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Stumbling on Happiness | [Daniel Gilbert]

Stumbling on Happiness

A smart and funny book by a prominent Harvard psychologist, which uses groundbreaking research and (often hilarious) anecdotes to show us why we're so lousy at predicting what will make us happy, and what we can do about it.
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Publisher's Summary

A smart and funny book by a prominent Harvard psychologist, which uses groundbreaking research and (often hilarious) anecdotes to show us why we're so lousy at predicting what will make us happy, and what we can do about it.

Most of us spend our lives steering ourselves toward the best of all possible futures, only to find that tomorrow rarely turns out as we had expected. Why? As Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert explains, when people try to imagine what the future will hold, they make some basic and consistent mistakes. Just as memory plays tricks on us when we try to look backward in time, so does imagination play tricks when we try to look forward.

Using cutting-edge research, much of it original, Gilbert shakes, cajoles, persuades, tricks, and jokes us into accepting the fact that happiness is not really what or where we thought it was. Among the unexpected questions he poses: Why are conjoined twins no less happy than the general population? When you go out to eat, is it better to order your favorite dish every time, or to try something new? If Ingrid Bergman hadn't gotten on the plane at the end of Casablanca, would she and Bogey have been better off?

©2006 Daniel Gilbert; (P)2006 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"An absolutely fantastic book that will shatter your most deeply held convictions about how your own mind works. Ceaselessly entertaining." (Steven D. Levitt, author of Freakonomics)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (1639 )
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4.1 (386 )
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  •  
    Terril Lowe 06-09-06
    Terril Lowe 06-09-06 Member Since 2002
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    "Great Book!"

    Stumbling on Happiness is a must-hear. The author does a masterful job of explaining and summarizing scientific data on the topic of human happiness. He specifically does NOT promise to give you tools to become more happy; just to better understand why you aren’t. And while the book is certainly no how-to guide, I nonetheless found the information to be quite useful in figuring out how to increase my happiness quotient, and even more useful in figuring out key factors affecting the happiness of people I habitually interact with.

    The author reads the book, and does a nice job. The style is breezy (but not simplistic) and fairly funny. It held my interest every minute.

    23 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    reggie p PA 01-09-07
    reggie p PA 01-09-07 Member Since 2003

    reggie

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    "Stumbling on a good book"

    I really wasn't in the mood to read this book but felt that it was something I needed to do. I thought it was going to be boring and hard to get through. I wanted to get it over with so I downloaded it and hit the play button.

    Boy was I surprised.

    This book turned out to be one of the best books I have listened to to date, and I've listened to a lot of books. Gilbert's writing is light, and easy to understand. His narration is great, too. He has a wonderful sense of humor and provides numerous examples to get his points across.

    Gilbert talks about why our memories are so problematic, how narrow our perception of reality really are, and what makes us terrible predictors of our own happinesse. He shows how our present feelings influence memories of our past as well as our imagination of the future. He also talks about how self-deception, perceptions of regret, and freedom of choice can contribute to or undermine our happiness.

    The book isn't meant to be a self-help book, but the understanding I gained, definitely helped me.
    I loved this book and will probably listen to is several more times.


    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe San Diego, CA, USA 07-24-06
    Joe San Diego, CA, USA 07-24-06
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    "Insightful, funny must-read"

    Gilbert's book is fascinating, funny, and inspirational and should be read by everyone who wants to know more about human behavior or who wants to stimulate their brain a little. One of the first studies Gilbert mentions is one that showed how learning new information actually makes us humans happy. This was certainly the case for `Stumbling,' especially when you add all the witty personalized remarks about one's brother-in-law eating cheese dip on the couch and various other anecdotal comments to help prove his points. On the other hand, while most of the book focuses on fascinating psychological findings and scientific studies, he doesn't tie them in concretely to his ultimate conclusion of why people aren't happy when they think they're supposed to be.

    Ironically, Gilbert falls into a trap, which he criticizes within his own book. Two-thirds into the book, the author notes that the ending of an event leaves a more permanent mark than the event as a whole, and this is the case especially when one is disappointed at the end of an event. Gilbert uses `Schindler's List' as an example of how the monologues at the end ruined a great film up until then. The author's memory of the entire film was negative due to this. Unfortunately, after a nearly flawless book, `Stumbling' suffers from a similarly marring section near the end. After fully explaining every point he has until the end, when the last section arrives, Gilbert throws in undeveloped ideas about making money and having children as the root of unhappiness in today's society. It's one of those instances where you can instantly come up with questions that would put his points in doubt.

