The Optimist's/pessimist's Handbook by Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie

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The Optimist's/pessimist's Handbook by Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie

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Buy The Optimist's/pessimist's Handbook by Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Trivia
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: Contrasting quotes and facts provide print bytes on numerous subjects, making this a good browse and a likely candidate for the Christmas present shopping list. Also recommended to inspire school assemblies/class discussion.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 336 Date: November 2008
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 978-0385614115

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With a publication date in early November, the passing Christmas shopper is clearly the target for this book. The Optimist's/ Pessimist's Handbook isn't a self-help book, but a compendium of enlightening snippets. Off the shelf, I think you'd know immediately which relative or friend might enjoy receiving it. So I suggest eschewing Amazon in favour of a real-life bookshop, not least because there will be a shelf full of similar books for a surreptitious and delightful half-hour's browse before choosing.

If gloomy Uncle Percy enjoyed something about grumpy old men in 2006, and one of the several 'celebrations' of old age last year, then this book might fast-forward his thinking. If he is also an aficionado of Quote Unquote and a miser to boot (so he would never read only half a book), so much the better. The book is divided equally between optimism and pessimism, with contrasting quotes, facts, comments and useful web sites to illustrate more than sixty categories in each half. It's for dipping, rather than continuous reading, borrowed back from Percy on Christmas afternoon with a glass of scotch in the other hand, maybe. Alternatively, a few quotes under your belt and you'll be poised to trump at every dinner party this Yuletide.

Given that Percy is a habitual pessimist, he will revel in the 'Companion to Despair' section. Fortunately, his miserly qualities will also impel him to read 'A Companion to Hope', so that he doesn't waste half the book come January the first. He will then notice how much better he feels after reading all the positive stuff, and resolve how much longer and better he will live if he changes the personality traits of a lifetime. Well that's me, ever the optimist.

Personally I enjoyed the optimist's section. Just looking at the quirky cover made me wonder if the book had been shelved in the Hogwarts' library, and thereafter I half-expected the illustrations to follow me with their eyes, or at least a spell or two to be provided. The authors captured many inspirational quotes, worth the book's price for anyone tasked with running positive school assemblies. I hadn't met all the quotes before and the information was entertaining, if necessarily superficial at only a couple of pages per subject category. It was interesting to note how often optimism equated to supreme self-confidence, as in Robert Morley's: I am always pleased to see my friends, happy to be with my wife and family, but the high-spot of every day is when I first catch a glimpse of myself in the shaving mirror.

Unfortunately, as a conscientious reviewer, I followed up by reading every last page about pessimism. I concluded that the authors didn't believe in jollying pessimists along: a pity, since black humour is quintessentially British. By the time I'd read about being roasted in hell for my sins and frazzled on earth by climate change, I was left feeling totally flattened for the next couple of days.

If the authors' intention was to show how positive thinking can enhance mood, fair enough, here's a comparative experiment the reader can try at home. My point is that wallowing in bad news (as opposed to reasoned discussion of the pressing problems facing the planet) may not be terribly helpful to those suffering from depression or anxiety. Possibly the intriguing layout wasn't such a good idea after all, though I'll leave that for you to decide.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Depending on which part of this title interested you, the Bookbag has given good reviews to the serious arguments of: The Secrets of Happiness by Richard Schoch and A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love by Richard Dawkins. The Book of Idle Pleasures by Tom Hodgkinson and Bling, Blogs and Bluetooth by Nick Parker are more ephemeral books for dipping.

Buy The Optimist's/pessimist's Handbook by Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Optimist's/pessimist's Handbook by Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Optimist's/pessimist's Handbook by Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Optimist's/pessimist's Handbook by Niall Edworthy and Petra Cramsie at Amazon.com.

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