2013 Summer Book Read
"Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile" by Daniel Nettle
Each year, the entire Concordia campus community reads a selected book. All first-year students participate in a discussion about the book during fall orientation.
Bringing together the latest insights from psychiatry, psychology, and philosophy, Daniel Nettle sheds light on happiness, the most basic of human desires. Nettle examines whether people are basically happy or unhappy, whether success can make us happy, what sort of remedies to unhappiness work, why some people are happier than others, and much more.
The book is packed with fascinating observations. We discover the evolutionary reason why negative thoughts are more powerful than positive ones. We read that happiness varies from country to country, for example, the Swiss are much more happy than Bulgarians. And we learn that, in a poll among people aged 42 years old--peak mid-life crisis time--more than half rated their happiness an 8, 9, or 10 out of 10, and 90% rated it above 5. Nettle, a psychologist, is particularly insightful in discussing the brain systems underlying emotions and moods, ranging from serotonin, to mood enhancing drugs such as D-fenfluramine, which reduces negative thinking in less than an hour; to the part of the brain that, when electrically stimulated, provides feelings of benevolent calm and even euphoria. In the end, Nettle suggests that we would all probably be happier by trading income or material goods for time with people or hobbies, though most people do not do so.
Happiness offers a remarkable portrait of the feeling that poets, politicians, and philosophers all agree truly makes the world go round.
The committee selected this book for three main reasons. First, we believe it is a book that is accessible to our first-year students. The book is inexpensive, small in size, relatively short (185 pages), and is engaging right from the first few pages. Therefore, we believe the students will buy it, read it, and come to our campus ready to discuss the content with their clubs and faculty mentors. Second, we believe that it will engage the campus in a relatively new way on a topic that often can be oversimplified or studied in trivial ways in today's society. Further, the scientific research reported on about happiness will draw in our science division better than some of our most recent book read selections, and therefore we believe it will stimulate the campus community in a new and somewhat unexpected way. Third and finally, the book very directly links to our fall symposium. This will provide a good foundation for our campus learning community to engage with the symposium topic in a deep and meaningful way.
Happiness is available for purchase in the bookstore at a 20% discount.