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125 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Top Ten Reasons to Love Chris Peterson's "Primer in Positive Psychology", November 19, 2006
This review is from: A Primer in Positive Psychology (Oxford Positive Psychology Series) (Paperback)
At Coaching Toward Happiness and at MentorCoach, we

write about the leading figures in positive psychology

and in coaching and talk to them in live

teleconference interviews. We interviewed

Chris three times. His new book is exceptional.

Here's why:


1. It's The Best.


Okay. This is arguably the best introduction to positive

psychology ever written. It ties all the key issues

together in a compelling way. It provides understanding,

depth, rich resources, and it's fun to read.


2. It's Reader-Friendly.


It's a large trade paperback, 314 pages. Rich with fascinating

detail, web sites, movies, overarching explanations of research.

Bad writing makes the reader feel dumb. Good writing makes the

reader feel smart. Chris makes you feel smart.


3. If You Teach.


If you teach positive psychology, you have to use this book. Listen

to the founder of the field: "This is the definitive textbook in

positive psychology. But more than that, it may be the single best

textbook on any subject that I have ever read... (It) both made me

laugh out loud and brought tears to my eyes." -- Martin E. P. Seligman


4. For the Bright Professional


It's perfect for the curious, bright professional who's new to

positive psychology and wants to quickly get up to speed. If

you understand The Primer, you'll be ahead of 99% of the people

in your field.


5. It Sounds Like Chris.


Conversational and accessible. It reads like he talks. And it

reads like a conversation with someone who's twice won the

honor of best teacher at the University of Michigan.


6. It Has Tiny Throw-Away Nuggets.


The words "positive psychology" were first used, not by Seligman

in 1998, but Maslow in 1954. "...The smiley-face icon was created

for a life insurance company in 1964 by a Massachusetts graphic

artist, who was paid $45 for his creation. Neither the insurance

company nor artist Harvey Bell copyrighted the symbol which

has--perhaps as a result--become extremely popular."


7. The Songs.


Each chapter ends with films and dozens of Chris' favorite, relevant

songs: "Be True to Your School" (Beach Boys); "Get Up, Stand Up"

(Bob Marley & the Wailers), "To Sir, With Love" (LuLu); "I Feel

Good" (James Brown); "My Sweet Lord" (George Harrison). Walking

on Sunshine" (Katrina & the Waves). He admits to being a baby

boomer and knows it shows in his song choice. He also believes

a relevant song is a great way to signal the beginning of a class.


8. Personal Usefulness.


You might even find it personally useful. Of the thousands of

suggestions for increasing happiness that have been proffered

in the last fifty years, indeed over the centuries, which have

so far been empirically examined? It goes beyond the headlines

and looks in detail at what the research might really mean for what

you do.


9. It's Unpretentious.


In 2003, I sometimes taught a teleclass from Chris' office at Penn.

His entire office consisted of a computer, a bare floor, one table

and chair, and a bookshelf with 15 scattered books. Nothing to

indicate, for example, that he was among the world's 100 most

frequently cited psychologists during the past 20 years.

The Primer is similarly down to earth. Name one other famous academic

who would write this paragraph:

"...some skeptics still believe that positive psychologists miss

the "obvious" point that life is tragic... I disagree but will

not belabor the point except to note that tragedy admits to

gradations. Even if everything sucks, some things suck more

than others, an irrefutable fact given how people actually behave

if not what they say....Whether we label ...preferred circumstances

"positive" or "less sucky" then becomes a matter of semantics (P. 13)."


10. Find the Tenth Reason Yourself.


Chris was the lead creator of the VIA Survey of Signature Strengths,

a central positive psychology assessment. More than 300,000 people

from throughout the world have taken it. Who better to write about the

importance of individual strengths and values than the world's leading

expert? This is just one part of this book. You'll be able to find

many more than the "tenth" reason when you read him.

And, even better, if you'd also like to *listen* to him talk about

his work, you can. There are three free online interviews--two also

available by telephone--in the archive of the Coaching Toward

Happiness eNewsletter. Amazon's ground rules preclude my telling

you the url but if you google ["Coaching Toward Happiness" + Chris Peterson], you'll find them.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 3, 2008 6:12:42 AM PDT
Wow, what a compelling review!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2009 1:13:24 PM PDT
Danielle says:
"Finding Happiness in a Frustrating World" is good for a synopsis of the positive psychology research in layman's terms.

Posted on Dec 17, 2009 8:13:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 17, 2009 8:40:23 AM PST
Dear Dr. Dean,

Congratulations! Your's is the most helpful review I've read. Ever!

I was going to buy Authentic Happiness, by Martin Seligman (who was the founder of positive psychology, after all). But your quote from Seligman about Peterson's book made me think it might be a better place for me to start. Chris Peterson is listed in wiki-pedia among thirteen other researchers currently devoted to positive psychology.

But I love readability in a book, especially in an introductory book. You have convinced me. Peterson's book is the place for me to start.

Thank you.

Oh, and I discovered the Seligman quote you quoted, is on the back of Peterson's book. Ironically, that led me to question the validity of the quote, as back cover blurbs by other well-known authors are not always reliable. Often it is an arrangement between publishers, and the author may not actually agree with his own review. (It's one of the dirty little secrets of the publishing industry).

But then I found your MentorCoach website and see that you have a PhD in psychology, spent four years with the National Institute of Mental Health, and that you and Dr. Seligman have had a partner relationship in the past.

OK. So maybe your review is biased too, but I don't think so. You know why? Because your MentorCoach website is a business with a single product. And you could not afford to endorse a bad book, because it would reflect negatively on the single product you sell. It would be different if you sold hundreds or thousands of different products, because if I were disappointed, I would think, "OK, no business is perfect. Maybe it's just this one product that's not very good."

In short, I think your review is even more reliable than Dr. Seligman's blurb.

OK, I'm a bit of a cynic. But it's because I know some of the ins and outs of the book business. Anyway, I have done some digging and completely trust your review.

Thanks again.

Posted on Jun 23, 2010 11:40:42 AM PDT
I think this review is dead-on - I remember reading this book as I took the course with Chris Peterson on Positive Psychology and not being able to put it down. I have shared it with many friends and colleagues and it is my all-time favorite introduction to PP. As Dr. Ben Dean shares: this is a wonderful resource and an authentic voice of the author, Chris Peterson. Great review!

Posted on Oct 20, 2012 8:12:17 PM PDT
Ben J. Dean says:
For the record, the office I describe here (#9. It's Unpretentious.) was Chris' on-campus office during the three years he spent at Penn, developing the VIA Survey of Signature Strengths. He actually did his writing in the morning from his home office, one that was fully furnished, book-filled and attractive.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2013 11:30:18 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 23, 2013 11:35:11 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2013 11:34:58 AM PST
F. Bodek says:
Dear Mr. DeLions,

Now that you've read the book, can you give us an update? It would be greatly appreciated.
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