    I was conscious of his overpowering ending theory, however, and I refused to let this cloud my judgement of the entire book as a whole. What `Stumbling' can offer is too good to be tarnished by a last-minute unfounded theory.

    Overall, however, this is a very good book.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Saulius AlytusLithuania 03-01-08
    Saulius AlytusLithuania 03-01-08
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    "A must read (listen)"

    I had my expectations before reading (well, listening to) this book. And not only it met them, it exceeded them by far. It's a well written and well narrated book by the author himself. The book is scientific by nature, but it's put together in simple terms, full of examples and spiced up with a delicate sense of humor. The book gives a great insight of how human mind works, and it doesn't require the reader to have any prior knowledge of psychology whatsoever. I can responsibly say that this book is a real eye-opener. Definitely a must read for anyone who is at least remotely interested in how that meatloaf we call brain works.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Bedford, MA, USA 10-18-06
    David Bedford, MA, USA 10-18-06
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    "Not what you expect but insightful"

    I had trouble rating this because the quality depends upon your goals. This book will not help you to be happy but helps you understand many of the psychological aspects of happiness. It is more of an intellectual read, in a light hearted positive manner, about the subject of happiness from a university level psychology professor. It's practicality is to me somewhat limited, but overall useful in broadening my mind on the subject. I found it interesting and engaging.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kestrel Oregon 10-09-06
    Kestrel Oregon 10-09-06 Member Since 2006
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    "A fascinating look at the human psyche"

    If you're looking for a self-help book about becoming happy, don't bother with this one. It contains very little advice, and what advice it has to offer, you probably won't take. Go find some other books that will tell you how to be happy.

    And when they don't work, come back to this book to find out why.

    "Stumbling on Happiness" is not a self-help book. It doesn't claim to be a self-help book. Instead, it provides an in-depth look at human character and why we have such a hard time finding happiness, though we are always chasing after it. From the "tomorrow will be pretty much like today, but with rocket cars" ideas about the future, to our own highly fallible memories, Daniel Gilbert takes the reader on a tour of human happiness, self-awareness, metacognition, and memory to explain why the bliss we seek always seems to be just around the corner, but never quite within grasp.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
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    Ojas Evanston, IL, USA 05-20-06
    Ojas Evanston, IL, USA 05-20-06 Member Since 2005
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    "A pleasant surprise"

    It was an entertaining read. A little long with a lot of detailed explainations but overall quite informative and thought provoking. worth a read

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stuart Frisco, TX, USA 06-15-06
    Stuart Frisco, TX, USA 06-15-06
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    "Excellent Observation of Human Nature"

    After recently making a major life changing decision, I wondered why the reality of this change didn't seem to match my expectations. Where did I go wrong in my thinking? Dr. Gilbert answers this question and others like it. This is a fascinating view of the human mind, and it's search for happiness. The conclusions are simple, but journey to reach them will change the way you think.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey A. Sherman Broomfield, CO USA 02-04-08
    Jeffrey A. Sherman Broomfield, CO USA 02-04-08 Member Since 2001
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    "Not a self help book"

    I really enjoyed Stumbling on Happiness. It reminded me a great deal of Freakonomics. It is a highly entertaining piece psychology writing designed for mass-consumption (rather than a scholarly journal). It's title makes it sound like a self-help book. It is not. It is a science book (though a fun one).

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 10-06-13
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 10-06-13 Member Since 2002

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

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    "One of my Favorites"

    This is one of the few books that I would recommend to virtually anyone. It is funny and engaging with an obvious, but almost universally ignored thesis, that people don’t have good strategies to achieve happiness. The author demonstrates this in quite a few humorous and compelling ways. I am a big believer in the basic advice in this book. If you want to be happy, find people like yourself, who are older than you, and ask them what has made them happy and what they would have done differently. Although this seems rather obvious, it is seldom done, and even more seldom taken to heart. I recommend listening to this book with an open mind, seeing the ideas as obvious, but nevertheless seeing surprising and counter-intuitive.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
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