Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness is by far the best book I've ever read on psychology. It's entertaining, easy to read and at times outright hilarious. Gilbert is a great writer, with a gift for a turn of phrase and a knack for coming up with amusing ways to describe the various foibles of our brains.

In fact, Gilbert writes this book a little bit too well. Unlike Malcolm Gladwell, who is such a talented writer that he makes books about nothing sound absolutely fascinating, Gilbert's book is crammed with all sorts of incredible insights that I found myself almost glossing over because of his entertaining writing style.

Which is a pity, because this book taught me more about my brain--how it misperceives, misremembers, misprojects and mismeasures nearly everything around it--than anything I've ever read. But I had to read it a second time (and take notes, even) to get the most out of it. Seriously, how often do you read a book that makes you want to not only re-read it, but take notes while you're re-reading it? Yep, it was that good.

I had a family member tell me when she was about half-way through the book, "when is it going to get to the part about being happy?" The thing is, this book isn't about happiness. It's about how our brains trick and mislead us, which is an insight that's actually far more important than teaching us how to be happy.

This book, along with Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan, revolutionized how I think. I can't say that about many books. Highly, highly recommended.

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