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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

The audiobook edition of Happy, read by Derren Brown.

Everyone says they want to be happy. But that's much more easily said than done. What does being happy actually mean? And how do you even know when you feel it?

In Happy Derren Brown explores changing concepts of happiness - from the surprisingly modern wisdom of the Stoics and Epicureans in classical times right up until today, when the self-help industry has attempted to claim happiness as its own. He shows how many of self-help’s suggested routes to happiness and success – such as positive thinking, self-belief and setting goals – can be disastrous to follow and, indeed, actually cause anxiety.

Happy aims to reclaim happiness and to enable us to appreciate the good things in life, in all their transient glory. By taking control of the stories we tell ourselves, by remembering that ‘everything’s fine’ even when it might not feel that way, we can allow ourselves to flourish and to live more happily.

©2016 Derren Brown (P)2018 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"Deeply informative, moving, wise and full of love." (Alain de Botton) 

"Crammed with wisdom and insight.... I'm going to recommend it to everyone I know." (Stephen Fry)

"Witty, useful and beautifully written." (The Sunday Times)

What listeners say about Happy

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Privileged perspective

In general terms I think this book has a lot to offer. The chapter about death is very useful, eye opening and made me feel a lot better about it.

However, I can't help but feel the points Derren makes throughout the book, are very easy to make when you live a life of privilege. And also very easy to practice when you have certain privileges.

As someone struggling with debilitating pain, illness and disability, no way to make an income and the range of problems that come as a result of that- there is so much in this book that I simply cannot apply to my life. Sometimes the generalizing statements Derren made in the book, were very triggering just because they assumed a lot about the reader and weren't very inclusive. Sometimes an acknowledgement would be made to people in very difficult life changing situations etc. But it seems Derren views that to be a very small minority of people, smaller than perhaps the reality.

I read this book because I hoped I could learn something to help manage the struggles in my life. But instead I felt like I was reading a book that would help me if only I didnt have these struggles at all.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Death defying

It must be a truly great audio book to keep an old, self help book cynic entertained for fourteen and a half hours. I was lucky to have the former Chief Rabbi; now Lord Sachs, as my philosophy lecturer at Middlesex Poly but I'd have settled for the audacious Derren Brown. His enthusiasm for the Stoics considered lives as contrasted with our daily pap of positive thinking is great fun. The. last chapter makes clear that the Stoics didn't have all the answers to a fulfilled life and the current focus on mindfulness is beneficial but they'll do for me. As well as being superbly presented this book is well researched with direct quotes from philosophers, psychologists, authors, songwriters, celebrrities and, poignantly, from his fans. One of his fans dying of cancer, provides the most uplifting, happy way of facing death I,he ever read. This is a serious book on balancing our thoughts and actions against the slings and arrows, but there is humour too. The author's views on why being rich and famous is unlikely to be a recipe for happiness is worthy of a stand up comedy spot. He is refreshingly honest throughout and never patronising. I felt even luckier to have lived 66 fulfilling and fun years after listening to this and I learned so much that this is now the top self help book I will, happily, recommend:

41 people found this helpful

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Expecting more

Being a fan of Derren I was disappointed. I found the book over baring and pretentious. His ego and faux pas of people’s beliefs was annoying. Iv been trough a lot the past couple of years especially recently and I am by no means religious but I do believe in positive thought and keeping happy demeanour can change an outcome because it has the power to help you and the others who rely on you. Maybe this book went there but like I’v stated his arrogance and disregard for people’s beliefs put me off.

8 people found this helpful

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Happy

The liberation of reconnecting with my own story, as this book so delicately suggests, has provided me the means to begin to live a more full and considered life. The historical significance of where our modern day notion of happiness derived itself and how best to apply the interest of self and simply being leave me in a state of otherwise unknown bliss and tranquility. Certainly I may more than likely at some point return to a bad time and adopt my old erroneous ways of thinking but I feel now able to step away and examine situations and events with clarity accepting that simply not everything is within my control and that’s fine. Much like the difference between attempting to stop road traffic which would inevitably cause anxiety and stress, I am reminded that to merely sit back and observe things which otherwise are out of my control and embrace them for the way they are, rather than how I would like them to be, is an extremely beautiful and yet simple notion and one which I intend to embody in my day to day life. Amazing book and would recommend to anybody and everybody.

