Last night I finished Barry Schwartz‘s The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, the final book in my informal study of positive psychology and the science and economics of happiness. The other books I read were:
- Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert
- Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by Martin E. P. Seligman
- The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt
- The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want by Sonja Lyubomirsky
And the ones I intend to read later this year on this topic are:
- Happiness: Lessons from a New Science by Richard Layard
- The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness by Yongey Rinpoche Mingyur
Anyway, I enjoy reading many books in one subject area to really learn a lot from different sources. What’s great about this is that each book in the subject area gets easier to read as you become more familiar with the terms specific to that topic. But along with that comes the feeling that every book is kind of the same!
I’d say that while The Paradox of Choice does mention research done by Martin E. P. Seligman (Authentic Happiness), Sonja Lyubomirsky (The How of Happiness) and Robert H. Frank (The Economic Naturalist and Choosing the Right Pond), this book is most like Daniel Gilbert‘s Stumbling on Happiness.
I really enjoyed Stumbling on Happiness, more than The Paradox of Choice, though I suspect that may simply be because of the order in which I read them; thus The Paradox of Choice no longer seems fresh or innovative.
I also suspect that the reason I was not overly impressed by The Paradox of Choice is because this book was published in 2004 and now in 2008, many of the findings in this book are commonly accepted and well known. For example, I’ve read many articles in the NYTimes in recent years about the idea that fewer choices lead to a boost in happiness though most people believe that more choices equals greater happiness (sometimes called the tyranny of choice):
- January 22, 2004 – “A Nation of Second Guesses” by Barry Schwartz
- December 7, 2004 – “With So Many Choices, No Wonder You Need Help” by Virginia Postrel
- January 26, 2006 – “Is Freedom Just Another Word for Many Things to Buy?” by Barry Schwartz, Hazel Rose Markus and Alana Connor Snibbe
- November 7, 2006 – “Mr. Bland Goes to Washington” by Barry Schwartz
- April 12, 2007 – “Unnatural Selections” by Barry Schwartz
- May 14, 2007 – “Web Videos Let Car Buyers Survey Their Many Choices” by Bob Tedeschi
- July 2, 2007 – “Money for Nothing” by Barry Schwartz
- September 24, 2007 – “TV Remote Moves Over for a Mouse” by David Carr
- February 26, 2008 – “The Advantages of Closing a Few Doors” by John Tierney
- April 17, 2008 – “To Cut or What? The World Butts In” by Anna Jane Grossman
Okay, well I didn’t realize that Schwartz himself wrote many of these NYTimes pieces…still that definitely explains why the material did not seem fresh to me. I felt the same way when I read Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, when I was consciously aware of having read many of the examples from the book in NYTimes articles by the authors.
Anyway, I don’t want to give you the impression that I didn’t like The Paradox of Choice. I did enjoy it, I just didn’t find it as exciting as many of the other books I’ve read lately on positive psychology and the psychology and economics of happiness.