2017 is drawing to a close, and it’s time to check in once more on my 2017 Reading List Challenge.
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At the end of last month, I had read a total of 53 books for the year. That’s 8 books more than my 2017 target, which I passed back in the summer.
I always knew that it was likely that my reading would slow down a little in the last quarter of 2017. It happened last year, and again the year before. Partly it’s because I find it harder to stay motivated to read lots once I’ve hit my target, but also because this last part of the year is so hectic.
And 2017 has been no different to the last two years. I’ve been incredibly hectic over the last few weeks, preparing to visit World Travel Market. And I’ve also been preparing to launch a brand new look for this site in January. Then just for good measure, I decided to take on another new website which will be launching in early 2018.
So I took the decision not to take on any book reviews for a while. My evenings are really busy at the moment, and I have little time for reading. I decided to read some of the books that have been on my TBR pile for much of the year. And the first book I picked up took me a little longer than I expected to work through!
Happy* by Derren Brown
I’ve been a fan of Derren Brown for years, and I really enjoyed reading Tricks of the Mind* a few years back. I love the amazing stunts and illusions that he performs, as well as the way he debunks other people’s tricks and cons.
So when I saw Happy in Foyles, I picked it up right away. I am not a huge fan of self-help manuals in general, and failed dismally to get beyond the first few pages of Gillian Anderson’s We last month. But I thought that if Derren Brown was approaching the subject of happiness, that had to be worth a read.
Now, I would normally usually finish a book of this size (576 pages) in about three evenings. But this book was not quite as easy to skim as I expected.
Happy is definitely more than a self-help manual. It examines the philosophical concept of happiness and how it has changed over the centuries. Derren Brown refers to philosophical schools such as the Stoics and Epicureans, as well as the effect of Christianity on happiness. This is a book that needs to be read thoroughly and sometimes I had to go back and re-read sections. Even now, I feel like I want to go back and read it again from the start.
I particularly enjoyed the final section, which examines how we think about death and the effect that planning a ‘good death’ can have on your life. I think this is a subject that we (as a society) still need to talk more openly about.
Everyone says they want to be happy. But that’s much more easily said than done. What does being happy actually mean? And how do you even know when you feel it?
Across the millennia, philosophers have thought long and hard about happiness. They have defined it in many different ways and come up with myriad strategies for living the good life. Drawing on this vast body of work, in Happy Derren Brown explores changing concepts of happiness – from the surprisingly modern wisdom of the Stoics and Epicureans in classical times right up until today, when the self-help industry has attempted to claim happiness as its own. He shows how many of self-help’s suggested routes to happiness and success – such as positive thinking, self-belief and setting goals – can be disastrous to follow and, indeed, actually cause anxiety. This brilliant, candid and deeply entertaining book exposes the flaws in these ways of thinking, and in return poses challenging but stimulating questions about how we choose to live and the way we think about death.
Happy aims to reclaim happiness and to enable us to appreciate the good things in life, in all their transient glory. By taking control of the stories we tell ourselves, by remembering that ‘everything’s fine’ even when it might not feel that way, we can allow ourselves to flourish and to live more happily.
Happy is a fascinating, entertaining and informative book written in Derren Brown’s dry and witty style. It’s sparked my curiosity, and I would love to learn more about this subject now that I’ve read his book. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wonders whether we’re really supposed to be happy all the time.
And because Happy took me so long to read, it was the only book that I finished during November. So that means that my total now stands at 54 books read during 2017. And there is now less than a month until I close this year’s challenge on 22nd December 2017.