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On Balance Paperback – November 22, 2011

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On Balance + On Kindness + On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life
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Editorial Reviews

Review

A refreshing, invigorating experience…Adam Phillips is one of the richest and most rewarding essayists of our time. (Los Angeles Times)

Highly pragmatic…Phillips's authority as a writer comes in no small part from his own experience as a highly regarded therapist….Like a priest, he is concerned with damnation and salvation, under the secular names of sickness and cure. (Adam Kirsch, The Boston Globe)

Transformative…Phillips can tease out contradictions with extraordinary delicacy….He shows that pleasure and desire are not simple; they can be feared…and used to hide things we should really see. (The Guardian (London))

Gently provocative reading on themes of need and desire…Phillips's ideas are fresh and inventive, casting new light on counterintuitive topics from the psychological importance of punishment to the questionable pursuit of happiness. (Financial Times)

A set of beguiling essays…the author provides polished ponderables for all readers. (Kirkus Reviews)

About the Author

Adam Phillips is a psychoanalyst and and a visiting professor in the English department at the University of York. He is the author of many acclaimed books, including On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored; Going Sane; and On Kindness (with Barbara Taylor).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (November 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312610742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312610746
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A. colbert on November 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is my second foray into Mr Phillips' writing, and it felt like I had stumbled into a his study as he answered his mail, listened to his colleagues' messages appreciatively, perused a stack of poetry books, waiting for his edits and comments, and then, after a restorative nap and hastily recorded accounting of our respective dreams, he read aloud to his young grandchild a collection of fairy tales, with sidebar observations for my benefit. His intellect and his interests are wide ranging, and he writes at a level beyond my poor ability to absorb it all, but accessibly enough that I am stretched and provoked. This is not self help, and not psychobabble, and not muscle flexing for is own sake.The reader feels he is writing to clarify and perfect his own point of view, as much as the reader's, and he has a capacity for wonder, erudition and history that approaches Emerson, who he has been favorably compared to. There is a gracefulness in the way he gets to the heart of his point, and a lack of judgment or pedantry. Many of his illustrative points were AHA moments for me, which will keep me on the lookout for other things he has written.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Thornton on August 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The world and society being what they are, omnipresent and all-encompassing, they are the default leaders of our lives. Engraved on the subway walls at 42nd and Sixth in New York City are the words of C G Jung: 'Nature must not win the game, but she cannot lose.' About a century ago while Jung was preparing a lecture tour in America, his companion said, 'Don't they realize we are bringing them the plague?' His companion was the star of Phillips's book, Sigmund Freud.

A child psychoanalyst and literary critic, Phillips probes deeply into the human malaise; if you say, What malaise?, this book is not for you. He comes up with the odd remark often, such as, We travel to protect ourselves from the possibility of arriving, or The quest for knowledge would seem to be about dispelling desire: "Tell me who you desire and I will tell you who you are." What humanity as a whole apparently desires however is of a magnitude infinitely greater. On the front page of today's New York Times, seed money of $500,000 is being offered to study what it would take to send humans to another star, a challenge so daunting the study alone could take a hundred years, at which time we will all be dead.

On Balance was my vacation book this year, a kind of ballast against the euphoria, but it would not be the kind of thing I'd want on my private island; I'd want something like a mixture of Zen and Christianity, music above all, and a bottle of wine. I'd leave the great Chinese poets at their rest. May I add how startled I was to read on page 286 how insufficient are all the helps and glories of human civilization, never fully adequate to our needs and desires. "Human nature, without divine redemption, is a disillusionment that cannot be borne.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Khalana1331 on June 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A former Psych Major, this is isn't required reading yet I find all of his books entertaining and applicable in day to day life, highly enjoyable, well thought out, intelligent and amusing, all good reads.
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