17 people found this helpful

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  • T.
  • 16-09-20

Kicking the Tyres

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. He can fall many times, but it is through wisdom that he will grow!"



I don't think anyone is saying Derren Brown is a great philosopher - just kicking his pram wheels.

He goes on about religion and then to me he gets on pulpit and use philosophy as his sermon

I don't believe in this.. but... and
If you think

NOT MUCH PHILOSOPHY!

It rubs me up the wrong way when he tries to write a florid tone. It like a scrapping of the chalkboard.
Forced, and scrapping - fingernails ripping down a wall.

Still Listening will amend reviews as I go along - Chapter 8
No goldfish were hurt in this review, as they were deaf before-hand couldn't be bothered to read it.

"Derren has started with his own moral viewpoint - painting it WHITE, it is just a white lie,
A finger at the book, another finger at the philosophy - Oh, it was inconvenient

I knew this person has picked at what he likes, a finger in one eye, not looking at himself.
No really understanding philosophy


Soon as I heard this in chapter 11 (audible) all his magic cards fell down. He didn't slip off the wagon, he cradled his ignorance within his arms and gulped down - the knowledge, stuck in a thumb and said what a good boy I am!

I think the first three chapters are a rant. There are a lot of charlatans about even thousands of years ago to get your coin.
This is nothing new, I just thought I would add.

He isn't wrong, but...keeps wrapping around and around it.

What I would have been interested in miracle worker or or miracle faker, Why do these people with talent to help encourage people take one path and not the other? If you strip their layers down - is there someone who could genuinely help people and feel remorse for their actions? Transformation is an amazing story!

Like people who have a genius ability to steal money - you cough and say ever thought that genius could be used to make money? A little bit easier for you, your family ?

I wonder if anyone has had the guts to do that presentation in a prison? If any jaws dropped in the audience!

The main thing I am missing on how do people know how to kick the tyres in this situation, might have helped some people.

Stories were a bit whinny one-dimensional - line 1 of story same tone as line 120 - Would have liked a titter here and a tear there, snort laugh there, but I suppose that editor should have helped a little more with the style.

I am on Chapter 5 and the chapters are very long, it is like someone sprouting their own thoughts out into their goldfish bowl. But it more like someone dripping gravy down their chin, as we listen to another spoonful of philosophy and their reflection on how it relates to this song or movie or song or artist..etc... Wipe your chin!

Intellectuals or liberals would probably call meditations of Derren Brown .. I would call it a lot...

I am not saying he doesn't have some points, if this is how he does magic trick I am going to need a nappy as bladder won't make it til the break - Chapters are too long and lots of circumlocution - looked that word up tick for me!

Each generation will put their own stone upon another and that will best for their generation.
Right or wrong I don't walk barefoot, if I did I would avoid gravel.

In brief the chapter are TOO long, stop blowing bubbles in your goldfish bowel your use of language was DULL

IN BRIEF MORE TO THE POINT IN CHAPTERS - no more puffy bubbles to try to show your excellency of thought, and Shakespearean use of vocabulary - i think was doing my own impression of a goldfish by sighing so much!!!

I have gone through another chapter and it just seems like he wants to describe a history of philosophy, but it just seems to be the wrong format

I wish it was background - practical - background - practical - repeat, repeat.. A history of the cooking, how do you make the food or bake the cake! Here we get small snippets of history of the philosophers...
I think it describing things is now becoming annoying.


I would have made him do practical philosophy first then do the background and relate to the practical.
He just goes on .. like writing a debate on philosophy for a Phd or Masters.
He is getting a grade D from me, at the moment.

I pity the poor teacher who has to tell, not to drift.
Professor: Do you like skiing any chance Derren"?
Derren:" Well, Yes!"
Professor; "You might remember writing doesn't like zig-zags, Glad you like skiing keep it on the slopes!
Drift is not good in writing, nor covering everything in a plethora of snow, by that I mean words"

It is that dreaded word "and".. "and"..."and"..."and"

Onward.. it has to get better the writing or the editing and publishing.

Chapter 8 - gulp too many chapters to go.

Chapter 9 - Chapter 10 on Audible.

It is great we get to experience Derren's use in the real-word.
But, alas I see a crack, a small pebble has scuffed into view.


Chapter 11
The reason for Derren mentions that he and a friend wanted to go on dinner or lunch to catch and didn't want another friend to come along. As he might want to join them As not hurt that friend's feeling they gave a small lie, a white lie. The friend found out and was hurt. All was resolved in the end with explanations.
Resolution done.

