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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking [Kindle Edition]

Oliver Burkeman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (207 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
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Sold by: Macmillan
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Book Description

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, it's 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 person's guide to understanding the much-misunderstood idea of happiness.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: The you-can-do-it, life-is-one-big-smiley-face ethos of our contemporary culture has its value: Aggressive positivity helps many triumph over addiction, say, or build previously unimaginable businesses, even win elections and wars. But according to Oliver Burkeman, this relentless pursuit of happiness and success can also make us miserable. Exploring the dark side of the theories put forth by such icons as Norman Vincent Peale and Eckhart Tolle by looking to both ancient philosophy and current business theory, Burkeman--a feature writer for British newspaper The Guardian--offers up the counterintuitive idea that only by embracing and examining failure and loss and unhappiness will we become free of it. So in your next yoga class, try this: breathe deep, think unhappy thoughts--and feel your soul relax. --Sara Nelson

Review

Burkeman's tour of the 'negative path' to happiness makes for a deeply insightful and entertaining book. This insecure, anxious and sometimes unhappy reader found it quite helpful. (Hector Tobar, The Los Angeles Times)

Some of the most truthful and useful words on [happiness] to be published in recent years . . . A marvellous synthesis of good sense, which would make a bracing detox for the self-help junkie. (Julian Baggini, The Guardian)

"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)

Quietly subversive, beautifully written, persuasive, and profound, Oliver Burkeman's book will make you think--and smile. (Alex Bellos, author of Here's Looking at Euclid)

Addictive, wise, and very funny. (Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist)

What unites [Burkeman's] 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))

Product Details

  • File Size: 548 KB
  • Print Length: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (November 13, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0080K3G4O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,436 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
130 of 139 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Debby Downer was on to something. November 27, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a sucker. Feature a writer on National Public Radio, and the interview is mildly entertaining, I will buy the book. I will also probably read it -- the only question remaining: will I actually like it?

The Antidote, for sure, is personally fascinating. I abhor positive thinking, gravitating instead toward reality. But I didn't come by this easily. In my early 20's, I became obsessed with all manner of self help, positive thinking and new age spirituality. I devoured (embarrassing) self help books, feeling temporarily inspired by them while making feeble attempts to put the words into practice. Inevitably, I'd feel like a failure for not being able to be perfect -- or even slightly "better" than I was before; I'd feel consumed with anger and resentment, too, that my problems didn't magically go away; that life wasn't easier. It took me a LONG TIME to realize that my faux spirituality was primarily the cause of my dissatisfaction and pain.

My actual problems were far less annoying than the books I was reading to solve them.

I wish I'd read The Antidote 15 years ago.

The Antidote travels familiar -- to me, a junkie, at least -- terrain. If you've ever read a book on buddhism (through a pop culture lens), for instance, much of this won't be new: accept life as it is. But the context will; the author blends storytelling, cutting edge research, personal anecdote and wry humor into this compelling case for what he refers to as the negative path; the wisdom of the Stoics as a sane approach to life.

I am torn as to how many stars to offer; for whatever reason, I wasn't in love with the book as a whole. The author is certainly a talented writer, but I felt like the book went on and on. And on.
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54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a book for the rest of us December 1, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
I picked up Antidote after hearing an interview with the author on Slate.com. The book is well-written, concise, interesting, and doesn't labor any point too much. The author clearly spent a lot of time researching the book, and some of his experiences were memorable, being presented in a witty, self-deprecating way.

The discussion presented in the book is more philosophical than of the self-help variety. Self-help books are traditionally positive thinking books while philosophy books are not, so it is a natural choice. That is not to say that the book is dense or inaccessible. It is highly accessible to any reader with copious examples to illustrate its points.

