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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.
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Critic Reviews

"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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Terril Lowe on 06-09-06

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.

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38 of 38 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Joe on 07-24-06

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.

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20 of 20 people found this review helpful

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