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Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America Paperback – Aug 3 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 edition (Aug. 3 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312658850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312658854
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 1.8 x 20.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 227 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #139,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Deeply satisfying. . . I have waited my whole life for someone to write a book like Bright-sided.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“A brilliant exposé of our smiley-faced culture.” ―

“Insightful, smart, and witty. . . Ehrenreich makes important points about what happens to those who dare to warn of the worst.” ―BusinessWeek

“Ehrenreich's examination of the history of positive thinking is a tour de force of well-tempered snark, culminating in a persuasive indictment of the bright-siders as the culprits in our current financial mess.” ―The Washington Post

Bright-sided scours away the veneer of conventional wisdom with pointed writings and reporting. . . . Helping us face the truth is Ehrenreich at her best.” ―The Miami Herald

“Contrarians rejoice! With a refreshingly caustic tone, Barbara Ehrenreich takes on the relentlessly upbeat attitude many Americans demand of themselves, and more damagingly, of others.” ―USA Today

“A rousing endorsement of skepticism, realism, and critical thinking.” ―San Francisco Bay Guardian

“Ehrenreich delivers her indictments of the happiness industry with both authority and wit. . . . Bright-sided offers both a welcome tonic and a call to action--and a blessed relief from all those smiley faces.” ―The Plain Dealer

“Precisely crafted, hard-hitting. . . analysis of the national mass fantasy of wishful thinking ” ―The Dallas Morning News

“Relentless and persuasive. . . In a voice urgent and passionate, Ehrenreich offers us neither extreme [between positive thinking and being a spoilsport] but instead balance: joy, happiness, yes; sadness, anger, yes. She favors life with a clear head, eyes wide open.” ―San Francisco Chronicle

“Ehrenreich reprises her role as Dorothy swishing back the curtain on a great and powerful given.” ―The Oregonian

“A message that deserves to be heard.” ―Jezebel

“Gleefully pops the positive-thinking bubble. . . Amazingly, she'll make you laugh, albeit ruefully, as she presents how society's relentless focus on being upbeat has eroded our ability to ask--and heed--the kind of uncomfortable questions that could have fended off economic disaster.” ―

“Ehrenreich convinced me completely. . . I hesitate to say anything so positive as that this book will change the way you see absolutely everything; but it just might.” ―Nora Ephron, The Daily Beast

“Ehrenreich delivers a trenchant look into the burgeoning business of positive thinking.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Bright, incisive, provocative thinking from a top-notch nonfiction writer.” ―Kirkus, starred review

“Wide-ranging and stinging look at the pervasiveness of positive thinking. . .” ―Booklist, starred review

“We're always being told that looking on the bright side is good for us, but now we see that it's a great way to brush off poverty, disease, and unemployment, to rationalize an order where all the rewards go to those on top. The people who are sick or jobless--why, they just aren't thinking positively. They have no one to blame but themselves. Barbara Ehrenreich has put the menace of positive thinking under the microscope. Anyone who's ever been told to brighten up needs to read this book.” ―Thomas Frank, author of The Wrecking Crew and What's the Matter with Kansas?

“Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil: please read this relentlessly sensible book. It's never too late to begin thinking clearly.” ―Frederick Crews, author of Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays

“Barbara Ehrenreich's skeptical common sense is just what we need to penetrate the cloying fog that passes for happiness in America.” ―Alan Wolfe, author of The Future of Liberalism

“In this hilarious and devastating critique, Barbara Ehrenreich applies some much needed negativity to the zillion-dollar business of positive thinking. This is truly a text for the times.” ―Katha Pollitt, author of The Mind-Body Problem: Poems

“Unless you keep on saying that you believe in fairies, Tinker Bell will check out, and what's more, her sad demise will be your fault! Barbara Ehrenreich scores again for the independent-minded in resisting this drool and all those who wallow in it.” ―Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

“In this hard-hitting but honest appraisal, America's cultural skeptic Barbara Ehrenreich turns her focus on the muddled American phenomenon of positive thinking. She exposes the pseudoscience and pseudointellectual foundation of the positive-thinking movement for what it is: a house of cards. This is a mind-opening read.” ―Michael Shermer, author of Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time

“Once again, Barbara Ehrenreich has written an invaluable and timely book, offering a brilliant analysis of the causes and dimensions of our current cultural and economic crises. She shows how deeply positive thinking is embedded in our history and how crippling it is as a habit of mind.” ―Thomas Bender, author of A Nation Among Nations: America's Place in World History

