Cover Image: Happy Ever After

Happy Ever After

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A guide to what happiness really is a book that shakes you free of life’s myths.There are so many important points realistic life lessons.A book I will be recommending a life enriching read.#netgalley#penguinuk
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This book is about uncovering the myths of a happy life. Topics include education, wealth, work and children. It's an interesting read with science behind the theories.
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I wanted to love this. I really did. I mean, I enjoy self-help books which are science based, so this seemed like the perfect read.

Unfortunately, it's dull as ditchwater. There's a lot of facts and figures which will be appealing to sociology students, but make it a hard reader to the lay person. 

Each chapter opens with pointless questions about whether you'd rather be happy or [fill in blank] and miserable. When you put things into that context, of course most people will choose happiness for themselves and those we care about, but life is never that black and white.

Ultimately the whole thing can be boiled down to "do what makes you happy and forget about societal pressure." So I've just saved you having to wade your way through this boring tome.  There's nothing or groundbreaking here.

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC without obligation.
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This was a fascinating and surprisingly affirming read for me. Dolan talks a lot about stepping away from narratives that we have been conditioned to follow - marriage, kids, high-paying job, high level of education, etc. - and focusing instead on just... being happy. For me, someone who has had to step away from some social narratives (high-paying [or any] employment; good health) and chosen to step away from others (having kids), reading about the data and studies on whether these things actually do make us happier was extremely interesting. I think the one that shocked me most was the fact that pursuing education didn't make people happier in general - though I also understand it from knowing that the education system doesn't really serve kids in certain ways, and just tries to cram them into boxes that can be a very poor fit. As someone who really loves learning new things, and has a couple of degrees (albeit ones hidden in a cupboard because... I can't work in the way that I probably envisioned whilst getting said degrees), the choice to not learn more isn't something that occurs to me easily.


The way this is broken into sections is brilliant - Dolan takes you through each section with both a view to educating, but also a wry and intelligent tone. At times I did have a little trouble understanding the data that was getting thrown at me, but that could have been because I've been having a particularly bad week when it comes to sleep, and so focus isn't exactly my forte at the moment. Otherwise I found myself really invested in what Dolan was saying, the data he was presenting, and I highlighted a lot of things. I kept thinking, even whilst reading, that this would be an excellent book to revisit when I inevitably got caught up in the narratives of needing to have a conventional job, or when I needed to remind others of why the choice to not have kids is a completely valid one.


I absolutely love books like this one that remind me that happiness isn't going to be found at the end of the (*insert aim here*) rainbow, and that, even when other people on social media tell me that 'if I can do it, then you can' that that isn't...necessarily true. Dolan explores so many facets of what we, as a society, believe to be happy-making, and calmly and carefully deconstructs them and shows us the parts. I think, if we can keep those deconstructed parts in mind a little bit more, we may well be a little less judgey, and a whole lot happier.



{I received an ecopy of this book from Netgalley/Penguin Books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you!!}
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Happy Ever After is an essay on the concept of happiness.  Packed with statistics it will be of interest to sociology students and those wishing to learn about the subject.
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Sweary, intelligent and absolutely fascinating. Cannot recommend this book highly enough to my friends (I’m driving them all mad)

Was lucky enough to catch his lecture at Hay Festival and can confirm he’s every bit as brilliant in person. 

A must-read.
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A thought-provoking read that makes one reconsider the things in life that we so often take for granted. Dolan’s thesis that we should aim to live our lives the way that suits us best - not necessarily the way that society expects us to - is an important idea that is ignored by our leaders in their obsession with economic success at the cost of quality of life.  Is it any wonder that there is such a high level of stress related illnesses?
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Paul Dolan is a psychologist and this is an educated and well researched book but it is for everyone to read as it is truly fascinating. We have a social norm set up for us and we strive to be "happy" by achieving that norm and woe betide you if you deviate in any way. But Mr Dolan suggests that to be really happy "we need to move from a culture of 'more please' to one of 'just enough'". He believes we should have more respect for people who choose to live their lives to a different set of rules and look to them for ways to increase our own happiness. 

"There is a stigma associated with trying to conform to a narrative and falling short and there is a separate stigma from not trying to conform in the first place."

This is a book that should be read by all sorts of people but maybe most by those who feel there is more to life than the latest gadgets or trends but don't know where to turn to find purpose.

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley in return for an honest review.
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First off - society does need people to challenge accepted thoughts and ideas so Paul Dolan could be providing a valuable public service; but when individuals simply want to see society's accepted haughty, values and ideas replaced by their own, that's perhaps not as valuable.

