny! Just what I needed in those first few days after shoulder surgery.
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook, humor
I will read anything this woman writes. I will listen to any and all of her standup. But combine her humor with SCIENCE? I'm IN. I am ALL in.
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Paula Poundstone is an American stand-up comedian. She is known for her quiet, self-deprecating style, political observations, and her trademark oddly masculine style of dress, a suit and tie outfit.

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