About the Author

Barbara Ehrenreich is the bestselling author of sixteen previous books, including Nickel and Dimed, Bait and Switch, Bright-sided, This Land Is Their Land, Dancing In The Streets and Blood Rites. A frequent contributor to Harper's and The Nation, she has also been a columnist at The New York Times and Time magazine.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What to say about Barbara Ehrenreich except "Thank you!" I first read a few online articles from her a dozen years ago and was hooked. Then I read Nickel and Dimed, the best expose and analysis of the underclasses in the USA that I'm aware of. When I later read Bait and Switch, which demonstrated how the program in Nickel and Dimed had succeeded so well (in stealing the little the underclass had) that the ruling elites moved the program into the middle classes, I was shocked. The audacity by the elite classes was astounding and the carefully-constructed "acceptance" by the lower and middle classes was disheartening.
And now comes Bright-Sided, her effort to explain how the "positive psychology" movement has attempted to shift the blame of so much personal and societal anguish on to the shoulders of those who the trickery was foisted on, rather than on the true cause of the pain: a social system based on the economics of rob-from-the-poor-to-give-to-the-rich. She does it in her usually witty way, never failing to wince at the injustice while detailing it in sometimes savage prose. While not as personal as the other two books I noted (in which she lives and works with members of those classes), it is more probing of one of the tools that the elite use to get their way: make the robbed feel responsible for the robbery. As long as we have such a corrupt system there will never be a time we do not need such people as her.
On a final note I ask how much longer, in a shrinking world with a burgeoning human need-greed, can this go on?
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Format: Hardcover
For those who feel that the self-help-spiritual gurus of The Secret fame were handing us a crock pot of crap, this is the book to read. Over the years, having worked in book stores, seeing the corporate side of the retail world (trying to smile during a downsize) as well as the charlatans of the New Age movement, this book was a welcome treat. For many years I've battled with the blinders of blatant optimism and for me, Ehrenreich has shown a spotlight on the yoke of happiness thinking.

It's not that being positive is completely blinding, it is just that there is a constant in-balance. A bright, shiny attitude is fine and dandy but let's be realistic about certain things. If you're driving through Hell, the last thing you want to do is ask for a blanket. The same thing goes for the commodity of the forced smile. When people are working overtime and holidays, afraid of the next lay off, how can people be happy? Ehrenreich addresses these issues, pointing her critical pen at the pink ribbon society of breast cancer alumni (the survivors vs. those who die, those who weren't positive 'enough'), the self-appointed gurus of optimism, corporate churches, and corporations hellbent of force feeding employees happiness (a negative attitude might lead to a firing).

We are complex creatures in a complex world and to go through life with a monotone emotion, we deny ourselves our humanity. She argues that we lose insight and direction if we befuddle ourselves with optimism. We lose our hold on life. Also, it was the Communist states of the former Eastern Bloc as much as Iran pre-1979 that manipulated its citizens to be happy and have a positive attitude.
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Format: Kindle Edition
When Barbara Ehrenreich was diagnosed with cancer, she soon discovered that her physical illness wasn’t her only challenge — she was bombarded by the exhortation that she see the disease as an opportunity for growth.

Ehrenreich’s negative response to the cheerleaders of the cancer community was a major prompt for her 2009 book examining the positive thinking industry.

Having been blind-sided by cancer, she titled her book Bright-Sided, after the assaults on realism with which governments and corporations work to reduce scrutiny, criticism, and the impulse to reform.

The theme of the book is right up front, in the complete title: Bright-Sided, How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

Ehrenreich proclaims, “We need to brace ourselves for a struggle against terrifying obstacles, both of our own making and imposed by the natural world. And the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking.”

After recounting her own battle to remain “real” during her cancer treatment, to resist the notion that breast cancer is not a serious problem at all — it is a “gift,” a life-change opportunity deserving of the most heartfelt gratitude — Ehrenreich spends the rest of the book deconstructing the positive thinking industry, showing how it benefits not only the individuals who flog it tirelessly but also the larger interests that have a huge stake in maintaining the status quo.

The drive toward positive thinking is everywhere. It is “like a perpetually flashing neon sign in the background, like an inescapable jingle.”

This endless pumping-up is “not just a diffuse cultural consensus, spread by contagion.
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