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Desperately Seeking Self-Improvement: A Year Inside the Optimization Movement

3.12  ·  Rating details ·  126 ratings  ·  19 reviews
In these pages, the authors of the widely-acclaimed The Wellness Syndrome throw themselves headlong into the world of self-optimization, a burgeoning movement that seeks to transcend the limits placed on us by being merely human, whether the feebleness of our bodies or our mental incapacities.

Cederström and Spicer, though willing guinea pigs in an extraordinary (and someti
Paperback, 360 pages
Published 2017 by OR Books
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3.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  126 ratings  ·  19 reviews

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Kevin Rhodes
Dec 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is a funny beach read - two professors become their own research subjects by total immersion into the multi-billion dollar world of self-help, taking on a new subject each month for a year And then you get to end and it makes you think, as they do -- what was THAT about? That's when the book became personal for me -- mirroring as it does my own less intense but no less significant (to me, anyway) journey into and out of the self-help world. That made the book about 99% goofy and 1% sob ...more
Molly Ison
Jan 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I continually felt envy that the nature of the authors' jobs gave them plenty of time to pursue their project.

Trying personal optimization schemes for shits and giggles? Right in my wheelhouse. I tried the Everyman 3 sleep schedule (quit because the extra time tended to pool into boredom rather than either productivity or enjoyment.) Just last year, I tried Soylent with two coworkers. I've done Crossfit and hot yoga. I'm writing a novella because... it's hard to explain but also involves a cowo
Feb 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
It was okay. Just couldn't read all of it. It was like reading someone else's diary who was trying new stuff for a minute. Oh yeah, that's what it was.
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cmc, new-reads
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”
Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC) Greek Philosopher

May 06, 2018 rated it it was ok
Could you have built a good book on this concept? Absolutely. Is this it? Not even close.
Peter Geyer
Quite recently, a friend of mine looked at my Goodreads reviews, or perhaps just the star ratings and commented that there were lots of 4s and 5s. I don't like ratings systems anyway, partly because the "why" of a rating is left unstated, and that a 4 for someone might be a 3 or 5 for someone else. An intangible, like making me think, relevant to the book under review here is also worthwhile and it can transcend things like content, writing style and so on.

I explained to my friend that a 10 poin
Allys Dierker
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Let me be clear: this is not a scholarly work. You're not going to find the answers to self-help, and you're not going to find any serious rejoinders to any of the self-help doctrines and gurus Cederstrom and Spicer take on.

You are going to find an amusing romp through a year of forays into self-help. The book is organized as the two authors' alternating diary entries. Carl and Andre develop their own personalities, and through their exploits also come to question the soundness of their friendsh
Anu Khan
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I've gotten caught up in a handful self-improvement projects (CrossFit, Tidying Up), so I thought this book would be fun romp through the self-improvement playground, with a few profound insights thrown in.

I was wrong. The book is a vanity project: two middle-aged dudes wallow in their privilege and do whatever they want for months at a time.

Andre's parts are fine. He seems like a normal person, trying to learn about different areas of his life in bite-size chunks. During the spirituality month,
Patrik Hallberg
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a book that is fun to read, and there is quite a lot to pick up even if you might not realize it when you read it. It's written in the form of two parallel diaries, and it ends on quite a negative note.

It becomes like a project of multiple failures and a realization that you can optimize every part of your life and a realization of how un-optimized you really are. This project is all about the self, but for the authors, it's more like a suppression of the true self. The person you was/ar
Mar 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This was a funny and light read, but with less meaning than hoped for. Two college-professor friends decide to try self-help tactics over a year, focusing on a different topic every month (i.e. productivity, body, sex, creativity). They try a lot of different things, but nothing very deeply, and since they don't give most of the strategies a really fair shot, there isn't a lot to be learned from their experiences. It's not clear what the point of the year was -- they didn't seem to genuinely wan ...more
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
The irony that this book left me with the same feeling of post-festive emptiness that both authors claimed to feel at the end of every month. I think Carl Cederström could have been the one trying harder, despite him being the forceful one of this semi-dynamic duo. André Spicer, he kinda grew on me. I felt sorry for him sometimes. At home, he received complaints from his partner, on Skype he received complaints from Carl, he failed his standup act, and I just wanted someone to pick him up, dust ...more
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyable. I frequently found myself bursting into laughter or sharing snippets aloud. Diary-like descriptions of their adventures and misadventures made for an effective mix of humor, seriousness, and schadenfreude, and both of the authors come across as likable and relatable throughout.

I read this book for the “journey into self-help” premise that other reviewers discuss, although what really struck me was how Carl and André talked about their friendship. I have never read a book—fi
Mar 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a comedic look at the self-improvement industry. The authors dedicate each month of a year to maximising one area of their lives, e.g. work performance, physical strength or spirituality. I found this occasionally trite (some chapters are definitely better than others) but it’s often very funny, and the overall message that self-improvement is essentially individualistic and narcissistic is hard to deny.
Simon Howard
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Two academics spend a year following the advice of self-help gurus, tackling a different area of their lives each month. Much of the outcome seems to be played for laughs, but the humour wasn't really up my street, and when Caderström and Spicer included more sober reflection on the self-help movement or the effects on their lives, it often struck me as a bit superficial. The tone is very uneven. Didn't really do much for me at all.
Ann Garth
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
Disjointed and piecemeal -- I understand that the point of the book was to explore how disjointed the modern self-improvement movement is, but that idea alone is not enough to carry the whole book. Worse, the authors seemed to have few redeeming qualities; not only did I not feel that I knew them by the end of the book, I didn't like them or care about them.
Dan Fraser
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting book, with some insight into the world of self-improvement. The journal format is a little tedious over time, and I never really identified with Carl or André. Still, was worth a read, and good for some laughs.
May 19, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
smårolig, halvintressant.
Sam Jeffers
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining insight into the field of Self-Improvement through a lens of humor and learning.
David Z. Vaisberg
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Milena Siegrist
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Oct 18, 2018
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Carl Cederström is Associate Professor at Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University and the co-author or co-editor of five books. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Atlantic and Harvard Business Review.