book coverHighly RecommendNo, I didn't just come upon this book perusing the self-help section of the local Barnes & Noble. (There's just something a little too pathetic about that entire section--too much psychobabble drivel, not enough empirical fact. Then again, what amount of psychobabble drivel isn't too much?) I saw an add for the book in The New York Times Magazine and saw that Both Steven Levitt and Malcolm Gladwell had written very nice blurbs. That's enough for me--I immediately headed to the bookstore (where it was foolishly displayed amid lots of psychobabbly drivel when it clearly belonged either in psychology or science (and no, they're not the same).

Anyway, I didn't let it's unfortunate mingling with the riff raff deter me. It was an excellent book full of insight into the human mind. It's not a book about how to be happy, but a book about the inner workings of our brains. Specifically, why we're so bad at determining our own state of mind and imagining how we will feel in the future. Turns out, much of the problem is that the brain is so good at other things--like making stuff up to fill in for lost memory and make us feel like we live in the best of all possible worlds.

The book is filled with tons of hard empirical science (always a plus), but is not dry. In fact, Gilbert in an engaging and often quite funny writer. Actually, he's a professor of psychology at Harvard who happens to have written a book.

Bottom line: am I a happier person for reading the book? Well, yes and no. Yes, I very much enjoyed the book and I learned a lot--and that always makes me happy. No, I don't now have the secret code to never ending happiness. But I am better prepared to catch my mind when it tries to con me into doing and thinking things I'll later regret. I highly recommend it.