'The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50' by Jonathan Rauch

'The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50' by Jonathan Rauch
AP Photo/John Raby

EDITOR’S NOTE: In this RealClearBooks series, RealClear Book of the Week, we highlight recent nonfiction books from across the political spectrum. This week Carl M. Cannon discusses The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50 by Jonathan Rauch.

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As he began experiencing his 40s, cerebral Washington journalist Jonathan Rauch wasn’t happy. He wasn’t unhappy, exactly, and he certainly wasn’t clinically depressed. It’s just that he thought he should be more content. His love life was a source of deep satisfaction. He was at the top of his game professionally and, although not wealthy, he was financially comfortable. So why wasn’t he happier?

To find out, Rauch did what good reporters do: He went out and interviewed smart, creative people. He talked to research psychologists, economists, pollsters, colleagues at the Brookings Institution, and others. Along the way, he discovered that human happiness exists along a U-shaped continuum and that he was in a natural trough. He then developed a trove of insights about coping with the implications of this finding, and has put them in a stimulating new book.

Welcome to the “happiness curve.” Jon Rauch’s new book of that title isn’t pop psychology or a self-help tome, although there are many helpful suggestions it in. Rauch is one of his generation’s most astute political commentators and social critics, and “The Happiness Curve” is full of cutting-edge social science, unique observations, individual case studies, along with several big picture takeaways. It’s also a pleasure to read. He’s a graceful, and gracious, storyteller who has penned a work that will make readers of any age more optimistic about their futures, and more self-reflective about how to maximize their own well-being.

In the process of helping us contemplate what sportswriter Dan Jenkins called “Life Its Ownself,” Jonathan Rauch has produced a book that has a good chance of making us happier Americans and better citizens of the world.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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