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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and well-researched
The German language is full of implausibly long words, but one advantage is that these long words can often capture more precisely a concept where the English language fails. An excellent example of this is "Schadenfreude" (pronounced, roughly, as "sha-den-froy-da"), a word that translated means approximately "joy in the pain of others." Essentially, schadenfreude is that...
Published 11 months ago by Monica J. Kern

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring book
Even though I felt attracted with the theme and title of the book , it seemed to me that in 2 chapters the idea was sufficiently described....so I found it repetitive,boring and his view ( the envy of germans towards jews to explain horrific joy of pain was disgusting for me.
Published 1 month ago by Nelly Arriagada


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and well-researched, July 31, 2013
By 
Monica J. Kern (Lexington, KY United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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The German language is full of implausibly long words, but one advantage is that these long words can often capture more precisely a concept where the English language fails. An excellent example of this is "Schadenfreude" (pronounced, roughly, as "sha-den-froy-da"), a word that translated means approximately "joy in the pain of others." Essentially, schadenfreude is that guilty feeling of delight we experience when something bad happens to somebody else, usually somebody that we don't like or have a grudge against for some reason.

Anthony Weiner getting caught, yet again, sexting photos of his penis? Schadenfreude.
J.J. Redick, former Duke basketball star, getting arrested on a DUI? For this UK (and bitter foe of Duke) basketball fan, schadenfreude.
Ted Haggard, the minister who loudly supported anti-gay legislation, getting caught with a male prostitute? Off-the-top-of-the-scale schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude is one of the most human of emotions, and it is an emotion we don't like to admit we possess. After all, when something bad happens to somebody, principles of most major religions, secular humanism, and moral philosophy would demand that we offer understanding and compassion, not selfish and sneaky delight. Yet that impulse to feel good when others experience a downfall or disaster is often difficult to suppress.

This book written by Richard Smith, a social psychologist at the University of Kentucky, is one of the few scholarly works on the topic of this complex human emotion. In 11 expertly written chapters, Smith reviews what causes the emotion of schadenfreude, and the crucial role played by personal gain, envy, deservingness, and hypocrisy. In short, we are particularly prone to feel schadenfreude when we stand to personally benefit from the other's downfall, when we envy the other--whom we also believe to be a hypocrite--and we believe the other person to have deserved his or her downfall. These conclusions have all been supported through various studies conducted by Smith and other psychologists, with the studies being described in clear, not overly technical, detail. He closes the volume with a discussion of ways in which we can minimize or try to prevent schadenfreude.

As a social psychologist myself (and--full disclosure--a former colleague of Smith's), I have read lots of trade books and pop psychology books. What sets this book apart from the crowd is the quality of Smith's writing and the broad intellectual foundation that he brings to the book. Smith has a background in literature and journalism that is unusual for an academic psychologist. He is a true Renaissance scholar, well read in a variety of disciplines, and it shows in his writing, which is peppered with examples from great literature, film, current events, and popular culture (his first chapter begins with an example from the Simpsons). The breadth of Smith's background also makes the book a delight to read; his writing style is informal, not stuffy, and the reader will find little or no academic jargon in its pages. As such, while I am sure this book will appear on the syllabi for countless graduate seminars in psychology, I think it will also make a welcome contribution to the general nonfiction literature. I am guessing that fans of Malcolm Gladwell, for example, would similarly enjoy this book greatly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book that explores one frequently unspoken human condition..., February 8, 2014
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This review is from: The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side of Human Nature (Hardcover)
I have received and read this text from cover-to-cover. While there are some historical factors that do so a bit unnecessary, I was impressed with the read and that contemporary references that clearly highlight this interesting condition and its implications for interaction with others. A great read and addition to one's personal/professional library...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!, November 30, 2013
This review is from: The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side of Human Nature (Hardcover)
Dr. Smith has always had the ability to make the principles of psychology easily understood. His practice of relating psychological concepts to movies, shows and literature made his classes a joy to attend. I am happy that the literary public will now have the opportunity to learn from his enlightened style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Excellent!, July 31, 2013
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This review is from: The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side of Human Nature (Hardcover)
What a great book! One of the best books I have read recently. I enjoyed it immensely. The writing is clear and accessible. Using not only psychological studies but also a wide range of materials (from literature to reality shows), the author provides a broad and deep treatment on schadenfreude. ‪This book was a revelation to me. I had heard of the word schadenfreude, and I had some sense of what it meant, but until I read this book I really did not have a good label for a feeling which, as the successfully author argues, is a very prevalent one - even though we will rarely own up to it. The author systematically explains why this feeling is so common. His discussion of social comparisons is a good example of his approach. I knew that I often compared myself to others, but the author explains so well why one would do it --- as well as suggests the various implications of social comparison for self-evaluations and, therefore, schadenfreude. When it come down to it, "downward comparisons" will often be pleasing. The author provides so many interesting examples to make the point. ‬I also liked his tone. Although many examples amount to embarrassing things happening to others, I never got the sense that he was being unkind. Nor does he encourage the emotion; he just tries to explain it. Maybe the best sections were on envy and schadenfreude. Envy brings together a lot of the factors that often explain why we might get pleasure over another person's misfortune. And yet, as the author points out, because envy is such a nasty emotion, most people will not admit feeling it, especially if it is linked to pleasure over someone else suffering. This leads to some powerful internal conflicts that are difficult to unpack. But, I thought the author did a great job capturing what probably happens. This book definitely raised my understanding of both envy and schadenfreude --- and other emotions too. For anyone who wants to understand many shades of human emotions and their impact on our everyday life and our well-being, this is a must-read book. Also, the book has a lot entertaining and nicely done illustrations.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enlightening and entertaining read, August 27, 2013
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This review is from: The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side of Human Nature (Hardcover)
It's hard to talk about, or even to think about, taking joy in seeing other people suffer, and few people would admit to enjoying it. Richard Smith, using a deft combination of research, popular culture, classic literature, and psychological insights, pulls the rug back and shows that this experience (Schadenfreude) permeates our lives, and is an innate and important element of the human psyche. In reading this book, any emotionally honest reader will appreciate that her or his reactions to the world often involve Schadenfreude, will recognize the importance of the emotion, and will understand better the deep and dark mechanisms (like social comparisons, envy, aggression, and eye-for-an-eye justice) that help us to make sense of the world.

