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Help!: How to Be Slightly Happier, Slightly More Successful and Get a Bit More Done

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  641 ratings  ·  71 reviews
How do you solve the problem of human happiness? It's a subject that has occupied some of history's greatest thinkers, from Aristotle to Paul McKenna. But how do we sort the good ideas from the bad ones? In the last five years Oliver Burkeman has travelled to some of the strangest corners of the 'happiness industry' to find out. ...more
Published January 1st 2011 by Canongate Books (first published December 12th 2010)
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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  641 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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K.J. Charles
The thing about self help type books, like writing advice books and management books, is they tend to have basically one genuinely useful nugget of advice and the rest of the £7.99 book is there as scaffolding for it. This book is all the nuggets of advice, no scaffolding. As such it's actually crammed with really useful thoughts, and extensively annotated so you can do some further reading for the points where you want depth. (Which you will not get here--it's an overview.) It's very funny at p ...more
Aine Chambers
Jul 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Essentially, this book made me feel better about myself. I know the rest of the planet is stumbling around in much the same way as I am. As a life style choice it has its drawbacks particularly if you're searching for a thumb tack, but the worst case scenario, for which you won't even be around to listen to all the bitchin' amd moanin' is from the poor sod who has to clean out you apartment.
And, to make matters much, he's probably still reads 'Noddy' books so will have no appreciation for your
Peter O'Shea
Lots of references to other material that I have read which I found very interesting to begin with. After a while though I realised the book itself contained far too many references to an abundance of different material in the self help field but with very few insights from the author. This left me with the feeling that there was nothing new to be gained.
Jan 22, 2015 rated it liked it
I couldn't quite give it a fourth star, but it was an enjoyable read. Mainly, I like the snarkiness of the author. Maybe not as obnoxious as Simon Cowell, but in the same spirit. Here's an example:


The Secret, a self-help book that is one of the most extraordinary publishing successes of the past decade, argues that there is a single, overwhelmingly powerful secret known to all the greatest humans through history. It has ‘utterly transformed the lives of every person who ever knew
Sean Goh
Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Accepting a situation means acknowledging the reality of what's here, including any negative feelings. It does not mean resignation.

The real benefit isn't eradicating something, but becoming more conscious of what you let in.

Recognise bad moods generally arise from HALT (Hungry, angry, lonely, tired)

Different levels of need for connectedness lead to different level sof loneliness.

Just paying attention is enough, no need to analyse if the action was 'right'.

Ideas currently in the world ar
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Not your usual self-help book, thank heavens! This book is like Burkeman's own literature review - he looks at the evidence for various popular theories and systems, combining this with his own opinion and trials and errors. He has a wonderful wry humour and relates well to the material, trying it out for the reader and offering us his view / experience - whether this is a bestselling rule book with a shouty title and lots of exclamation marks or even dabbling (slightly) in Scientology.

I finishe
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I’m not much of a fan of the self-help genre and I believe that most self-help books do little for their readers other than inducing a greater sense of self-loathing and diminished self-worth when those readers fail to convert themselves into better people overnight. How many copies of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ are sitting on the shelves of friendless and uninfluential people who can’t quite remember how they ever thought something they paid a few quid for was going to change the ...more
Feb 17, 2021 added it
Shelves: dnf, nonfiction
It's time to admit that I don't want to keep reading this book any longer. DNF @44%. It has its merits but it's just repeating the same things over and over again (particularly "Just chill out and don't expect results immediately in any endeavor, don't believe those "[Do thing] in 4 hours!!!" self help books") and I don't care for that.

Left unrated because, again, it has its merits so I don't want to lower its rating because it may genuinely help someone, but I (obviously) didn't enjoy it all t
Jan 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help, uk
Whilst often very funny, this is not as good as Burkeman's other book The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking due to its format - it reproduces his brief Guardian columns, meaning that each section is brief and tends to finish just as it gets interesting. Also, whilst he points out why positive thinking or self-help can actually make things worse using evidenced-based research, he doesn't always suggest evidence-based alternatives that *do* work and this too is bette ...more
Jan 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Oliver Burkeman writes the column 'This Column will Change You Life' for the Guardian/Observer in the the UK. This book reads like a collection of this columns, broad sections (Work, Productivity) broken down into 2-4 page topics. He goes about debunking and hilariously ripping into much of the self-help literature and the motivational gurus out there (Messers Dyer and Robbins will you please stand up) whilst offering up the bits and pieces that he's encountered in his research that make sense t ...more
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help
This is a brilliant overview of the utter bile to the useful theories of self-help books. Burkeman looks through a diverse range of current hyped-up self-help books and gives a clear-cut, personal and humorous review of what is and is not evidence-based techniques to improve your life.

It doesn't claim to make your problems go away overnight, but that is exactly why it is so refreshing. I would recommend it to anyone who isn't still stuck in the positive thinking bile.

