The book that’ll harness your happiness

As you emerge from the fug of festive excess and start considering the inevitable New Year’s resolutions, what thoughts hit you – I should get fit? I could be better with my finances? I’m going to buy a Filofax, organise my life and generally be a better person!?

Early this New Year, we picked up a copy of ‘Happiness by Design – Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life’ to find out what the key to true happiness really is.

What’s it all about?

A book on happiness isn’t exactly a novel thing. We’ve been debating the issue of the good life since Aristotle and no doubt long before then.

What is refreshing is author Professor Paul Dolan’s approach. Dolan seeks to define ‘happiness’ and then, using a blend of economics and psychology, change the way we think about happiness and crucially, give us the tools to produce more of it.

He isn’t simply content to explore happiness as a feeling, he explores and researches it as a physical act. His research combines both, assessing how feeling happy impacts on our behaviour and how our behaviour impacts on our happiness. Further to this he argues that how and where you allocate your attention drives your behaviour and in turn, determines your state of positivity.

Is it worth reading?

On occasion the book can seem quite obvious, and yet Dolan is so readable and his presentation of ideas so engaging it all feels very fresh and invigoratingly proactive. As he reminds us: ‘Put bluntly but accurately, you are getting ever closer to death. There are surprisingly few researchers who think about happiness in terms of your time use.’ With that in mind, we best get cracking and be proactive in our pursuit of happiness.


In today’s world of modern communications, we are bombarded with information on how we should be living and what we could be doing. Dolan reminds us how to strip it back, get back to understanding what makes us tick as individuals and then how to harness that knowledge into actively living pleasurable, productive and purposeful lives. A key thrust of his argument is that if you want to be happy, you can’t have pleasure without purpose.

This book isn’t without its flaws and it won’t necessarily change your life, but Dolan is open about this. If this book is to have any impact then you, the reader, needs to engage. But if you want to learn more about happiness, Paul Dolan is a good place to start, and his book may just provide a key to helping us all find some insight into how to discover and implement our own version of that elusive happiness.

I was left feeling energised and hopeful. In the words of Audrey Hepburn: ‘The most important thing is to enjoy your life’.

Happiness by Design, Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life. By Paul Dolan. Publisher: Penguin Psychology. ISBN 978-0-141-97753-9

If you’re an avid reader and want more great book recommendations, check out Caroline’s books to curl up with, her books it wouldn’t be Christmas withoutand her all time favourite reads. You can also find out more about Khoollect book reviewer Caroline Woodward-Court.

Have you read any self-help books recently that you would rave about? Tell us in the comments below

You may also like

Profile Photo
Caroline Woodward-Court

Caroline is Khoollect's resident book reviewer. This lady has had her noses in books since she can r...

READ MORE BY Caroline Woodward-Court

You decide

Your dream holiday destination

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...