The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman

The Antidote: by Oliver Burkeman

3 MinutesIn Book Reviews

The Antidote: Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking by Oliver Burkeman

£9.99 from Waterstones

Time to Read: You could happily read it over a weekend but takes longer to digest than its length implies. It definitely needs some deliberate thinking and is a book to return to. The audiobook is 6 hours and 17 minutes, narrated by the author.


An ironic and sideways look at the self-help industry, where the author acknowledges the difference between what is good for him and not doing it.


Burkeman is a man who enjoys irony and has a wonderful, dry sense of humour. He does not take himself too seriously, and neither does he take us too seriously – he is honest that there are things that we might ‘know’ to be a good idea which we will nevertheless not do.

He comes across as having compassion, curiosity and interest in all those he meets, regardless of whether he agrees with them or not and this openness to learning and then sharing his takeaways is an approach I enjoyed.

Burkeman tends to use a story approach to learning, which I do enjoy and personally learn from, but this is not a book for people who want the ‘10 things to change to make you happier tomorrow’ variety of book.

Personally, I think this is what is its biggest strength – The Guardian calls the book ‘a bracing detox for the self-help junkie’, sensibly but constructively critiquing those brilliantly sold, made-to-look-deceptively-easy self-help books.

The review of Stoicism was particularly interesting – Burkeman notes the only thing we can control are the judgments we make about our circumstances, rather than the circumstances themselves. It is these thoughts and judgments we make that control us – whether I ‘feel’ like writing this book review or not, because I do not have a physical disability, I can always write a book review. Whether I ‘feel’ like going for a run or not, I just have to put on my running kit, put on my running shoes, open the door and start running – none of these steps requires me to ‘feel’ like doing it.


Burkeman is a journalist with The Guardian, who writes one of my favourite columns, a wry and dry look at society called ‘This column will change your life’.

Please note, this book review is available as a pdf on request.

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