Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book Review: The Optimist by Laurence Shorter

The Optimist by Laurence Shorter

Published by Doubleday Canada, a division of Random House of Canada

Rating: 4 stars

About this Book - publisher's description:

When it comes to bad news, we’ve never had it so good.

Laurence Shorter is feeling anxious. Every time he opens a newspaper or turns on the radio he finds another reason to be tearful. It’s time to make a change. It’s time to be optimistic!

His plan is simple:

1. Learn how to jump out of bed in the morning.

2. Secure personal happiness.

3. Save the world.

The Optimist charts Shorter’s ambitious, year-long, international quest to seek out the world’s most positive thinkers, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jung Chang, Matthieu Ricard, California’s renowned Surfing Rabbi, and Bill Clinton. But optimism doesn’t come easy, and Shorter’s resolve is tested at every corner: by a flagging career, a troubled love affair, and his ever-pessimistic dad.

My opinion:

I liked reading about Laurence Shorter's journey towards an improved definition of optimism and how to achieve it. His down-to-earth approach is very relatable and no detail is left unexplored. I also really appreciated his inclusion of his personal life, along with its share of ups and downs because it allows for the reader to feel more connected to him and his plight. Although there is the common theme of optimism throughout the novel, the chapters can almost be short stories on their own, revealing a different aspect or lesson learned. I enjoyed some of the chapters more than others, with my favorite being the one about former President Bill Clinton because it marked the culmination of all that Shorter worked for and it felt very satisfying and certainly inspired optimism out of me!

Though there were many parts in the book that I found funny, I don't think the book can necessarily be categorized as "humor". I do believe that Shorter set out on this quest whole-heartedly in the search for answers and not simply as a joke. While I can usually appreciate British sense of humour, there were some points when I wasn't sure if he was trying to be funny or not.

Nonetheless, The Optimist is an interesting and at times thought-provoking read that both amused and aroused my curiosity. Being a psychology major, I did know a lot about the psychological aspects of optimism and happiness already, particularly Martin Seligman's theories, but told through Shorter's perspective, I still learned something new.

BIG THANKS to Jessica and Random House of Canada for my review copy.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

Sounds interesting. I know someone who should read this one.