Happy Brain

The winter months can bring depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or the general blues. This week’s review asks the question in the back of everyone’s mind during the last month of winter: what is happiness again?

Happy brain : where happiness comes from, and why

Burnett, Dean. W. W. Norton, 2018
344p index, 9780393651348 $26.95

Burnett (Cardiff Univ., UK), author of Idiot Brain (2016), has written another excellent book that simultaneously entertains readers and elucidates complex features of the human brain. In Happy Brain, Burnett explores the neuroscience of happiness. Using his lively wit, Burnett asks probing questions: What is happiness? What purpose does it serve? What brain functions are involved? What circumstances increase or decrease happiness? Although he warns readers in the introduction that Happy Brain “is not meant to be a self-help book, or some model for how to live a happier and fuller life,” the scientifically grounded insights he delivers do indeed suggest ways of being and thinking that are likely to increase the odds of being happy. Burnett has a notable ability to explain complex, theoretical ideas and demonstrate their practical applications. Although he writes in an informal, conversational style, Burnett provides extensive references from the neuroscience literature throughout the book, allowing readers to easily delve more deeply into any of the topics addressed. Readers of all levels, from the general public to professional neuroscientists, will benefit from reading Happy Brain.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers.
Reviewer: C. A. Lindgren, Grinnell College
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Psychology
Choice Issue: Dec 2018