Book Review #53: “Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America”

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Image Credit: Amazon

This was the second book that Al gave me for Christmas. He’s heard me talk about Barbara Ehrenreich before. I read her book Nickel and Dimed (2001) for one of my early college classes, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Right out of the gate, Ehrenreich writes about her own battle with breast cancer, and how “fighting cancer with a positive attitude” has permeated our culture. Although this book was published in 2009, nearly 10 years ago, the same sentiments appear to be holding strong. I have my own opinions about breast cancer charities and the amount of money that is spent on research (Susan G. Komen in particular), but let’s just say that Ehrenreich’s words and research fell in line with my thoughts.

Ehrenreich continues with chapters about the economy, life coaches, how “coaching” entered into corporate culture, and so on. One review compared positivity and positive thinking to a fake orgasm. “Fake it ’til you make it” is referenced a lot, and not always in a good way. But, Ehrenreich says, that’s okay. It’s actually healthier to not be positive all the time. Her main point is to not get brainwashed, and make sure you remain in control of your emotions.

While I was reading, I couldn’t help but think of the Pixar movie Inside Out (2016), where the viewers are inside the head of 11-year-old Riley and seeing her emotions (Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger) interact. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should. And I wondered if Ehrenreich had seen it, and what she thought about it. A lot of her writing in this book, years before the movie was released, was spot on with the messages Pixar was sending to moviegoers. We all have Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger among us and in us for a reason and a purpose.

I’m glad that I put this book on my Amazon wish list. I had been thinking about Ehrenreich and Nickel and Dimed a lot last year, and I found myself searching for more books written by her. I was not disappointed. I plan to read several more of her works in the future:

Despite this compelling read, I still have a positive attitude. I’ve always been an optimist – One nonfiction book isn’t going to turn me into a pessimist. However, I’m definitely going to pay closer attention to my surroundings, try not to get caught up in hype, and stay in control of my emotions.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

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5 thoughts on “Book Review #53: “Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America”

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