Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine, by Derren Brown

Films to Read Before You Die | Out October 2021

In Happy, Derren Brown explores what philosophy has to say about living a contented life – and what that looks like for the rest of us.

Happiness comes in three parts, or at least it does in Brown’s guide to the subject. He covers why thinking of happiness as a goal is a mistake, Stoicism in history and practice, and, well, Death.

There’s lots of detail here, some practical, some didactic, some personal, but it’s assuredly (and at times, almost academically) written.

If there’s a practical goal, it’s how to apply Stoic principles to your own life, and thereby free yourself from the emotional cul-de-sac of worry, negative thinking and the fear of death or dying.

Happiness is perhaps easier written about than achieved, however, as while there are gems of comfort and philosophical delights, this book is, materially speaking, brick-like.

“Milan Kundera made the enduring point in The Unbearable Lightness of Being that there is no dress rehearsal for life. This is life; this is it, right now. It is a powerful and motivating thought. Each moment you live passes and is gone, never to return. Life is too brief to not consider how to experience it at its best. This is not about bungee jumping or forming an extravagant bucket list. It can happen in the ordinary moments of your everyday life.”


Happy, by Derren Brown.

Quoted edition published by Corgi Books, 2017

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Picture credit: Dan Cook