Synopses & Reviews
Self-help books don't seem to work. Few of the many advantages of modern life seem capable of lifting our collective mood. Wealth — even if you can get it — doesn't necessarily lead to happiness. Romance, family life, and work often bring as much stress as joy. We can't even agree on what "happiness" means. So are we engaged in a futile pursuit? Or are we just going about it the wrong way?
Looking both east and west, in bulletins from the past and from far afield, Oliver Burkeman introduces us to an unusual group of people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. Whether experimental psychologists, terrorism experts, Buddhists, hardheaded business consultants, Greek philosophers, or modern-day gurus, they argue that in our personal lives, and in society at large, its our constant effort to be happy that is making us miserable. And that there is an alternative path to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity, and uncertainty — the very things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Thought-provoking, counterintuitive, and ultimately uplifting, The Antidote is the intelligent persons guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness.
"This is a self-help book for cynics. Guardian feature writer Burkeman (Help!) makes the compelling observation that even with the mass production of books on attaining happiness, the collective mood has failed to rise. It has, if anything, fallen. Burkeman's aim is to endorse a 'negative' path to happiness, a route in which happiness is no longer the final destination because serenity is not a fixed state, and trying so hard to be happy is part of what makes us so miserable. Burkeman balances the ideas of the deepest thinkers, thoughts on mortality, and his own foray into Buddhist meditation with tremendously funny anecdotes about the antics of motivational convention attendees and his humiliating attempts at stoicism on the London subway. The version of 'happiness' that emerges has no clear set of steps, rather a calm (yet admirably comical) shift from the happy human being to the human who is, simply, being. None of this is new, but Burkeman's ability to present sentiments in fresh, delightfully sarcastic packaging will appeal to the happy, the unhappy, and those who have already found a peaceful middle ground. Agent: Claire Conrad, Janklow & Nesbit." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The Antidote is a gem. Countering a self-help tradition in which 'positive thinking too often takes the place of actual thinking,' Oliver Burkeman returns our attention to several of philosophy's deeper traditions and does so with a light hand and a wry sense of humor. You'll come away from this book enriched — and, yes, even a little happier." Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
"Addictive, wise and very funny. Burkeman never takes himself too seriously, but the rest of us should." Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist and Adapt
"Quietly subversive, beautifully written, persuasive and profound, Oliver Burkeman's book will make you think — and smile." Alex Bellos, author Here's Looking at Euclid
"What unites [Burkemans] travels, and seems to drive the various characters he meets, from modern-day Stoics to business consultants, is disillusionment with a patently false idea that something as complex as the goal of human happiness can be found by looking in a book....It's a simple idea, but an exhilarating and satisfying one." Alexander Larman, The Observer
"This is an excellent book; Burkeman makes us see that our current approach, in which we want happiness but search for certainty — often in the shape of material goods — is counterproductive." William Leith, The Telegraph
"Fascinating....After years spent consulting specialists — from psychologists to philosophers and even Buddhists — Burkeman realised they all agreed on one thing:... in order to be truly happy, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions—or, at least, to learn to stop running so hard from them." Mandy Francis, The Daily Mail
"Splendid....Readable and engaging." British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Times (London)
is a series of journeys among people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. What they have in common is a hunch about human psychology: that its our constant effort to eliminate the negative that causes us to feel so anxious, insecure, and unhappy. And that there is an alternative "negative path" to happiness and success that involves embracing the things we spend our lives trying to avoid. It is a subversive, galvanizing message, which turns out to have a long and distinguished philosophical lineage ranging from ancient Roman Stoic philosophers to Buddhists. Oliver Burkeman talks to life coaches paid to make their clients lives a living hell, and to maverick security experts such as Bruce Scheier, who contends that the changes weve made to airport and aircraft security since the 9/11 attacks have actually made us less safe. And then there are the "backwards" business gurus, who suggest not having any goals at all and not planning for a company's future.
Burkeman's new book is a witty, fascinating, and counterintuitive read that turns decades of self-help advice on its head and forces us to rethink completely our attitudes toward failure, uncertainty, and death.
About the Author
Oliver Burkeman writes for The Guardian, where he also has a weekly column, This Column Will Change Your Life. He is a winner of the Foreign Press Associations Young Journalist of the Year Award and has been short-listed for the Orwell Prize and the What the Papers Say Feature Writer of the Year Award. His work has appeared in Esquire, Elle, GQ, The Observer, and the New Republic. He holds an M.A. in social and political sciences from Cambridge University.