BOOK REVIEW: The Totally Unscientific Study of Search for Human Happiness by Paula Poundstone


Title: The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness
Author: Paula Poundstone
Publication: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Humor
Pages: 320


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SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

“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.


My husband without fail always, always forces us to listen to Wait, Wait…..the NPR news quiz whenever we go on trips.  We always moan and groan but in the end we always end up enjoying it.  One of the panelists is Paula Poundstone. She cracks me up.  I saw she had a book and I knew I needed to read it.  I have been in a funk lately not, not happy but in the need of a good laugh and maybe I would pick some tips up from her. 

Paula is in the search for happiness.  She decides to try a bunch of different activities out to find happiness and see if doing them will bring her happiness.  She is raising three kids as a single mother. All of them she has adopted from foster care.  They each come with their own trials and tribulations.  She tries to rent a Lamborghini for 24 to the tune of over 1,000 a day.  Does she find joy and happiness in that?  Slightly but mostly when she is driving down the road with her son besides her. She tries out Tae Kwon Do.  She gets slight happiness but mostly sore muscles and a physical sense of well being. 

I adored this book.  The writing was impeccable and I honestly found myself giggling the entire way through it.  My kids kept asking me what was so funny.  The books isn’t really a story I mean her age progression as well as her kids but in the end she said it happened over a 7 year time period.  The book is broken down by happiness experiments.  They are super easy to follow and she has subheading under each one. She does drop the F-bomb a few times but not enough to put me off the book.  Each night I couldn’t wait to go to bed and read because I just needed to read more of the book. I had to find out what happened next in each of her experiments. I loved her life.  She does make fun of herself at times and really doesn’t hold back when she talks about the rough patches she went through awhile ago.  Did I glean any happiness tips off her maybe, but by the end I was in a much better mood and looking at my life a little bit differently. 

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