I’ll have what she’s having. Or will I? When it comes to “Happy Ever After” many of us believe we all want the same things. But Paul Dolan’s latest book challenges us to think otherwise. He does this with some myth-busting and some clear-eyed, intellectual arguments.

Paul Dolan is known as a happiness expert. He’s a professor of behavioural science at the London School of Economics. In this book, Dolan draws on a number of studies, which cover topics like: wellbeing, inequality and discrimination. In doing so, he shows that there can be some unexpected paths to enduring happiness (despite what society and the media would have you believe).

This book is divided into three sections. In “Reaching” he examines things like: wealth, success and education. In it Dolan describes how we need to slow down and consider when things are just enough for us, rather than being insatiable human beings. It’s a refreshing approach and proof that The Beatles were right when they sang “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

In the second part, Dolan looks at relationships and puts the magnifying glass over: marriage, monogamy and children. For many people those three points would raise an emphatic “Yes”. Yet Dolan describe studies where those in the opposite situation can be just as – if not – happier.

The final part examines health, altruism and volition. Our society assumes that we will act in a responsible way and that this is what helps create the illusion of order. But Dolan takes the opposing view and says that there are no added benefits when you compare these to ones that are motivated by your own self-interest. This is likely to be contentious reading for some people, but the whole premise of this accessible volume is for us to step back and be challenged. Through some rigorous studies and data, we can gain a whole new perspective and a fresher outlook on life.

Happy Ever After is an intriguing volume that proves there are no simple answers. Life is one complex mess of different things and a one-size fits all approach doesn’t end up helping anybody. Dolan’s volume is ultimately a well-researched and easy read about a large range of topics. It also proves that there can be so much more to happy endings than what meets the mind’s eye.


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