Melissa Armstrong, September 30, 2011 (view all comments by Melissa Armstrong)
Thoroughly enjoyed this book on how we create perceptions that are hard to achieve in reality. Daniel Gilbert does a great job of explaining how we perceive, why no two people will ever have the exact same experience and how that relates to our expectations of happiness. Much better than Malcolm Gladwell.
wescoat, October 28, 2008 (view all comments by wescoat)
This was a book-length tome that should have been condensed to an article in the New Yorker, though I'm not sure the New Yorker would have put up with Daniel Gilbert's relentless affinity for cheesy jokes. It is not a book about how to be happier, which to be fair, is made clear in the opening pages. It is a book about what makes us happy, or better, how our endless quest for happiness is skewed by our silly, silly brains. It's an interesting premise, I guess, a study of how our inability to truthfully evaluate the past, present, our future prohibits our happiness, but Gilbert's manifestation of it is surprisingly tedious. His writing is so asinine and willfully goofy, "Stumbling On Happiness" should have taken me 2 hours to read, but it took me weeks in actuality because it was so annoying to keep returning to it. I'm one of those compulsive readers that has to finish every book I start, even when I don't like it, and I think that trait, more than anything, hurts my chances at happiness, at least in regards to this one. "Stumbling" is a bad example of a bad writer combining his badness with many, many, tedious references to other studies and writings done by other people who are not him. Really, this book is a gathering of research, and while I'm impressed with how much Gilbert must have had to sift through (no doubt with help from tons of assistants) to sort it all out, the end result is neither enlightening nor entertaining. I don't know what I was looking for going in, but it wasn't this. the book was recommended by an 18-year-old coworker, who said it was "amazing." I've learned to no longer take book recommendations from teenagers, and I've learned that I don't care enough about happiness to read a whole book about it. I guess I'm just a morbid guy. Or maybe I'm a happy guy. If anything, Gilbert's book has shown me that really, deep down, I'm neither, and never will be.
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Melissa Kinsey, May 13, 2007 (view all comments by Melissa Kinsey)
WHERE'S THE MEAT?!!!
You have to wade through Gilbert's "clever" prose and "amusing" anecdotes to get to anything substantial. Stephen Braun's "The Science of Happiness" is much easier to read and contains the same information.
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Vintage Books USA -
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Not offering a self-help book, but instead mounting a scientific explanation of the limitations of the human imagination and how it steers us wrong in our search for happiness, Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard, draws on psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy and behavioral economics to argue that, just as we err in remembering the past, so we err in imagining the future. 'Our desire to control is so powerful, and the feeling of being in control so rewarding, that people often act as though they can control the uncontrollable,' Gilbert writes, as he reveals how ill-equipped we are to properly preview the future, let alone control it. Unfortunately, he claims, neither personal experience nor cultural wisdom compensates for imagination's shortcomings. In concluding chapters, he discusses the transmission of inaccurate beliefs from one person's mind to another, providing salient examples of universal assumptions about human happiness such as the joys of money and of having children. He concludes with the provocative recommendation that, rather than imagination, we should rely on others as surrogates for our future experience. Gilbert's playful tone and use of commonplace examples render a potentially academic topic accessible and educational, even if his approach is at times overly prescriptive. 150,000 announced first printing." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
by Steven D. Levitt, author of Freakonomics,
"Stumbling on Happiness is an absolutely fantastic book that will shatter your most deeply held convictions about how your own mind works. Ceaselessly entertaining, Gilbert is the perfect guide to some of the most interesting psychological research ever performed. Think you know what makes you happy? You won't know for sure until you have read this book."
by Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink,
"A psychological detective story about one of the great mysteries of our lives....You ought to read it. Trust me."
by Seth Godin, author of All Marketers Are Liars,
"This is a brilliant book, a useful book, and a book that could quite possibly change the way you look at just about everything. And as a bonus, Gilbert writes like a cross between Malcolm Gladwell and David Sedaris."
by Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence,
"In Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert shares his brilliant insights into our quirks of mind, and steers us toward happiness in the most delightful, engaging ways. If you stumble on this book, you're guaranteed many doses of joy."
by Daniel L. Schacter, Harvard University, author of Searching for Memory and The Seven Sins of Memory,
"In a book that is as deep as it is delightful, Daniel Gilbert reveals the powerful and often surprising connections between our experience of happiness and how we think about the future. Drawing on cutting edge psychological research and his own sharp insights into everyday events, Gilbert manages to have considerable fun while expertly illuminating some of the most profound mysteries of the human mind. I confidently predict that your future will be happier if you read this pathbreaking volume."
by Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University, Winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics,
"Everyone will enjoy reading this book, and some of us will wish we could have written it. You will rarely have a chance to learn so much about so important a topic while having so much fun."
by Library Journal,
"Gilbert draws on a mixed bag of findings...and conducts rather contrived experiments. Replete with jokes, but ultimately lacking in structure and focus, this book will intrigue psychology buffs only to leave them wondering what happened to the main course."
• Why are lovers quicker to forgive their partners for infidelity than for leaving dirty dishes in the sink?• Why will sighted people pay more to avoid going blind than blind people will pay to regain their sight? • Why do dining companions insist on ordering different meals instead of getting what they really want? • Why do pigeons seem to have such excellent aim; why cant we remember one song while listening to another; and why does the line at the grocery store always slow down the moment we join it?In this brilliant, witty, and accessible book, renowned Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert describes the foibles of imagination and illusions of foresight that cause each of us to misconceive our tomorrows and misestimate our satisfactions. Vividly bringing to life the latest scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, Gilbert reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there. With penetrating insight and sparkling prose, Gilbert explains why we seem to know so little about the hearts and minds of the people we are about to become.
Using cutting-edge research, Harvard psychologist Gilbert shakes, cajoles, persuades, and tricks readers into accepting the fact that happiness is not really what or where it is imagined to be.
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