Happiness: An American Obsession?
The historian Jackson Lears once observed that there was nothing more depressing than reading books about how to be happy. In part, he noted, “this is because one can’t help imagining the sad souls who buy them, hoping to turn around a troubled life for $27.99 or less.” And yet the literary genre broadly defined as “Self Help” is far and away the biggest and most vigorous selling category of books in America. When you add its various other media incarnations such as audio recordings, DVDs, conferences, courses and tacky inspirational posters, it is easily the most consumed cultural product in the country after fast food, sports, and pornography.
Everybody needs to be happy! It is almost an imperative. For an outsider such as me, American optimism, or the insistence on always looking on the bright side of things, can be a puzzling and even exasperating trait. If you are not perpetually …[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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