Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Optimist

Title: The Optimist: One man’s search for the brighter side of life

Author: Laurence Shorter

Number of pages: 325

Started: 11 August 2009

Finished: 16 August 2009

Opening words:


Summer, 2006.

I was still in bed.
Sunlight beamed through the curtains, flickering as a neighbour’s car pulled out of the drive. I looked at the humps of my arms under the covers. They felt lethargic and heavy. A car revved up outside. I pictured the BMWs and Mercs along the street, beaded with dew, ready to be driven to their places of work by people who leapt out of bed every morning. How did they do it? I stared hopelessly at the ceiling.
What was wrong with me?

Plot summary:

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.

The Optimist is a hilarious and ultimately life-affirming stand against the grind of everyday strife, packed with reasons to be cheerful.

What I thought:

I was hoping for a somewhat light-hearted look at the nicer side of life. I can’t say that is how I would describe this book. I found it a somewhat self-indulgent quest for a man to try and get his somewhat unwilling female interest to go out with him. Along the way he spoke to lots of famous and not so famous people and then seemed to mock them a bit. I wasn’t very keen on that given that these people openly discussed their lives and philosophies and I felt that the author was slightly mocking them – or at least using what they said for comic effect. I am not sure that I like that trait.

I found the book a bit pointless and never really came to any conclusions so, like I said, I just found it quite self-indulgent.

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