The Great Philosophers said virtue and mortality are important. It is like you on a journey had you have two sandals and you walk that journey as you, There is much to distract you, and you start to see distractions, should you move the sandals over cumbersome hurdles?

But your sandals are sturdy and you move on. Then one, day you find a stone in the sandel, which becomes a hole. Where did they stone come from? Why is there a hole in the sandal

Why is there a hole? You lied. The point being from my limited knowledge the great philosophers knew this simple logic.
A ripple in the waves, dust, sand, stone. The ego rubbing against you. From standing straight you bend and crouch, until you are on the ground. How far can you run with one stone in the shoe, two, three or four.




Like any Newtonian physicist: "For every action there is another equal opposite action -
If you lie do you not think that applies to you!"



Lie you tell has not effect on you?
Does it?

Yes, because you broke the principle of the philosophy. The whole point of this book -
Virtue Not righteousness.


If there has to be one basic rule: Be honest with yourself, that does not mean cruel!



Derren has started with his own moral viewpoint - painting it WHITE, it is just a white lie,
A finger at the book, another finger at the philosophy - Oh, it was inconvenient

I don't think anyone is saying Derren Brown is a great philosopher - just kicking his pram wheels.
To walk your path, mentally, spiritually, and physically, but not holding many pebbles.


Improving with personal stories and a more personal writing style as the book goes along

Chapter 12
It is about fame and riches and his is own personal view on that matter. There are lot of people who have walked a way from both.


He is asking for his personal space. Nothing wrong in having that, and space and privacy should be allowed But, unless you can re-create the world to what you want, as soon as you accept those shiny coins, ask yourself is this what you want?

Speak to the staff at the establishment to ask them to intervene on your behalf
"Sorry Madam/Sir our guest here.. has asked for some privacy, he/she says there are other occasion where he is happy to..
But at this moment he/she requests that you ..."

Like most jobs, you have to give a little bit of give and take. If Derren didn't want it, there is nothing stopping him giving it all away and moving to Alaska?

Again if people ask for photos, just be honest with them. If you want to be liked and loved well, start with honesty to them and to yourself; mostly yourself. The same with card tricks, and list of other things

In more blunt philosophy don't try to be liked all the time - but do be honest!

I didn't need 30 minutes of a whine.
To me be honest with yourself first, then with others - no white lies (Moby Dick)

Glad there is less huff and puff in the recent chapters.

Chapter 13 (Audible) Time - Death - Afterlife - Yawn!

Sigh. Philosophy is not an opinion, nor logic.
It just the person looking at the waves crashing upon the beach

Death and time. Well as an Aborigine would look perplexed time? What do you mean by that abstract concept you have constructed ? The UFO zooms past and you hear the titter of squeaky laughter.

I just sigh, I want my slice of so-called fourth-dimension back, please!
You keep your one-dimensional opinion and here is some change - no balance.


I fear Mr. Brown does push his on thoughts upon us, As I look closely I see just nothing but, a view.
Nice. I think you over-exposed it too much with self, self self.

He drags us to see the following statement:
Doom, doom, we are all going to die! Then spins us lo appreciate the uniqueness of you.

He does not do it justice like Rutger Hauer in the Original "Bladerunner",
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Death - You could take decades to discuss in philosophy. Mr. Brown does it in a few minutes
I think that says a lot.

His views on religions spring into sight like a mad hare. I just wish this had been edited out.

It isn't even to do with does God exist or not, just no philosophical argument

He comes in like a two-dimension being - my opinion - BIG SIGH!!!!
So you describe mathematical theory of dimensions but only have one opinion - GRUMBLE!!!!!

If he had an interesting new view-point, no! It is not about which side, but at least be able to argue that angle or argue multiple angles, It should be to do with philosophical debate!

If you can't your a flat-liner - go that way and fall off!

Sigh!

Chapter 16 (Audible)

Reverend Brown


This chapter is Mr.Brown's bible thumping philosophy!
I believe, I believe ...I yawned, and yawned...
There was no philosophy, just him putting his thoughts into some kind of pyramid and building why
it is important to him. I kept pushing fingers through the paper walls


Lots of quotes from different books trying to sermonise that using different paradigms
that we are born and die, but are there to allow to the future generations to move forward.
We here by holding the ladder for the next generation to follow. Doom and gloom all is meaningless
if there is nothing to follow.

