A Socratic style dialogue between a youth and a philosopher, this book is the bestselling follow up to The Courage to be Disliked, both of which are a runaway success in Asia. It explores the teachings of Alfred Adler, who is an oft overlooked contemporary of Jung and Freud, but whose ideas ended up being considered more philosophy than science, and are ripe for rediscovery.
Though it is a second book, it’s totally a stand alone. I haven’t read the first one and I feel like you don’t have to have read that to really get this one.
I often review and share fiction on this blog, but I do like to read non-fiction too, and I have a soft spot for books like this about positive thinking or philosophy. I feel like they’re a welcome antidote to the current events of the world and the general noise of life. I think this book is a really good one to get you thinking about how you want to live your life and about being happier. And I like the title, because being happy can actually take a paradigm shift and can take a bit of courage.
The book flows naturally from idea to idea, delving into more depth when needed, via the questioning of the Youth, but the chapter headings break it up into pieces. I liked this because you can read it through really nicely, but later, you can go right to a chapter you want to think about in more depth or re read concepts. Titles like “That Bad Person and Poor Me” and “Reward Gives Rise to Competition”. Another great thing about this book is that it’s very open in nature. It’s not about religion and it doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but rather gives you jumping off points and some great things to work with.
One of the core concepts is that the goal is to be self reliant and live in harmony with society. One way to do this to see yourself as having ability and others as having abilities too, so that no one is your competitor, but a comrade. By becoming self reliant, and not seeing yourself as a victim, you are not a burden on others and allow them to be self reliant too. Because of this idea, it follows that you should live independant of the opinions of others and not aim for constant recognition, since that leads to constant striving and never arriving.
There is a lot in this book, and I really enjoyed diving into it. Some of the concepts will be familar from pop psychology, but it feels fresh and thought provoking too. The Youth is a school teacher, which means that there’s a lot here for educators and parents, and also gets you thinking about how you were raised and how you want to treat people who might be subordinate to you, like employees. The book speaks about seeing a person as they really are and having respect for everyone, assisting in their growth. I think that’s an idea that extends to so many areas of life.
The discussion, question and answer, format was a little old fashioned and I didn’t love that, but it is done really well. I felt like the character of the Youth was kind of annoying and repetitive, but I understand that it’s needed for this kind of structure. I felt like you could tell that this book was translated from another language, which I really liked. I don’t mean that the translation is bad at all, but that there’s something about the style of the writing that just feels a little different. I can’t put my finger on what that is, but I am glad that sense was preserved in the translation.
Read It If: On the whole, I think if you’re looking for something positive and thought provoking to read, or if you feel like you’re looking for some help with growing and living a happier life, then I’d definitely recommend this book. I’m glad that I read it.
Thank you, Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me the ARC for me to read for this review. All opinions are my own and honest. The Courage to be Happy is out Dec 24th 2019.