Apr 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Embarrassing to read on the tube but brilliant and sensible, very funny too.
Sarah Nicmanis
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Restored my sanity after one too many self-help books. I am now in recovery... Oliver Burkeman also has a very entertaining column in the Saturday Guardian. 'This Column Will Change Your Life!' ...more
Jeremy Corter
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can a book that criticizes self-help books be one of the best self-help books out there?

Yes, it can.

Now, the common target of this book isn’t the self-help that’s back by research. Rather, it’s the pop psychology, New Age guru kind of self-help, though he also targets those that oversimplify the research. In fact, this book is packed with researched self-help. Mr. Burkeman breaks his book down into different categories (work, personal life, etc.) and then provides a paragraph to a page to the di
Heta Kosonen
Apr 10, 2020 rated it liked it
A collection of Guardian’s self help columns on a variety of topics ranging from e-mail management to friendships. This was an ok read, I’d recommend reading a few chapters on topics that interest you the most, but not necessarily the whole book.

Something about Oliver Burkeman’s writing just doesn’t work for me. The sarcastic approach to humans’ quest for self improvement definitely made me laugh out loud a few times, but gave the whole book a bit of a negative undertone. It was a bit like talki
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a delight: the anti-self-help book we all needed! Oliver Burkeman critiques practically every self-help manual known to man. Funny, smart and insightful, I loved every page. Be sure to buy a couple of copies so you have one to pass round to your friends. Oh, and best to read it when you’re on your own or you’ll find yourself doing that awkward thing where you keep interrupting your companions with impromptu readings each time you find something so good it must be shared!
Falynn - the TyGrammarSaurus Rex
Compilation of the author's newspaper articles which provide a useful summary of some of the more helpful offerings of the self-help industry, and some of those to avoid! ...more
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Witty, well researched, irreverent. Wise
Phil Topping
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Didn't finish it. Just couldn't get into it at all. To be fair it is really well written but who is it written for? Not me! ...more
Tadhg Maccarthy
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: leisure
Well researched, delivered with a healthy sense of humour. Plenty of resources to explore.
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
I am not sure what this book is meant to be. Quite amusing, well written and with a few nuggets that were of interest and help. But would I recommend it? Probably not.
Veronika Vozarova
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
The author is a genius. The best fusion of logical thinking and humor I've ever seen. ...more
Salima Bensalah
Jun 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Help is unlike any other self-help book I've read before. Its criticises the conventional cliches of other books of the genre, and explores which tips are life-changing, and which make little difference. The book also references other books the author did find useful and why, which I will definitely check out in the future. ...more
It was like talking to a friend. Felt light, funny and engaging. I like how unlike most self-help books, this one does not make any big promises and simply states the author's opinions supported by facts and research. ...more
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
In this book British journalist Oliver Burkeman, a self-confessed cynic and sometime grump, sets out 'to solve the problem of human happiness.' He explores man's quest for happiness,from ancient philosophers to the booming modern day self-help industry. The book is written in the form of short columns on each topic as published in his weekly newspaper column.

Consequently each topic is only dealt with superficially, and this is my only complaint about the book - that I would have liked more deta
Stephen Redwood
Dec 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Fun and instructive at the same time. Burkeman provides plenty of well deserved, and frequently hilarious, mockery of the self-help genre, whilst acknowledging where psychology has shown how to be effective in helping us be 'Slightly happier, slightly more successful and get a bit more done'. Mainly this involves, small steps and realistic expectations, but is no less useful because of the minor scale most of us should be focusing on. Not only do small steps make sense, but it's also necessary t ...more
Jul 31, 2015 rated it liked it
While not as enjoyable to read as Burkeman's other book, The Antidote, this one does have its moments.
Essentially it examines many of the popular self-help themes out there, and offers arguments from other sources to support, debunk, or just plain laugh at them (I'm talking about The Secret for the last one there, and I'm laughing along).
I am grateful for some of the techniques I learnt via this book, like the Pomodoro Technique of distraction management. But many of his interpretations are als
Sep 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great book that made me feel a lot better about my general pessimism, lack of organisation and cynicism regarding all things that fall under the self-help genre of writing or thought. He debunks all the so called 'advice' found in self-help books and shows how concepts prevalent in the self-help world are massively flawed and could have serious negative impacts upon well-being and attitudes towards others in society whilst also writing about the studies and ideas that are more likely to be helpf ...more
Derek Winterburn
Oct 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
There is a lot of good stuff here. Burkeman is very pragmatic about things that work and is prepared to challenge many popular assumption in modern culture that have seeped in from the 'self-help' industry.

E.g "Start Where You Are is the (very sensible) title of three different books on happiness, but the real point isn’t that you ought to start where you are. It’s that you have no option: you are where you are."


"About 50 per cent of your happiness is due to genetics, says Sonja Lyubomirsky
Michael Alonso
Sep 23, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I've never read a "self-help" book before, but this one doesn't seem that helpful, it just mentally pats you on the head telling your problems are OK, for example, it says the fact that you are constantly worrying about terrible things happening to you or your friends means that you have a great imagination and feel good about it.

Some of his solutions seem absolutely toxic and want distract you from your problems instead of helping you with them.

I'm quite aware no book can magically fix your pr
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