The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness

by Paula Poundstone


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“A remarkable journey. I laughed. I cried. I got another cat.”  —Lily Tomlin

“Paula Poundstone is the funniest human being I have ever known.” —Peter Sagal, host of Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! and author of The Book of Vice

“Is there a secret to happiness?” asks comedian Paula Poundstone. "I don’t know how or why anyone would keep it a secret. It seems rather cruel, really . . . Where could  it be? Is it deceptively simple? Does it melt at a certain temperature? Can you buy it? Must you suffer for it before or after?” In her wildly and wisely observed book, the comedy legend takes on that most inalienable of rights—the pursuit of happiness.

Offering herself up as a human guinea pig in a series of thoroughly unscientific experiments, Poundstone tries out a different get-happy hypothesis in each chapter of her data-driven search. She gets in shape with taekwondo. She drives fast behind the wheel of a Lamborghini. She communes with nature while camping with her daughter, and commits to getting her house organized (twice!). Swing dancing? Meditation? Volunteering? Does any of it bring her happiness? You may be laughing too hard to care.  

The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness is both a story of jumping into new experiences with both feet and a surprisingly poignant tale of a single working mother of three children (not to mention dozens of cats, a dog, a bearded dragon lizard, a lop-eared bunny, and one ant left from her ant farm) who is just trying to keep smiling while living a busy life.

The queen of the skepticism-fueled rant, Paula Poundstone stands alone in her talent for bursting bubbles and slaying sacred cows.

Like George Carlin, Steve Martin, and David Sedaris, she is a master of her craft, and her comedic brilliance is served up in abundance in this book. As author and humorist Roy Blount Jr. notes, “Paula Poundstone deserves to be happy. Nobody deserves to be this funny.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616204167
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 05/09/2017
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 819,173
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Paula Poundstone is a popular panelist on NPR’s weekly comedy quiz program Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!. She tours regularly, performing standup throughout the country. Poundstone was the first woman ever to share the stage with the President as host at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. She has had numerous HBO specials, starred in her own series on HBO and ABC, is included in Comedy Central’s list of Top 100 Comics of All Time, and has won an American Comedy Award. The National Spokesperson for the ALA’s United for Libraries Volunteer Network, she is also the author of There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

The Get Fit Experiment 4

The Get Wired Experiment 36

The Get Earthy Experiment 68

The Get Organized Experiment: Part 1 88

The Get Reel Experiment 115

The Get Organized Experiment: Part 2 139

The Get Rolling Experiment 155

The Get Up and Dance Experiment 176

The Get Warm and Fuzzy Experiment 205

The Get Purring Experiment 219

The Get Positive Experiment 234

The Get Over Here and Help Experiment 242

The Get Quiet Experiment 268

Final Report on the Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness 285

Acknowledgments 289

Oh, and One More Thing: A Progress Report, with Ping-Pong 291

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The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful insight and delightfully honest humor all can enjoy. Leaves you wanting more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have long been a fan of Paula Poundstone’s standup comedy, and her often hilarious, but sometimes truly bizarre insights on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. I was wary of this book, as I find that what I love most about standup comedians is completely lost when reading their words off the sterile page. But the set up of this book was appealing and easy to read. And, of course, it’s full of Poundstone’s self-deprecating humor. Poundstone applies the scientific method to various ways by which we might find happiness, and attempts to mathematically calculate how much happiness each provides. Each, predictably, comes with its pros and cons. Her ultimate conclusion is one the reader could probably have come up with before turning the first page, but it’s worth acknowledging and repeating: “Get some exercise. Go dancing. Avoid letting stuff pile up. Remember, you likely only wear 20 percent of what’s in your closet. Don’t hold on to what you don’t need. Be kind to one another. Go for a walk in the woods. Don’t bring food in your tent. Once or twice in your life, watching an I Love Lucy episode is even better than sleep. Never use an email when you could give a hug or a handshake. Put your stupid Smartphone down, and keep your cat census in the single digits.”
rokinrev More than 1 year ago
I’ve been reading a lot of downers so when I saw this in my library feed....of course I had to get it. I love Paula Poundstone. I listen to her podcasts, on “Wait Wait..Don’t Tell Me” on NPR, all sorts of things. She’s kind of made a living out of questioning anything and everything. And this book is no different. Happiness:illusion or reality. Can we prove it? Can we define it? Do we need to? Poundstone is a single Mom with too many animals and her kids are more savvy than they should be. She’s openly funny about dealing with teachers, kids and the everyday life situations. And in the end, much like the “gurus” we all hear from and about, she’s pretty down to earth about her experiments, as well as their conclusions. We know she loves her children, and her fur kids and tolerates life as we know it. And she does it all in a coffee spitting, life affirming way. If I was to read this again I think I’d go for the audio, but I’d encourage you to take a laugh break and recommend this book in any format. 5/5
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
Paula Poundstone has a memorable voice, so when I selected this audiobook, I was quite thrilled that she also narrates it. It made it very enjoyable. Besides that, her experiments in happiness had me giggling out loud many times. I did not know anything about her personal life, but I could see my kids in the anecdotes she told. Her kids are a hoot and act like normal kids everywhere, especially when it comes to the way they react to their mom. She is amazing in taking a normal life event and telling it in such a witty way that will have you laughing. She is also very good at self-deprecating humour. She does a great job of getting the listener to laugh at some of her simple mistakes and bigger gaffs without making it seem that you are laughing at her. I enjoyed seeing how many "Heps of Happiness" she received from each of her endeavours. I think the one I laughed at the most was the Lamborghini experiment. It was not a long book, only about 7.5 hours but I would have listened to more, I liked it a lot. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys comedy, especially if you like Paula Poundstone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Paula Poundstone’s discursive, off-the-wall, zany observations of our absurd world in “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness”. Paula Poundstone over the course of 290 pages, 13 chapters, and a final report, investigates the effects of exercise, using computers and the internet to make your life easier, being outdoors in Nature, getting organized, binge watching movies with family, driving a fancy sports car, dancing, hugging people, spending time with cats, thinking positively, helping people, and using meditation to enhance one’s happiness. A good read cover to cover, but also a great coffee table book, as it’s very easy to pick up anywhere, and start reading for some witty observations about life, and our sometimes hapless attempts at finding happiness. Many, many funny observations such as when talking about driving a fancy sports car on p. 164, “There was just the one passenger’s seat. It’s no wonder people are happy driving a fancy sports car. You can’t fit more than one kid in it.” Or while talking about organizing her garage, on p. 109, “The only thing not in my garage was a car.... It was like one of those Take Back the Night marches community members undertake to regain control of their neighborhood when it has fallen into the hands of gangs.” Discussing being positive on p. 236, “I had to put the kibosh on ‘My life is unfolding beautifully,’ for obvious reasons.” If you are a Paula Poundstone fan, this is a must read. Not as funny as “There’s Nothing in This Book I Meant to Say”, but a much more personal account, and I think a very well written and interesting book to read, with plenty of belly laughs on almost every page, and more than a few laugh out loud observations, and also, a few heartfelt poignant moments. Part memoir, part family history, part zany observations of the absurd world we live in. Also, a very nicely done final report that I think most would agree with. I give it 7 out of 10 stars. I highly recommend it.