If you enjoy polemical writing and aren't too upset by the use of data that is deficient in both validity and reliability to provide a secure quantitative basis for hypotheses then this could be the book for you. Sadly, it wasn't for me.
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It has taken me a while to complete this book and not because it was boring. It took me a while because so much of it resonated with me and I wanted to spend the time absorbing it slowly. Full of common sense, I commend it to you as a reminder of all the things that we should each be doing to make lives "happier".
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This felt like an academic read on the subject of happiness. The social narratives that we follow to help us find happiness lead us to wanting more and can make us unhappy. I wasn't keen on the swearing in the book either. An okay read but not a self help book really. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me review this book.
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Based on the description for this book I thought I was going to be reading a self-help book. But instead I found it to be more like a text book for academics on the subject of happiness complete with graphs, or in the case of my kindle ARC no graphs, which wasn't helpful. I can only assume if you buy the kindle edition there will be graphs.

I was off to a bad start with this book when the author proclaimed that as an LSE professor he was not expected to swear. He then goes on to say that there is no correlation to swearing being due to poor vocabulary/and or low intelligence. There is however evidence to suggest that students pay more attention to a teacher who swears! That's my exclamation point. The author then says that swearing is only ever harmful when it is aggressive or abusive and proceeds to litter the book with swearing as if to prove his point. This I found unnecessary and crude and felt it didn't help me learn in the slightest.

The book carries this rather sanctimonious attitude throughout and really I felt I was being preached at. Yes, there are studies in the US and UK reported with "x" results - but we all know about statistics! I thought this book was going to be a little bit more real life than quoting research at me.

At the beginning of each chapter you are asked two questions about yourself and then the same two questions thinking about them in relation to a friend - at the end of each chapter the conclusion is then revealed. When I wrote papers my conclusion had to be a paragraph - succinct, sum up what I had written. Unfortunately the conclusions in this book were so long winded and over many pages, that I lost the point of the conclusion. 

There were a few glimpses of things that I thought - "now this is interesting" but they passed and in the main I found the book unappealing. If you are going to be writing a thesis I can imagine you will find plenty of material to quote in this book. If you are just someone interested in being happier maybe look up the art of hygge!

I'm giving this book 3 out of 5 stars.
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Dolan seeks to bust the common myths about how we think we need to live in order to be happy. i.e. we are sold the fact that education will make us happy, or wealth, or marriage, but when you look at the stats, who's actually happier?

He asks questions at the beginning of every chapter like (totally paraphrasing from memory) 'Would you rather be highly educated but miserable most of the time, or have little education but be happy most of the time?' and the same question about a friend (ie 'would you rather your friend did X or Y') to make us really think about these issues.

It's interesting, and it makes sense when he says we need to start thinking outside of these boxes, to accept that what we perceive as a good job might not actually make us happy (eg many people aspire to work in law and think doing so will make them happy, when actually it's v stressful with long hours). But soon you can predict what he's going to say about each issue and I started sensing a bit of judginess in some of his views (which I'm sure he and many readers wouldn't care about, but it put me off a bit).

It's been a good source of conversation and debate with friends and I'm glad I read it, though I'm not sure I needed to read all of it to get his point.
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An interesting perspective on reaching an enlightened state without being bogged down in spirituality. It's a logical and academic approach that will work for some. It admits some exercises require suspension of belief in what a person sees as truth, so there's no idealism in what is trying to be achieved.
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Ahhhh! That is the sound this book evokes. A brisk look at how to make relationships last- those long term married couple secrets- the secret to love and happiness, and not murdering your partner in their sleep! Beautiful, tear evoking, and just sheer loveliness.
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Happy Ever After by Paul Dolan is a book about uncovering myths about a perfect life. These myths, also known as the happiness narrative, are what we tend to think what makes us happy, but often we are better off abandoning this narrative. 

Dolan is a behavioral scientist and thus has, not surprisingly, a very scientific way of looking at this. However, I liked it that he made it more human and relatable by giving his own interpretations of things at times, whilst still leaving space for readers to disagree. The book consistently worked through several topics on which we are vulnerable to the happiness narrative. Ranging from marriage, kids, health, and education there will probably be chapters to which you can relate more than others, but I found several of them to be real eye-openers! 

Furthermore, I really felt that Dolan was his unapologetic self while writing this book. There is some swearing, but he also explains why, and I found it hilarious that somebody actually thought that he should not swear because of his position as an academic. For fuck sake how ridiculous is that! Then there is also this thing with not reading fiction (weird, if you’d ask me but hey, who am I to judge). Besides that this provides for some of the ‘easier’ content of the book, it also taught me another lesson about not falling for the narrative traps that we so easily want to adhere to without realizing if that really is what makes us happy.

