Self-proclaimed bibliophile, culture nut and nerdfighter. English lit. and linguistics geek. Future career in publishing.
For a civilization so fixated on achieving happiness, we seem remarkably incompetent at the task. One of the best-known general findings of the 'science of happiness' has been the discovery that the countless advantages of modern life have done so little to lift our collective mood. The awkward truth seems to be that increased economic growth does not necessarily make for happier societies, just as increased personal income, above a certain basic level, doesn't make for happier people.
- The Antidote
Note: The review below was taken directly from my Goodreads account.
I read an ARC given away through Goodreads First Reads.
I want to point out that The Antidote is definitively not a self-help book. While it is true that you can take certain messages away from it to use in your own life, that is not the purpose of this book. It's more like a travelogue/pop culture science book.
Burkeman starts off at a motivational seminar designed to inspire people and get them thinking positive thoughts. Except Burkeman is skeptical about all the "Get motivated!" and "Be positive!" being yelled at the crowd, and I am the same way. I think I connected with this book in that the more I hear people tell me to think positively, the more I want to tell them where to shove it.
Burkeman wonders if positive thoughts really leads to a happier and more positive life, and so he goes off in search of evidence. What he finds demonstrates that negative thoughts are more conducive to happier living. Each chapter is dedicated to one way negative thoughts have the ability to make you feel better about your current situation/problem or the way that not thinking about negative things like failures isn't helpful.
Overall, there is a general wittiness to the book that was enjoyable. I don't know if all Burkeman's articles are like this, but he made me chuckle a fair bit. The writing itself was pretty good, but I think it needed to be streamlined a little more. Some parts felt a little draggy or a little jumpy.
I do have one problem, however, and that's with what Burkeman writes about scientists and ignoring their failures. He writes that research suggests scientists follow a predictable pattern when addressing a failed experiment, which makes sense. Once the scientists figure out that they can't tinker until the experiment proves their hypothesis, Burkeman writes that they just give up and don't address the failure. My problem is this unanswered question: If scientists are meant to be dis-/proving hypotheses, why should they spend any more time on a failed experiment than they already have? Their focus is on one hypothesis, one thing they're trying to figure out. If mixing this together, or adding these five elements together doesn't do it, then what's the point of spending more time on it? I'm not sure I understand where he was going with that, but the entire scientist bit is only about two pages long anyway. Sometimes you're left with more questions than answers.