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  • Published: 3 January 2017
  • ISBN: 9780099592556
  • Imprint: Windmill Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $27.99

The Pursuit of Happiness

A very funny debunking of our obsession with achieving happiness, which will appeal to readers of Bill Bryson, Louis Theroux and Pamela Duckerman.

'Essential reading. So funny, so relevant, so fascinating ... I loved it' Marian Keyes

'A whip-sharp British Bill Bryson' Sunday Times

'Ruth Whippman is my new favorite cultural critic, and her book was such a joy to read' Adam Grant, author of Give and Take, Originals, and Option B (co-authored with Sheryl Sandberg)

When British journalist Ruth Whippman moved to America it seemed that everyone she met was obsessed with one thing: finding happiness. Americans spend more money and energy on becoming happier than anyone on earth, but yet they are some of the least happy people in the developed world.

So Ruth sets off on a journey to work out what’s going wrong, and most importantly, what lessons we can all learn about what truly makes for a happy life.

From nearly falling apart during a controversial self-help course promising total transformation, to investigating a 'happiness city' in the Nevada desert, from spending time with the Mormons in Utah to exploring the darker truths behind the positive psychology movement, Ruth tries it all. Along the way she stumbles upon a more effective, less anxiety inducing path to contentment.

  • Published: 3 January 2017
  • ISBN: 9780099592556
  • Imprint: Windmill Books
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $27.99

About the author

Ruth Whippman

Ruth Whippman is a British writer, journalist and documentary film-maker. Before moving to the US in 2011, she produced and directed numerous documentaries and current affairs programmes for the BBC. Her essays and comment pieces have appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, the Independent and the Huffington Post amongst other places. She lives in California with her husband and two young sons. This is her first book.

Praise for The Pursuit of Happiness

I LOVED this book. I found it SO WELL WRITTEN, so witty and funny and reading it I was often envious of Ruth Whippman’s facility with language. It is a hugely engaging read, accessible and so relevant ... I really, really, really, really enjoyed it and am quite evangelical about it.

Marian Keyes, author of THE WOMAN WHO STOLE MY LIFE

Like Bill Bryson, Whippman has a willingness to play up cultural differences to comic effect … She also has Bryson’s sharp ear for language ... With warm wit and chilling logic, The Pursuit of Happiness shows that the human desire for contentment can be manipulated and distorted until it is barely recognisable ... A whip-smart British Bill Bryson.

Sunday Times

[Ruth Whippman] writes with sharpness and wit

Evening Standard

Ruth Whippman is my new favorite cultural critic, and her book was such a joy to read that I temporarily forgot about all my neuroses. It’s a shrewd, hilarious analysis of why a country obsessed with happiness is so darn unhappy.

Adam Grant, author of GIVE AND TAKE, ORIGINALS, and OPTION B (coauthored with Sheryl Sandberg)

A smart, insightful and at times hilarious critique of America's booking "Happiness industry" ... You might not end up happy but you'll be glad you read it.

Lauren Laverne, The Pool

Those wanting to understand the complex reality of our personal quest for happiness might usefully turn to Ruth Whippman’s The Pursuit of Happiness – the lively memoir of a British journalist in California, on the hunt for that elusive but, as she sees it, increasingly sought-after, American ideal of happiness … Whippman – whose narrative voice is an unlikely mix of Kathy Lette’s and Louis Theroux’s – has followed her husband to Silicon Valley to start a new life … Whippman argues persuasively that happiness is something that emerges from the quality of relationships we have with others … The Pursuit of Happiness also sheds light on the link between religion and happiness.

Times Literary Supplement

She writes with a light touch ... Her conclusions are amusing and offer a useful commentary on this age of materialism and gloating.

The Times

Wry and often hilarious … Whippman takes readers on an engaging and perceptive personal romp through the $10 billion happiness industry, and, along the way, shreds much of the 'science' that happiness is both an individual responsibility and a solo endeavour. A great - and important – read.

Brigid Schulte, author of New York Times Bestseller OVERWHELMED: WORK, LOVE & PLAY WHEN NO ONE HAS THE TIME

Ruth Whippman manages the trick of being funny about what is, deep down, a serious problem


If you're on a quest for happiness, you want to start with buying this book. Wit, wisdom, and the kind of analysis only a Brit could bring to the topics of anxiety and contentment ... I laughed my way through it.


With insight and intellect, Whippman brings a fresh perspective to American culture that is almost impossible to find in today’s positivity-at-all-costs ethos ... a vibrant, hilarious, necessary book.

Tara Conklin, author of New York Times bestseller, THE HOUSE GIRL

Ruth Whippman cuts to the heart of America's obsession with happiness - and the strange and wonderful things we do to obtain it ... a funny, timely book that everyone should read


For anyone who has fallen prey to a book promising the secret of a happy life, and then failed to feel any happier, THIS book, by Whippman, might just provide the answers you didn't even know you were seeking.

Malena Watrous, author of IF YOU FOLLOW ME and Lead Instructor, Online Creative Writing, Stanford University

So well-written and witty, you won’t notice that Whippman is delivering a devastating verdict on positive psychology as pseudoscience.

Dr James Coyne, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

Ruth Whippman captures the absurdity of our late capitalist moment with sharp, insightful prose and a wicked sense of humor that makes every single page a pure joy to read. The Pursuit of Happiness not only entertains without fail, but it also offers a wealth of devastating insights into how our culture demands happiness of us in ways that only seem to make us miserable ... I don't think I've enjoyed cultural observations this much since David Foster Wallace's A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. Reading this book is like touring America with a scary-smart friend who can't stop elbowing you in the ribs and saying, "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?!" If you want to understand why our culture incites pure dread and alienation in so many of us (often without always recognizing it), read this book.

Heather Havrilesky, writer behind "Ask Polly" for New York Magazine and author of How to Be a Person in the World

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