If I bought the paper version of this book, it would not go to a book bank, it would be recycled by myself
in the bin. Future generations would have to write their own books. But like the Zen philosophy he has not mentioned
People write books, not the other way round.

I looked at my cat and I knew that he didn't really care either way
He wasn't holding any ladder for cats or for me. I wanted to show him this book
But, I knew at some level of understanding that is beyond me, he would show distain
and look away, as greater philosophical insight - you are in cat's terms a moron!
Then lick some part of his anatomy, head, leg, and other bits depending on how he feels.
I think it translates the same in Parrot.

I think Derren's parrot was trying to prevent the writing this book by taking
pieces of Derren's keyboard to prevent the upsetting writing of this manuscript.
The poor parrot's embarrassment that a family member could write such a flakey personal model I am sure upset him greatly.

To put in Mr. Brown's simple logic does the magic work, does his philosophy work? I don't think he has tried the philosophy in practical terms.

Quote this and that, this book, that book, this film ..
He uses them when he believes that they fortify his perspective on HIS philosophy


But, we give Derren's parrot an animal valour medal for trying
if only, so much preaching could have been avoided, we salute you dear brave bird.

To put in another way, he is like a French intellectual theorizes about cakes and bread. Not knowing how to make them nor hearing the roar of the crowd outside - practical/reality.

Show me how it works Mr. Brown? Don't use others. You can be the proverbial cat in the experiment?
Please eat the stale bread and be happy!
Show me, please!




I see the end of the book - Opinions!!!

Sermonise!Sermonise! Sermonise!

Double-Sigh!


Please, I don't want gills!


Final Few Chapters
I wanted to give it time. But on thinking about it, I found that he branches off from the philosopy
for his own view in life. To be honest there has been some success which Derren achieved, but
I don't think it something that people can take away and use themselves.

It like a bad reiteration of Marcus Aurelius Meditations by Derren Brown. there is no wisdom
but opinionated view of Derren Brown.

It is like a lecture where we begin with great philosophy and they we stroll onto Derren's view.
As we go from the hard beaten track of the philosophers that come down the centures we seem to be
at the oracle of Derren Brown.

I look around and wonder, shouldn't we back there, reviewing those great philosophers
But, we plod along and it becomes more personal view on life. I see the reference on quotes of other lummarines thorugh the ages, and some stylish writing to add some gleamer to make a thing more a fact or knowledge

Philosophy in greatest form is a person looking at the waves crashing on the beach, each different from the last.
As we grow, we should not look to gain facts or knowledge by wisdom from those waves

To me I see a lot of reference to fact, but not could say yes that is wisdom that Derren has made through being on the beach.
I can't think of one item in the book. Yes, there are references to others, but wisdom, I missed it.

Can this book give something to someone, yes, there are some facts and knowledge. But wisdom you can take from being on this beach, I don't think so.

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. He can fall many times, but it is through wisdom that he will grow!
The hard shell of words will break!"

Be kinder to yourself
Less in the puddle that is you!


7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Derren the intellect & sage....emerges!

As shared by many others this is a witty & entertaining book.
Derren peels back the layer on parts of his “manipulation“ model in psychology and equally importantly he dives deeper and thoughtfully into how the mind builds reality.....moment-to-moment.
His reflective qualities also shine brightly throughout and some of the commentary is certainly uncomfortable & provoking, as it should be.
In my view, if you rate the tremendously talented Mr Brown - then this is a must listen/read.

21 people found this helpful

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interesting. bit long winded

A great introduction to a few philosophical perspectives regarding Happiness. worth reading/Listening to. Derren at time quite humorous. but as stated a little drawn out at times, but we'll worth a listen/read.

5 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Psychology meets Philosophy meets Derren

This will easily go down as one my favourite listens of the year (despite it having only really started).

Derren Brown makes philosophy digestible and relevant to the everyday. This book is a trove of intriguing ideas which help you to examine your own life and experiences.

It goes beyond 'how to be more happy' and becomes a book about life, death, relationships and everything in between.

I highly recommend this to anyone with a unexplored interest in psychology. It is a fascinating listen.

4 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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I just got bored.

Language was too much and became hugely unrelatable. I like Derren but this was so hard to follow at times.

