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The Age Of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes It Hard To Be Happy

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,061 ratings  ·  216 reviews
The good news is that the great thinkers from history have proposed the same strategies for happiness and fulfilment. The bad news is that these turn out to be the very things most discouraged by contemporary culture. This knotty dilemma is the subject of The Age of Absurdity - a wry and accessible investigation into how the desirable states of wellbeing and satisfaction a ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published 2010 by Simon & Schuster
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Hugh Howey
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I picked this one up in the American Bookstore in Amsterdam to read while on some work travels. I've never laughed out loud like this while reading a book of philosophy. I also have rarely been so moved by the prose of a work of non-fiction.

Foley takes a tour of the things that make us unhappy, shows why we spend much of our time doing the opposite of what might make us happy, and gives a few hints regarding new paths to take if we want to improve our outlook on life and ourselves. It's not a se
Aug 14, 2011 rated it liked it
This is about 50% of the greatest self-help book ever written. Only '50%' becaise while Foley is able to nail down - with the support of many a Stoic, Buddhist and psychologist - precisely what makes people unhappy, he stumbles significantly when musing on how to overcome those things.
In short, everything which western civilisation is striving towards is precisely what's making us all so miserable. Americans are apparently the most likely people to suffer from depression, little wonder in a land
Sep 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fictie
This book is more opinion than fact, and that opinion is that of a grumpy old man.
For a book that ultimately wants to promote happiness, the tone is frighteningly negative.
The few interesting original insights in the book get buried under shallow rants. The author takes his high-brow academic lifestyle as the benchmark for how we all should live and in doing so he judges everyone who has different tastes: e.g. reality TV is both cause and consequence for what's wrong in the world and if we all
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adolescents, existentially burdened people
Shelves: interesting
Highly valuable book, with very wise insights, spot-on analyses and laughing out loud humor. A feast of recognition that provides a much needed mirror and suggestions for living better.

Long lasting happiness is elusive and hard to attain. Even more so in our affluent culture where the focus seems to be on the external at the cost of inner emptiness.

I am very happy to have read this book. The author's honest realism helps to reflect on the things that are happening before our eyes everyday. The t
Good, but not great. Worth reading, but meh :-)

I don't know. On the one hand, Blessed are the Grumpy. It's nice to see somebody shaking a curmudgeonly fist at society and with a bit of style. And it's nice to see a book and ties together a lot of different sources of ideas from Buddhism, literature, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, etc; especially if you have exposure to a subset of the stuff (for example Buddhism and some of the pop psych stuff like the “hedonic treadmill“ from the Paradox
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: have-e-book
This is a terribly annoying book to read. The first part resembles what I imagine it feels like to have a truck load of quotes dumped on your head. Confusing, painful, but every now and then a useful thought hits you. Is all the namedropping of famous philosophers supposed to cover up that the author has no actual research to back up his assertions?

From the second part on the book gets better. A lot of what is said is thought-provoking, if not right. However, the air with which it is said annoys
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was ok

Like a curmudgeonly old man shouting at clouds Michael Foley has successfully managed to complain about every aspect of modern life without offering any coherent solution.

'Sorry everyone! Things used to be way better, we're living ~20-30 years after the best of times.'

In paraphrased summary: 'Slow down,' 'It's all about the journey.'
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
Michael Foley has a few interesting ideas, but what he needs more than anything is an editor.

It was so hard to get through this book. The first 3/4 of it consists of rambling complaints about modern society. It's organized by chapters, but honestly, I was never sure what point he was trying to make because he jumped around so much. The only point he ever really drove home was "Everything is wrong with kids these days. Get off my lawn." It's mostly descriptive, offering anecdotes from famous aut
Russell Blake
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating, erudite, compelling exploration of the philosophy and science of happiness - whether it's achievable as a sustained state, what brain chemistry tells us about love and infatuation, our biological drive for transcendent states and why they are essentially unsustainable, why variety may be wildly overrated and misunderstood, why the great philosophers all seem to arrive at the same conclusions about man's search for meaning...

I've recommended this book to at least a dozen friends. I
Apr 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
I agree with Chris in that some people wouldnt read this book because it would actually expose their own limitations and people dont like to hear that their belief system is rather vapid. There are some great insights in this book and the moments of mocking are delivered with great aplomb. One of my favourite lines in this book is when he is talking about 2nd Life "2nd life is the only place where 2 heterosexual men can have a lesbian affair".

He also shares my views that "difficulty is crucial,
Mar 20, 2017 rated it liked it
This book has its moments, but here's a summary of the conclusion: try to be more present in the moment and have genuine experiences instead of just cruising life on auto pilot. Also some parts of the book annoyed me because the author was just being an old curmudgeon instead of actually providing insight.
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A well written and humourous summary of everything wrong with the state of our lives today
Mark Love
Dec 25, 2010 rated it liked it
The fact that modern life can make it hard to be happy is undoubtedly true. And nostalgia isn't what it used to be either. Michael Foley has clearly been brooding for some time over the cause(s) of his dissatisfaction with the world, and has produced a comprehensive, convincing, and enjoyably readable, analysis of why he feels it is so.

