Book Review: 10% Happier, Dan Harris

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A year or so ago, everyone on the street was carrying this book, 10% Happier (the full title of this book is 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story, what a mouthful!) Since starting this blog, I’ve been trying to be better about keeping up with contemporary literature: what’s coming out, what’s popular, etc. So when I saw both Ann Patchett and Gretchen Rubin writing about this book, I figured I should finally check this book out. After all, who doesn’t want to be 10% happier?

The premise of this part memoir part self-help book is that Dan Harris, the author previously best known as the ABC co-anchor of Good Morning America, has a panic attack on live television. This causes him to re-examine his lifestyle (which includes cocaine and a lot of anxiety in his stressful work environment) which sends him on a soul-searching mission to find inner peace while “maintaining his edge”. Dan Harris is many things, he’s a bro-y, cocky, ambitious, and smart man who seems like the kind of person who would dismiss meditation and mindfulness as hippy propaganda. During this time in his life, Harris also happens to be the skeptical and reluctant ABC faith/religion correspondent, and he is able to interview notable figures like Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama.

It’s precisely the culmination of these circumstances that really makes Harris a reliable and trustworthy advocate for meditation. Harris is a skeptic, almost to a fault, and he mocks himself relentlessly through his journey. He was hesitant to approach meditation for fear that it would make him too complacent in the workplace – he needs to be aggressive enough to get the news pieces that he wants to cover, which is why “maintaining his edge” is so important to him. However, by the end of the memoir, Harris has found a way to balance meditation and professional success. I found this focus on professional success a bit annoying at times, because I never thought that these were mutually exclusive concerns. Maybe it’s because I’m a millennial, but I had never doubted for a moment that we can have it all. I think the target audience for this book, however, may be people a little less receptive of meditation, the people who really need to be convinced that it can help them. I won’t try to convince you on the merits of meditation, but if this is something that you’ve ever been even a little curious about, I think this book is a great place to start.

As for me, by the end of this book, I was itching to incorporate meditation into my own life.

***

I would recommend this book to any person who has ever toyed with the idea of meditation, people like me who enjoy reading self help books and memoirs, and people who are looking for a great audiobook to listen to. Dan Harris narrates, and his news anchor voice is absolutely made for audiobooks!

Do you meditate? If so, I’m dying to hear about your mindfulness rituals!

 

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