Just published in paperback in the US. Order now!
"Takes every self-help book you've ever read and turns it inside out… a deeply insightful and entertaining book" – Héctor Tobar, Los Angeles Times
"A fascinating, wide-ranging exploration of negativity, positivity, failure, success and what it means to be happy.… This broad approach toward harnessing our 'negative capability' deserves wide readership; the author’s nonprescriptive message has the potential to effect genuine, lasting changes for people who find happiness just out of reach" – Kirkus Reviews starred review
For a civilisation so fixated on achieving happiness, we seem remarkably incompetent at the task. Self-help books don’t seem to work. Few of the many advantages of modern life seem capable of lifting our collective mood. Wealth – even if you can get it – doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. Romance, family life and work often seem to bring as much stress as joy. We can’t even agree on what ‘happiness’ means. So are we engaged in a futile pursuit? Or are we just going about it in exactly the wrong way? What if it’s our constant efforts to feel happy that are making us miserable?
In this fascinating new book, Oliver Burkeman introduces us to an unusual collection of people – experimental psychologists and Buddhists, terrorism experts, spiritual teachers, business consultants, philosophers – who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. They argue that ‘positive thinking’ and relentless optimism aren’t the solution, but part of the problem. And that there is an alternative, ‘negative path’ to happiness and success that involves embracing failure, pessimism, insecurity and uncertainty – those things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Thought-provoking, counter-intuitive and ultimately uplifting, The Antidote is a celebration of the power of negative thinking.
How do you solve the problem of human happiness? It’s a subject that has occupied some of the greatest philosophers of all time, from Aristotle (in his Nicomachean Ethics) to Paul McKenna (in his Change Your Life In Seven Days: The World’s Leading Hypnotist Shows You How). But how do we sort the good ideas from the terrible ones? Over the past few years, Oliver Burkeman has travelled to some of the strangest outposts of the ‘happiness industry’ in an attempt to find out. In Help!, the first collection of his popular Guardian Weekend magazine columns, Burkeman presents his findings. It’s a witty and thought-provoking exploration that punctures many of self-help’s most popular myths, while also offering clear-headed, practical and often counterintuitive advice on a range of subjects, from stress, procrastination and insomnia to wealth, laughter, time management and creativity. It doesn’t claim to have solved the problem of human happiness. But it might just bring us one step closer.
"The Antidote is a gem. Countering a self-help tradition in which "positive thinking" too often takes the place of actual thinking, Oliver Burkeman returns our attention to several of philosophy's deeper traditions and does so with a light hand and a wry sense of humor. You'll come away from this book enriched – and, yes, even a little happier."
Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind and Drive
"Burkeman balances the ideas of the deepest thinkers, thoughts on mortality, and his own foray into Buddhist meditation with tremendously funny anecdotes… [his] ability to present sentiments in fresh, delightfully sarcastic packaging will appeal to the happy, the unhappy, and those who have already found a peaceful middle ground."
"A marvellous synthesis of good sense, which would make a bracing detox for the self-help junkie"
Julian Baggini, The Guardian
"Quietly subversive, beautifully written, persuasive and profound, Oliver Burkeman's book will make you think – and smile."
Alex Bellos, author of Alex’s Adventures in Numberland
"Addictive, wise and very funny. Burkeman never takes himself too seriously, but the rest of us should."
Tim Harford, author of Adapt and The Undercover Economist
"This is a genuinely useful book; Burkeman is not in the business of pouring automatic scorn; he really does want us to become slightly happier...you won’t need to read another self-help book again"
Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian