Review: ‘Happy’ by Derren Brown

The best non-fiction books are ones which state the obvious, whilst presenting it in an entirely different light which changes our view on an issue. So, when the illusionist Derren Brown explores a feeling we’ve experienced on many occasions during our lifetime – happiness – one would be forgiven for thinking we know all about joy, feeling good and how to be positive. However, Brown approaches such an intriguing topic with refreshing insight, sincerity and the occasional dash of humour – making us question something we thought we’ve understood for years.

Throughout the book, Derren takes a whistle-stop tour of the many things which affects happiness – from fame to grief to anger. The magician constantly refers to what history tells us about being happy, often referring to Stoicism and easy-to-use techniques for readers to adapt in their everyday lives. Constantly, Brown rubbishes current self-help manuals about happiness, instead offering a simplistic alternative.

Whilst the author’s main messages are clear, the only downside is that it is not a book to be enjoyed in bitesize chunks. Unfortunately, the gap caused by my second year at university has led to me taking several months to finish this book, but as mentioned previously, this has not stopped me from understanding the main tone of Happy.

It’s a book which can be seen as being the second part of Brown’s recent stage show, Miracle, which tapped into the idea of us having the power to rewrite our own life stories. It’s this theatrical performance style – which sees Derren present philosophical and psychological ideas in a sympathetic tone – that is transferred into this book.

Warm, inspiring and uplifting, Derren Brown’s Happy is an eye-opening exploration of a sentiment we always thought we understood – until now…

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One Year of Blogging… Happy Blogday to Me!

Without this sounding soppy or cliché like an award acceptance speech, thank you. Today is the 12th August 2013, and I started this blog exactly one year ago today, on the 12th August 2012. Happy Birthday to me!. My, I feel old… Haha!

The soppyness will continue, when I say that I experienced doubt when I first started this blog. I started this blog for two reasons, the first being that I was told it would be helpful if I wanted to be a journalist. The second reason was that I wanted to and liked the concept. So, I first wanted this blog to be about my life (hence the title), but I then thought that no one would be interested, boy, I was wrong.

It turns out since then, my blog has had over 1,350 comments, 6,000 followers and 10,000 views (which I have found out averages to around 822 views a month, and around 27 views a day, which is pretty cool). So in other words, I was right to start the blog, and people do care, just over 10,000 people do in fact…

So for those who have followed me for a while will know that once I have reached a milestone, I like to celebrate. You may be wondering what I’m going to do this time, well… I can tell you that it will be better content!

For those who follow me on Facebook and Twitter (please do! – click the links!), you will know that I have been asking you to fill in my survey I have created, about my first year of blogging. Now is the time to analyse the responses!

Question 1: What topics would you like me to write more about?

Music and Writing were the top two responses for this question, with Life Updates and Books being joint second, and psychology being last. This is interesting, as it implies that people miss Music Monday/Musical Discovery, and I have a bit too! I might just bring it back in the future… As for the other options, of course writing will be present on my blog, life updates too (that is, after all, what the blog is about). As for books, that’s understandable, as I have never really touched on it… Psychology being last does surprise me though, as a lot of people seemed to enjoy my previous psychology posts…

Question 2: What “themes” do you like to read?

It is such a joy to find out that Liam Interviews was the popular choice for this question, as I enjoy them too! Weekly Writing Challenges and Music Monday were next. So this just confirms that you guys like Music Monday. So in that case, it’s coming back!

3. Do you like the name of the blog – The Life of a Thinker? If not, what would you prefer I call it?

Most people like the name when they commented their answers, so that won’t change. I’m glad about the name, I like it personally…

4. Seeing as though my blog is about my life, do you think I am updating readers on my life enough? If your answer is no, please suggest how I can improve on this.

Mostly positive responses here, which is good…

5. What do you think about the blog’s appearance? If you do not like it, please explain why and explain what I can do to improve.

On this question, most people are asking for the blog to be more visual. So what I hope to do is include more pictures in each blog post, rather than just text. I find that helps with a post’s readability…

6. How often would you like to see me blog?

Weekly was the most popular response for this question. However, I want to keep the Weekly Update at least, and do another post as well, so I can’t do weekly. But, every day (12pm and 7pm) was the next popular option which might be a nice alternative.

7. Most of my posts are usually posted at 12:00am (GMT), at what time in your time zone are you notified that one of my posts is published?

This post was more out of interest than anything else. I just wanted to know if people received it at a reasonable time, and that is the case, so all good!

8. Talking of notifications, how are you notified when a new post is published on my blog?

It’s good that Twitter was the most popular option alongside email subscription. I like Twitter, and I agree that it gets me a lot of blog views.

9. On a scale of 1-5, 5 being “the best” or “most likely”. Answer the following possibilities at the appropriate scale.

The answers to this question gave me the idea that people like my blog. 77% of people said it was great. As well as that, most people would recommend me to their friends, which is great! Thank you!

10. Explain your answers to Question 9.

This was quite an interesting question to ask, most responses were positive saying I did good content and it was interesting. But unfortunately there wasn’t much I could take from the responses to this question…

So, after that, I would like to say thanks again for stopping by, and here’s to another great year of blogging for me, and expect a few changes over the next few months…

Liam