This is a "practical philosophy" book akin to any one of Alain de Botton's, with almost as many references to Proust, though slightly less pretentious and with ma
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The modern world is all about conformity. A conformity to material trappings, a conformity to rigid norms, a stereotypical conformity with behaviour forming part of the zeitgeist of the age. The very gestalt of life has become a compliance with conformity. This is so very absurd, that it has become fashionable to conform to absurdity itself! Anyone left behind this herd bandwagon is deemed to be an outcast, imbecile, pariah or a social and cultural misfit. Michael Foley in this remarkably entert ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
When I surf the net and read the blogs ..I have the impression that a lot of sites are dedicated to the pursuit of happiness. You can achieve happiness with meditation, diet or sports, by becoming a digital nomad, by keeping your possessions under 50 items, by living smaller, by becoming your own boss etc...the list goes on and on. Never have we been more unhappy in a more affluent society. Michael Foley does a good job in going for the roots and causes of this very difficult and possibly very t ...more
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy books which are cross-disciplinary, and this one digs into psychology, philosophy, literature, sociology and religion. The overarching thesis is how this age of plenty in which we live is actually a cause of dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and that in order to find happiness, there are a number of very simple things we should attend to. Mindfulness, striving, dissociation and transcendence were a few of them, but as simple as these things sound, in the age of 24-hour news, social ...more
Leo Africanus
Mar 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
A wonderfully witty debunking of the false claims of modern life. Foley reasons beautifully for a little more detachment and difficulty in our lives to counter our innate sense of entitlement (itself a logical continuation of the battle for rights in the 1970s and subsequent eschewing of duties). He also outlines the importance of the dying art of gratitude and questions the conformity and passivity induced by organised religion - characterising both Jesus and the Bhudha as activists.
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This i s a treasure of a book. Foley approaches all lifes traps and pitfalls and systematically attacks them.

This book shines a light of skewed or faulty thinking, WHY people think such things and believe other things and gives starling ideas on how to improve ones self without the pat crassness of self help books by using psychology to understand ones nature and philosophy to understand general nature.
Sep 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The book really made me think about modern society and how we exist in it. We're told that today's world prizes individuality, but never have we been more flockish. It's an eye-opener: well written, humorous (without being OTT) and comprehensive. It's encouraged me to explore the areas of existentialism and stoicism further
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
A weird but well written book. It's not a self help book at all. It's about looking at the world as it most likely is, not the way you fantasize.
Enjoyed various quotes and snippets and stories that the author has sprinkled throughout. Well done.
Aurélien Thomas
Can we be happy in our current western world? Michael Foley tackles here the problem posed by the notion of happiness and what it does imply -from philosophy and religions to psychology and neurosciences- before confronting such approaches to our modern societies.

If he doesn't answer explicitly to the question of happiness being still possible or not (if it ever was!) he paints an humorous, light and relevant enough picture of our times for his wandering thoughts to be entertaining. The thing is
Fahed Al Kerdi
If you are below 50, this book is not for you.
I couldn't relate any of this book's ideas to its title. However, that doesn't mean the book is bad, it simply means the book is dedicated for a certain type of readers.
This book is providing the retirees with a methods to look up for happiness, using the author's and some other philosophers and authors' opinions about life and happiness.
Don't waste your time on this book, while there are much meaningful books in the world...
Mar 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Any passionate writer taking on the "This is what's wrong with the world today" project is doomed to polarize his readers. Most can agree that every generation sees new trends, beliefs and technologies that are taken too far, but few can agree on the exact point at which "too far" occurs. Bearing that in mind, I was not surprised to find many of Foley's arguments to be absolutely spot-on, while others were too broad-sweeping.

Let's start with his mistakes. Steeped in his own social privilege, he
Feb 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
This was highly disappointing.
If anything, the book itself seems absurd and the author spends more time complaining with no real talk whatsoever.
The smartest thing about this book is the title.
Emma Houchell
Feb 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
On my list of 'books to read repeatedly'
I can't remember why I bought this book - I think I spotted it on a list somewhere and hello Amazon, thank you for my book. When it arrived I looked at the blurb on the back and noticed that it had met with the Daily Mail's approval, and instantly regretted buying this, expecting a dumpfest on progress and change.

And it is precisely that!

Okay, maybe not precisely that. There's a lot in this book that makes you think. Modern life is a pressure cooker existence. We fall prey to things like status
Aug 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm afraid I found this a bit of a grumblefest.

It might be because I spotted this in the bookshop of the Whitechapel Gallery that I expected more about art. I thought I was going to learn about Kierkegaard, Kafka, and Camus, and their relation to the modern age. All that is mentioned, but for the most part this book concentrates on a detail of the things which make us unhappy.

Not that he doesn’t do a good job of explaining the difficulties in finding happiness. Just sometimes it felt like it was
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Foley draws heavily on stoicism, Buddhism and Camus (amongst a wide range of other sources) to argue that the value of life is in struggle and that we should practice detachment - difficult in a world of advertising and instant gratification.

Whilst I find some of his sources interesting and agree with some points I feel like the book suffers in two ways.

One, that whilst there were a couple of interesting points in there, they come at the cost of wading through the author's (not very well struct
Tariq Mahmood
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
This is my second reading of this great critique of modernity. I love the length and breadth of the extensive critique on offer in this book, ranging from love to corporate cultures. Where the narrative drifts is the author's insistence on value of detachment in this very open and crowded modern life of ours. If detachment was so important to human survival than why has its use receded? For I believe that Human beings are only looking to survive in this world in the best possible manner and evol ...more
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Originally from Killavullen, Co Cork, Michael Foley has written Kings of September, winner of the 2007 BoyleSports Irish Sportsbook of the year. He also ghostwrote Harte: Presence Is the Only Thing, the autobiography of Tyrone gaelic football manager Mickey Harte, shortlisted for the 2009 William Hill Irish Sportsbook of the Year.

Winner of the GAA’s McNamee Award in 2008 and shortlisted for Sports

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