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Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual Hardcover – January 20, 1998

4.5 out of 5 stars 231 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In this unique blend of self-help and moral philosophy, talk-radio host Dennis Prager asserts that we're actually obligated to be happy, because it makes us better people. Achieving that happiness won't be easy, though: to Prager, it requires a continuing process of counting your blessings and giving up any expectations that life is supposed to be wonderful. "Can we decide to be satisfied with what we have?" he asks. "A poor man who can make himself satisfied with his portion will be happier than a wealthy man who does not allow himself to be satisfied." Prager echoes many conservative political commentators in complaining that too many people today see themselves as victims; he submits that the only way to achieve your desires is to take responsibility for your life rather than blaming others. Whether or not you agree with that view, if you're willing to put some thought into achieving a happier outlook, you will find plenty to mull over in Happiness Is a Serious Problem.

From Library Journal

A popular lecturer, Los Angeles radio personality, and former TV talk-show host, Prager has developed a surprising following in today's soundbite media culture. Supporters praise his earnest tone, nonideological opinions, and insistence that his audience think deeply about serious issues. Detractors accuse him of sloppy thinking, intellectual pretentions, and a kind of benevolent, patronizing conservatism. Both sides of Prager are in evidence in his latest offering (after Think a Second Time, ReganBooks, 1995), in which he uses the pursuit of happiness as a central motif but generally instructs in the modern art of self-improvement. The 31 short chapters, with titles like "Find the Positive," "Seeing Yourself as a Victim," and "Psychotherapy and Religion," are more like separate essays, often disconnected and occasionally repetitive. But taken individually, they are cogent, complete, and preach a nonreligious yet morally guided moderation that should appeal across a wide range of patron groups. A fine choice for all public libraries where self-help books are popular.?Eric Bryant, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (January 20, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060392193
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060392192
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (231 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Lizzi on November 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Whether or not you are a fan of Dennis Prager's talk shows, a half-hour with this book will prove to you that, not only can this man think, but he has an incomparable gift for elucidating one of life's key preoccupations: the trials and tribulations associated with one's quest for happiness. For me, this book is not so much of a "repair manual," as it is one of the most insightful, succinctly written books on how happiness is linked to human nature, philosophy, morals, temperament and values.
Mr. Prager writes: "The greatest battle for happiness is with our own nature." If we can look inward and understand our drives and the intrinsic characteristics of what it means to be human, we then can use our intellect, spirituality and relationships with others to develop a stronger affinity for happiness. Or, perhaps, create in happiness an affinity for us.
The author divides the book into three parts consisting of thirty-one chapters. If read from front to back, the book flows nicely from "Premises" to "Major Obstacles..." to "Attitudes and Behaviors That are Essential to Happiness." What I especially like is that the individual chapters stand alone, and are great for highlighting the author's views on very specific issues and problems. The most interesting ones deal with the dilemma between happiness and fun, the problems with expectations, and the preponderance of victimhood in today's world. Prager has some profound views on these, and many other topics. He makes you think.
Overall, "Happiness..." turned out to be enlightening and quite easy to read (you won't need a dictionary by your side). I'd rank it at the top of my list (also check out "When Bad Things Happen to Good People") of books dealing with life's disappointments and successes, emotion and human nature.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dennis Prager, a devout Jew, helped bring me to Christ through years of listening to his radio commentaries and reading his books and essays. His clear-thinking and insight to man's eternal dilemma can help anyone searching for meaning in his life, and for a personal relationship with God.
But Mr. Prager's book on happiness does us all a service while we spend our time here on earth, muddling through the complexities of every day life.
One of the keys to happiness, Mr. Prager rightly suggests, is that expectations inevitably result in unhappiness. This is a wonderful insight to why so many today are frustrated, angry and unhappy in a society that touts the entitlement mindset, the thinking that we are automatically entitled to things, including happiness.
If you can set aside your expectations suddenly everything good that enters your life becomes a blessing. What do you appreciate more, the gift you've demanded or the one you didn't expect?
Hang on to your expectations and you can expect to be dissatisfied when they aren't met, and unappreciative when they do come true - after all, you expected to get it and felt that you deserved it, so why should you appreciate it?
Integral to happiness is appreciation. Unappreciative people are simply unhappy people. They are people who expect life to cater to them, so consequently are bitter when it doesn't and unappreciative when it does.
This book should be required reading in all schools, particularly on college campuses where so many expect life to cater to them. But it applies equally well to all ages.
Buy this book for anyone you'd like to help find happiness.
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Format: Paperback
As I read the few negative reviews of this book, the critics all seem to be commenting about Dennis the radio talk show host (whom they may disagree with on some political issue or another), not the contents of this book. The weakness of the book: It is based on common sense and not backed up by thousands of clinical studies to verify up each and every claim; thus at times, it seems a little surface and simplistic. The strength of this book: It is based on common sense and not backed up by thousands of clinical studies to verify up each and every claim; thus it is void of a thousand qualifying "but sometimes..." and instead is simple, clear and to the point. Just as we say, on reading an insightful movie review, "that makes perfect sense; that's exactly what I've always felt but just didn't know how to put it into words quite so clearly," so most people will say after reading each chapter: Yes, exactly, someone's finally put it into words! Congratulations, Dennis.
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This book is part common sense, part moral philosophy, part self-help encouragement -- and thought-provoking through and through. Even if you don't agree with Mr. Prager's stance, his clarity and conviction will help you arrive at your own position.

I first heard Dennis Prager on a Focus on the Family broadcast. Since then, I've started listening to his daily radio show which I find much like this book -- passionately and clearly presented; filled with relevant, daily examples; and thought-provoking even if you don't agree with his positions. A perfect example of this is in Chapter 21 of this book, where Mr. Prager argues, "As important as happiness is, if you make it your most important value, you cannot attain it. Happiness is only achievable when it is a by-product of something else, and you must hold that something to be more important than happiness." The rest of the chapter goes on to describe six candidate values more important than happiness (e.g., passionate and meaingful pursuits, wisdom, clarity, pursuit of the transcendent). Whether or not you agree with his proposition, you have to admit it's a provocative thesis.

One of the things I most enjoy about Mr. Prager's writing is that it never gets too abstract. He'll make a general point but quickly illustrate the point with a set of real-life examples and practial implications for your daily life.

Mr. Prager has many Christian fans and has contributed much to interfaith dialog between Christians and Jews. Having just finished this book, I understand why: the values described in this book resonate perfectly with Christian values. (Though Christians would probably use the word "joy" rather than "happiness", as in C.S. Lewis' "Surprised By Joy".
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