This book provided me with some interesting things to think about, it was not filled with jargon and thus a relatively relaxing read. My rating is 3,5 out of 5 stars. I received a digital review copy of this book from Penguin Books (UK) in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own.
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Paul Dolan is a behavioural scientist who makes reference to his working class background a little too much for my liking. He also likes to drop swear words into his writing and public speaking engagements and thinks that those who don’t like that need to shown the error of their thinking. Personally I do not wish my children to hear such vulgar language and think that this is normal. Here’s just one example from his book: “Our family of four lives in a five-bedroom house. Each of us has our own room and the kids have a playroom for fuck’s sake. So why would we need a bigger house? Only to show off, which a lot of arseholes in Hove enjoy doing”.
His book is basically saying that we are all brainwashed into thinking that happiness is brought about by narratives that we hear all the time and grow up with. The book is divided into three sections ‘Reaching’, ‘Related’ and ‘Responsible’ with each section being subdivided into three narratives, namely, wealth, success, education, marriage, monogamy, children, altruism, health and volition.  It gets quite repetitive after the first couple of sections as the basic message is that having a little of each of those nine narratives is good but if you have too much it is detrimental to our happiness. Each of sub-section starts with the same question which is “Would you rather be wealthy/successful/healthy/married/etc  and often feel miserable?” or “Would you rather not be wealthy/successful/healthy/married/etc  and hardly ever feel miserable”. The same question is then asked assuming you are answering for a friend. The sub-sections end with information about how people in the UK and USA responded together with graphs. None of the graphs were visible on the Kindle version I was reading. There were a lot of stories based on scientific research which were interesting but I was often left wondering just how scientific the research was, how were the subjects chosen and how large the samples questioned were.

There’s quite a lot of psychology jargon such as ‘negative utilitarianism, consequentialist, deontological, confirmation bias, satisficing, maximising, etc. but in general these are explained.

I agree with his arguments that too much of a perceived good thing is detrimental to our happiness but there were many cases where I thought he had very clichéd ideas. He seems to think that anyone who shows their holiday photos is simply sending out a message of “hey I’m better than you and I need to show you I’ve paid a lot of money to go this place so my status is higher than you”. I love photos, take a lot and love seeing other peoples’. I don’t regard any of it connected with status. Simply a joy of sharing our happy experiences with others. I stopped putting any photos on Facebook for while as I was slightly embarrassed about some very nice trips we’d had and mindful of how fortunate we were to be able to do them (both from a financial and health perspective). I actually had several people ask why I was no longer posting as my photos cheered them up and they loved seeing different places and experiences via them. As do I of other peoples’ photos.

So I am quite conflicted about this book as I found a lot of the material compelling and interesting but I found other parts rather irritating. The author tells us that he hosted a Channel 5 reality TV show called ‘Make or Break’ which took eight couples to an idyllic holiday destination to test their relationships. I’ve not seen this programme but from snippets of similar programmes I see on TV I’m guessing that this was more about conflict, drama and bad behaviour than about serious psychological studies.

I wonder if I will now be quoted having dared to say I don’t like his language at times. He does seem to like to name and shame his detractors by quoting them in the book and online. 

With thanks to NetGalley and the Penguin Press team for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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In this strangely (and positively) different self-help book, Paul Donlan focuses on explaining to us all the myths of the so-called "successful" life, as well as  the reasons why it is something that can never actually be achieved. 

The book is broken down to simple everyday aspects of our lives,  in which the "perfect" life is founded, like work success, wealth, and marriage. Backed up by actual studies and data, the chapters are both very interesting and enjoyable. Dolan provides examples, asks valid questions, and doesn't fail to amuse with genuine humour. 

All in all, this is a very well-written  and interesting read, one that even people that aren't fans of self-help books can actually enjoy.
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I haven’t heard of Paul Dolan so I was intrigued to by an opportunity to read Happy Ever After. He explores the extent to which an individual is constrained by society’s artificial limitations. In other words, true happiness can only be achieved by wealth, success etc, as defined by a given socially acceptable narrative. We are told what constitutes success, the importance of ambition, 

He carefully draws distinctions between the baseline determined by society and the reality. For example, a highly paid executive in a position of power and influence has it all. Right? Not necessarily. That person may have the face of success, but is deeply unhappy. Why?

Paul Dolan’s insight into why, where and what we should truly value to add meaning to our lives is challenging. Fulfilment isn’t about wealth or title; it’s less tangible. Throw out all the old find a good person, get married and live happily ever after are, basically, unachievable for the majority. So in attempting to follow that pattern, we’re almost bound to fail. He encourages us to live beyond the boundaries.

For many years, before I read this book and whilst I worked, I tried to follow a simple precept; if it makes you happy, do it. Simplistic but true. Not easy to achieve, particularly at work where it challenged difficult options but could cause a rethink. For example, am I happy to chose an option which will make x people lose their job? How can I avoid this?

Overall, I liked the book. Paul Dolan’s academic background comes through, which means it’s not always an easy read. There’s a lot of detail and reinforcement of point. But the basic concept is excellent and I’m all for anyone who challenges society’s constraints. 

My thanks to the publisher for a review copy via Netgalley.
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A quick read by a social scientist examining how far our choices affect our ultimate happiness. I think in many ways I enjoyed this so much because it basically confirmed conclusions I had been coming to for sometime. With that in mind, I can't be considered entirely unbiased. That said, surely much of this is common sense once you let go of the illusion that you must conform? People are happier when they relinquish the conditioning of social narratives is the ultimate conclusion. I'm 100% behind that. I don't know how rigorously tested the facts and stats are but this is an interesting read.
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