I came to this book with previous experience with Buddhism, some knowledge of Stoicism, and a tendency to feel nauseous when encountering the positive thinking mantra. Before reading this book, I assumed that this made me a bad, "negative" person, but after reading it I realized that, if anything, my so-called negativity was more beneficial to me than the positivity that many people are desperate to cultivate in themselves. As the book explains, being "negative" doesn't mean harping on the downside of everything, but it does mean taking a path away from strict positivity. It explains that most people ignore the negative sides of life, trying to wish them away in rosy colored aphorisms and mantras. Those negative aspects, however, are part of life and being unable to confront them and help people accept them is a big part of why the positive thinking manuals fail.

Some of the best parts of the book:

- I found the idea that "you don't have to feel like doing something to do it" a relief.
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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superior self-help September 14, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This was certainly a lot more enjoyable to read than most self-help books.
I actually liked reading it which is a lot more than you say for the usual change your life, awaken the fear within, visualise success and ask the universe type books.

The writing style is quite informal and discursive and despite the modesty of the author it is certainly a lot more rigorous and useful than the usual stuff from the snake oil salesmen. He recognises that what seems to work for him might not work for everyone.

It probably isn't an essential read if you do always look at his column in the Guardian though obviously in this book he gives each subject a more in depth treatment.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a justification of pessimism, just the opposite December 3, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For those who walk around with a scowl on their face all day and hope to find in this book the secret to being happy while being angry, depressed or forlorn, this books will probably not the mark, because there is no mark to hit.

But if you're just one of those many people out there like myself who's trying to avoid being angry and upset, but who doesn't buy the "be happy and wonderful things will happen to you" mantra, this book will be interesting. I say "interesting" not "enlightening" because it is a surface treatment covering everything from ancient stoicism to Buddhism to modern-day Santa Muerte beliefs and as such can't possibly be deep enough to be enlightening. It does go deep enough to show the common theme running through many beliefs, that happiness is ultimately related to finding a way to be content and productive in the world as it is, without devoting too much of our energy to struggling against it. The book does not suggest that we not try to better ourselves or the world around us, but does make the point that it is the struggle against our condition that is likely to make us unhappy far more than the condition we're in to begin with.

I found this book to be an interesting departure point, suggesting several others that I suspect will be more enlightening, rather than merely interesting.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars insightful, challenging and life changing
A unique perspective that is very thought provoking. A book I'll re read or review many times I'm sure. Highly recommended
Published 3 days ago by metafarmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Negative enrichment
Perhaps the most deflating thing you can do to a supposedly serious book of non-fiction is to describe it as 'journalism’, suggesting that, whatever its merits, the work is... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Jon Chambers
5.0 out of 5 stars Seligman has been quoted as saying that he is disturbed at how his...
Oliver Burkeman may be surprised to discover that he has an ally in Dr. Martin Seligman, the founding father of positive psychology. Dr. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Arlene S. Hirsch
5.0 out of 5 stars but I do feel a little better. Just enough counterintuitive advice to...
I found this very accessible, quite well-reasoned, and compelling enough to try to use in my daily life. It's early days, but I do feel a little better. Read more
Published 27 days ago by J. B. Rainsberger
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
exactly what I wanted, thank you!
Published 1 month ago by Jackie
5.0 out of 5 stars Great product, seller and read itself.
Perfect condition of the book. The book itself was great. Really enjoyable read. Am going to reread it again and pass it along to a friend.
Published 1 month ago by Phil Ifraimov
4.0 out of 5 stars finally a book that makes sense
I like the way this book unfolds; lots of simple reminders that life is messy, often uncontrollable despite our best anxious efforts, and something to embrace while we have the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Justin Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good read
I'd say the book is inspiring, but that will sound as a pun on the subject. :) Rather, I'll say the book served me as a very nice and refreshing introduction into one of the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Saki
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was exactly the book I expected it to be...Witty, fun, thoughtful, and informative.
Published 2 months ago by Titus Stout
4.0 out of 5 stars Checked off by this skeptic
Burkeman presents, in a non-prescriptive way, variations on a theme of 'don't worry, things won't turn out all that badly once you stop defining your self-worth by your... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kindle Customer
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