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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking Hardcover – November 13, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; First Edition edition (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865479410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865479418
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews 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


“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)

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Customer Reviews

I found the book very entertaining and well written.
Carl LaFong
In this book, Oliver Burkeman Makes the case that the traditional ways of seeking happiness actually tend to backfire and offers counterintuitive alternatives.
bronx book nerd
If, like most of us, you're thinking that you just don't get how positive thinking works this book will help you to understand why.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

112 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Dustin G. Rhodes VINE VOICE on 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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47 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Andersen on December 1, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I picked up Antidote after hearing an interview with the author on 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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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By The Emperor on 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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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By MichaelInVenice on 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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