Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Psychological research has been digging about in that highly subjective matter – personal happiness. It’s against a background of consumer culture which offers ‘solutions’ about how we can be ‘made’ to be happy.¬† These offers come in various forms of chemical compound, guru generated bullshit and lifestyle choices which (not co-incidentally) cost a lot of money. These manipulations have been documented by William Davies in his 2015 book ‘The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business sold us Well-Being’ (

In this book Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert ( summarises and presents findings from systematic research into how happy states of mind really come about. He illustrates how our basic drive to satisfy our desires is often misguided, and also intrinsically linked to some of the most long-standing and contentious questions about human nature.

The research findings are conveyed in a lively prose with many entertaining asides. Akin to much psych. research of this sort, it shows how much is going on in our minds beneath the level of conscious awareness. To that extent it’s out of our control, and this realisation can be disconcerting. Whether it makes you happy or not, this is an entertaining and informative read. Spoiler – 1) it’s a by-product of being engaged with life 2) it’s largely out of your control, so hang on in there, and good things may happen.

Check if this thought provoking popular science book is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at

320 pages in Harper Perennial

First published 2007

ISBN  978-0007183135

Daniel Gilbert

Professor Daniel Gilbert

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