The Antidote is a series of journeys among people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. What they have in common is a hunch about human psychology: that it's our constant effort to eliminate the negative that causes us to feel so anxious, insecure, and unhappy. And that there is an alternative "negative path" to happiness and success that involves embracing the things we spend our lives trying to avoid. It is a subversive, galvanizing message, which turns out to have a long and distinguished philosophical lineage ranging from ancient Roman Stoic philosophers to Buddhists.
Oliver Burkeman talks to life coaches paid to make their clients' lives a living hell, and to maverick security experts such as Bruce Schneier, who contends that the changes we've made to airport and aircraft security since the 9/11 attacks have actually made us less safe. And then there are the "backwards" business gurus, who suggest not having any goals at all and not planning for a company's future.
Burkeman's new book is a witty, fascinating, and counterintuitive read that turns decades of self-help advice on its head and forces us to rethink completely our attitudes toward failure, uncertainty, and death.
The Antidote is aptly titled: the book is both a cure for what ails most guides to happiness and an anti-self-help title of sorts. Author Oliver Burkeman offers compelling introductions to seven philosophies that capitalize on the reality that capitalize on the reality of the negative – versus the popular and permeating positive – to promote happiness. (Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie).
The Los Angeles Times
Burkeman’s tour of the ‘negative path’ to happiness makes for a deeply insightful and entertaining book. This insecure, anxious and sometimes unhappy reader found it quite helpful.
None of this is new, but Burkeman's 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.
Starred Review. His 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.
The Observer (UK)
What unites [Burkeman’s] travels, and seems to drive the various characters he meets, from modern-day Stoics to business consultants, is disillusionment with a patently false idea that something as complex as the goal of human happiness can be found by looking in a book . . . It’s a simple idea, but an exhilarating and satisfying one.
The Daily Mail (UK)
Fascinating . . . After years spent consulting specialists—from psychologists to philosophers and even Buddhists—Burkeman realised they all agreed on one thing: . . . in order to be truly happy, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions—or, at least, to learn to stop running so hard from them.
The Guardian (UK)
Some of the most truthful and useful words on [happiness] to be published in recent years . . . A marvellous synthesis of good sense, which would make a bracing detox for the self-help junkie
The Telegraph (UK)
This is an excellent book; Burkeman makes us see that our current approach, in which we want happiness but search for certainty—often in the shape of material goods—is counterproductive.
Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind 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
Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist and Adapt
Addictive, wise and very funny. Burkeman never takes himself too seriously, but the rest of us should.
Alex Bellos, author Here's Looking at Euclid
Quietly subversive, beautifully written, persuasive and profound, Oliver Burkeman's book will make you think - and smile.
Thinkers Whose Theories are Critical to Burkeman's The Antidote
The Antidote introduces readers to numerous intriguing thinkers, past and present. Here is a short sampling with brief introductions:
Daniel Wegner professor of psychology at Harvard and director of the Mental Control Laboratory at the University. Wegner's studies concentrate on what he calls "the precisely counterintuitive error," our propensity to do exactly the thing we're trying to avoid. A New York Times opinion piece by Wegner explores the Web's effect on human memory. He is also the author of the book, The Illusion of Conscious Will.
Albert Ellis a non-traditional psychotherapist who began promoting tenets of Stoicism in the 1950s. He founded the Albert...
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