Book Review of 10 Percent Happier by Dan Harris

10% Happier
Goodreads Rating: 3.93
Author:
Series:
Publisher:
Published: 3/11/2014
Page Count: 256
Book URL: GoodReads.com
Nightline anchor Dan Harris embarks on an unexpected, hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the strange worlds of spirituality and self-help, and discovers a way to get happier that is truly achievable. After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure, involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain…
3.2Overall Score
  • Covered Subject
    3.0
  • Cover Art
    2.0
  • Impact
    3.0
  • Organization
    4.0
  • Pacing
    3.5
  • Writing
    3.5

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Quick Review

  • If you think you may be interested in meditation, or think it could be helpful to you, but are skeptical for any reason, you may find this book helpful to break down those defenses.
  • This book tells the story of Dan Harris’ journey through the world of meditation, told from his own point of view (autobiography/memoir).
  • This books talks about meditation from a non-secular viewpoint, but does also address the secular viewpoints, especially from a Buddhist angle. In the end Dan adapts a loosely Buddhist viewpoint of meditation and a few of it’s lessons.
  • A healthy dose of cynicism seems to be Dan’s style and is apparent throughout his writing.
  • Dan has the privilege and opportunity to interview big names in the field, such as Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, and the Dalai Lama, etc. with whom he recounts interviews, meetings, and conversations with.
  • Dan has a habit of making preconceived judgements about things, experiences, and people that he never seems to correct and that he leads every interaction with that I found tiresome.
  • Throughout the book there is a concept that “meditation is embarrassing” that I do not understand. Why is it embarrassing? And if OTHERS find it embarrassing, why do you care? I don’t get it.

**MILD SPOILERS** Click black text to reveal spoilers.

In Depth Review

NOTE: I’m fairly certain that reading this book has biased me against the author – a few things just rubbed me wrong and stuck with me. I think he’s a bit of a narcissist and an ass (why do you throw trash on the ground, Dan?).

While I found the first half of this book entertaining and an easy read, the second half seemed to drudge on and I really just wanted to be done. Ironically most of the useful information about meditation can actually be gleamed from the second half of the book, which is the hardest part to get through. Honestly the most useful parts of the book by far is the final chapter and the appendix titled “Instructions”.

There are a few themes that run throughout the book that I found off-putting. Foremost there is a repeated theme where Dan makes judgements of people and ideas before actually getting to know about them, then afterwards will concede he misjudged. There also appears to be a lack of appreciate for the privilege of being able to interview and have rapport with spiritual gurus and other leaders in the meditations field, which I feel is an opportunity most of us do not have. And finally the idea of meditation not being secular or “touchy-feely” or “woo-woo” is not anything new.

Overall this book outlines one person’s quest to find a little more inner peace and serenity. Personally I think its different for everyone but this story demonstrates that if you don’t give up you can find it – and maybe starting with meditation is a good place to begin.

What I Learned

My takeaways from this book:

  • I need to up my meditation practice, and in this way I did find this story very motivating.
  • I should always be skeptical and critical of anyone claiming that their way is “The Way” to some miraculous turn of life, but in a healthy way. Just because there are parts of someone’s ideology that do not agree with me, does not mean I should write off the entire knowledge base (don’t be like Dan).
  • Tara Brach’s “RAIN” method for mindfulness when things are really bad (I found this the most helpful information of the entire book).
  • The motto “Is this useful?” from Joseph Goldstein.

If I had to describe this book in two words: Honest and (mildly) entertaining.

Book Look

NOTE: I read a hardcover copy of the book that I checked out at my local library (I also own an eBook copy). I wish I had a copy of the audio book, I bet that’s the best way to consume this book.

  • Standard sized hardcover, slightly larger than a paperback.
  • Has a very thick cardboard cover that is solid black with a red foiled print only on the spine. My copy has those plastic with paper inside book covers that libraries always seem to have and tape to the book so you can’t remove it.
  • Standard off-white/cream colored pages with medium texture that makes turning pages easy.
  • Type is a standard serif font that is a good medium size.
  • The chapters are divided into nice neat little sections that makes stopping and starting at any point really easy.
  • There are no drawings, illustrations, or pictures.

Favorite Quotes

“Moment after moment, experiences are arising, and it’s as if each one has a hook … and we’re the fish. Do we bite? Or do we not bite, and just swim freely in the ocean?”
Joseph Goldstein

“There’s no point in being unhappy about things you can’t change, and no point being unhappy about things you can.”.
Joseph Goldstein loosely quoting a monk
“Meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It’s about feeling the way you feel.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Musical Suggestions

I would suggest using your favorite meditation music to set the mood, or whatever your mind envisions that sounding like if you’ve never meditated before. I enjoyed this book while listening to the playlists “Deep Focus” and “Peaceful Retreat” on Spotify, both by Spotify.

Learn More About 10 Percent Happier

Other books in this series:
Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics2

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