In addition to offering a peek into the dark side of human nature, the book is fantastically entertaining. The tone is conversational and the anecdotes (for lack of a better word to express the joy that comes in the world being righted) delicious. The "lighter" joys of empathy and humanity are not forgotten, and many of the cases are inspiring, especially the account of Abraham Lincoln, and the sensitive treatment of the Holocaust.

Anyone interested in social emotions, psychology, modern culture, or simply a great read will really enjoy this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You've got to kindle this book!, September 18, 2013
By 
E (Indianapolis) - See all my reviews
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I love how the author shows how we delight in other people's misery. He keeps it light by citing our reactions when it involves fan reaction to a player on a rival team getting hurt (he documents published and unpublished studies to that effect), but he also gets into heartbreaking historical realities and studies. Don't want to spoil it-so get it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Boring book, May 31, 2014
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Even though I felt attracted with the theme and title of the book , it seemed to me that in 2 chapters the idea was sufficiently described....so I found it repetitive,boring and his view ( the envy of germans towards jews to explain horrific joy of pain was disgusting for me.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Schadenfreude et al, March 28, 2014
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This review is from: The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side of Human Nature (Hardcover)
Haven't gotten to read it yet but a scan tells me it's all I'd hoped for, Will report back after reading it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Stating the obvious., March 23, 2014
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This review is from: The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side of Human Nature (Hardcover)
Unfortunately, I feel like this book could have probably been a Twitter post. Each chapter of Prof. Smith's book essentially opens with a very obvious statement and then supports it with a summary of a study or two and endless examples, often from TV shows (he cites "The Simpsons" three times in the first 50 pages). I understand that this book is geared toward the layman, but it seems to be that if one knows the definition of "schadenfreude" and is able to make rudimentary observations on human nature, then reading this book will be superfluous. We prefer to see those "superior" to us fail, rather than those that are "inferior;" it is easier for groups to do bad things than it is for individuals; we love to see hypocrisy exposed; we prefer the bad guy to lose over the good guy; etc.

You should read this book if (a) you've never heard the word "schadenfreude" before, (b) you've heard it, but have no idea what it means and have never heard the word "dictionary" before, (c) you live in a hole, (d) you've written a book on schadenfreude and want to see another author fail, or (e) all of the above.

I highly recommend Jonathan Haidts "The Righteous Mind," which, while it focuses on politics and religion, is a much more interesting study of the light and dark sides of human nature and, more importantly, when and why those two sides manifest.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good summer read, August 3, 2013
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This review is from: The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side of Human Nature (Hardcover)
Prof. Smith has managed to write book that is both erudite and an easy read. If you ever have experienced disturbingly happy feelings when a bad thing has happened to even a close friend and have wondered, perhaps secretly, what this is all about, this book might help untangle the complicated tangle of emotions underpinning this uncomfortable feeling.
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The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side of Human Nature
The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side of Human Nature by Richard H. Smith (Hardcover - July 31, 2013)
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