3 people found this helpful

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Boring and unrelatable

I really like Derren's work, and his performance is great, but this book is far from his finest hour - it's actually boring. I couldn't relate to most of the things in the book and about halfway through I noticed I was just tuning it out, so I did the equivalent of going to see a movie in the cinema, and walking out halfway through.

2 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Sam Russell
  • Sam Russell
  • 07-04-19

A witty and thoughtful take on stoicism

This is a breath of fresh air in a genre cluttered with empty platitudes and wishful thinking. One would expect no less from the renowned debunker of charlatans, but even Derren manages to leave the listener pleasantly surprised.

Derren wades slowly but surely into the murky waters of life's biggest questions. Why are we here? What should we do with our short time on earth? What would we like to do with our lives?

This book will make you think hard and probably leave you with more questions than answers, but it will definitely point you in the right direction and leave you better than it found you.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • sarge
  • 30-05-19

Stoicism for the ages!

If you want to know how to live life and live it well then this is the book! Derren Brown explains how Stoicism can be applied to help oneself live in the present moment & to let go of what cannot be controlled. It’s like cognitive behavioral therapy delivered in a methodical, approachable, & reality centered way. It left me feeling well...quite happy.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-06-19

Excellent primer on living a considered life.

The book isn't a stoic book exactly. It's philosophical, and the philosophy that he leans on most is certainly Stoicism.

The book is partly a much needed corrective the mawkish and naive pablum that fills the self help bookshelves and, unfortunately, people's desperate minds.

This book is a serious, realistic look at what can really be done to live a better, more fulfilled and happy life. This is a book about what matters, really, and how to focus on that.

If you're new to Stoicism this is an excellent place to start. It's modern, engaging and relavant. If you are long down the road of Stoicism much of this book will be retread, and that's okay.

But, there is a lot of this book that isn't Stoicism. He draws from many sources, referencing all sorts of sciences, philosophy and schools of thought. It's worth a read for that alone.

And, Darren reads it. He's an excellent narrator and you get the benefit of the passion and inflection that only the author could convey, with no downsides. He could no doubt be a narrator if he cared to. He's fully professional.

This book is underrepresented by the quantity of reviews and accurately represented by the quality of them. It's excellent. I'll be recommending it to many people for the foreseeable future.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Lamont Hislop
  • 23-06-21

What a great book...

This book was just what I needed at this time in my life. I was kind of negative, and needed to change. This book helped me very much. I will need to read this many times to get the full impact. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mike A Klotz
  • 26-03-19

Must read/listen

The timing of this book couldn't be any better. In our modern world full of victim-hood and the cult of me, me, me we can all use the quiet, but firm, reality check Derren so eloquently delivers.

1 person found this helpful

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  • BRANDI
  • 24-04-22

Brilliant, practical, and compelling!

This book is AMAZING! Darren’s clever suggestions for implementing Stoic/ psychological principles to one’s everyday life, as a valuable solution to eternal human struggles. It’s beautifully written and read by the author. I highly recommend this book to anyone truly curious about the j human condition. It may be trite to say it, but ‘Happy’ is an instruction Manuel for life.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • BKFERN
  • 14-04-22

Valuable but one suggestion

I got so much out of this book. I almost didn’t compete it because the first few chapters are a rant against a specific self help group. It felt personal and unnecessary. So if you skip that, the book in insightful and will teach you much about the evolution of various philosophies and more importantly how to use them in your daily life. I got a lot out of this and I’m grateful for the ideas I garnered.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 14-02-22

Better everytime I listen

this book has a fantastic job consolidating what our excellent and true ideas that have been tested through time. but also helps you Branch out and find more books that could be of interest. I must read for anyone interested learning more about how to go about learning more about yourself

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael Borda
  • 12-01-22

An accessible intro to Stoicism.

Brown does an excellent job in creating an accessible introduction to stoicism. Fantastic treatment of a useful philosophy.

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  • Justus Scott
  • 31-10-21

Multiple listen-throughs: a neccesary joy

Derren Brown's "Happy" is one of my favorite books of all time. I loved reading it and I love it even more when I listen to him read it himself. His cheeky sense of humor is made all the more amusing when you can hear him laugh at his own jokes. The depth of wisdom he shares sinks in even more when you hear the seriousness of mind with which he shares the knowledge of a subject he clearly adores. I buy this book for anyone I care about whether they are struggling through a difficult time or not. it's always a good read and a better listen.