America the Anxious
In America the Anxious, Ruth Whippman embarks on an uproarious pilgrimage to explore the American happiness machine, tackling both the ridiculous and the sublime. In doing so she uncovers the darker forces in the mix and the damaging narratives we tell about human wellbeing.More | Praise
New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
New York Post Best Book of 2016
One of Newsweek’s Nine Books to Change the Way You Think in 2016
Bustle’s Best Nonfiction books of October 2016
Sunday Times Best Summer Read
Greater Good Science Center Favorite Book of 2016
A Daily Mail ‘Must Read’
When British journalist Ruth Whippman moved to the United States, she found herself increasingly perplexed by the American obsession with one topic above all others: happiness. The subject came up everywhere: at the playground swings, at the meat counter in the supermarket and even- legs in stirrups- at the gynecologist.
The omnipresence of these happiness conversations (trading tips, humble-bragging successes, offering unsolicited advice) wouldn’t let her go, and so Ruth did some digging. What she found was a paradox. Despite the fact that Americans spend more time and money in search of happiness than anyone else on earth, research shows that the United States is one of the least contented, most anxious countries in the developed world. Stoked by a multi-billion dollar “happiness industrial complex” intent on selling the promise of bliss, American appeared to be driving itself crazy in pursuit of contentment.
Ruth set out to get to the bottom of this contradiction, embarking on an uproarious pilgrimage to investigate how this national obsession infiltrates all areas of life, from religion to parenting, the workplace to social media. She nearly falls apart psychologically while attending a controversial self-help course that promises total transformation, where she is told that all her problems are all her own fault. She visits a strange “happiness city” in the Nevada desert and explores why it has one of the highest suicide rates in America; delves into the darker truths behind the influential “positive psychology” movement and ventures to Utah to spend time with the Mormons, officially America’s happiest people.
Hilarious and insightful, Ruth’s discoveries are startling and unexpected from start to finish.
“Ruth Whippman is my new favorite cultural critic,and her book was such a joy to read that I temporarily forgot about all my neuroses. It’s a shrewd, hilarious analysis of why a country so obsessed with happiness is so darn unhappy”– Adam Grant, #1 NYT bestselling author of Originals, Give and Take and Option B with Sheryl Sandberg.
“Ruth Whippman captures the absurdity of our late capitalist moment with sharp, insightful prose and a wicked sense of humor that makes every single page a pure joy to read. “America the Anxious” not only entertains without fail, but it also offers a wealth of devastating insights into how our culture demands happiness of us in ways that only seem to make us miserable. I mostly hate “Let Me Show You America!” nonfiction tomes, but this book is so charming and hilarious, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed cultural observations this much since David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” Reading this book is like touring America with a scary-smart friend who can’t stop elbowing you in the ribs and saying, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?!” If you want to understand why our culture incites pure dread and alienation in so many of us (often without always recognizing it), read this book.– Heather Havrilesky, New York magazine’s “Ask Polly” columnist and author of “How to be a Person in the World.”
“A whip-sharp British Bill Bryson…..In this funny yet unsettling book….Whippman has Bryson’s sharp ear for language and its potential for absurdity….This is not merely a personal voyage of enlightenment, however, nor an extended eye-roll at wacky Americans. The book’s serious underpinning is a warning about how happiness is being weaponised by governments and employers, directed towards their people to make them work harder and longer… With warm wit and chilling logic, The Pursuit of Happiness shows that the human desire for contentment can be manipulated and distorted until it is barely recognisable.”- The Sunday Times, UK
“Ruth Whippman is whip-smart. Her writing is nothing short of genius.” Ira Israel, The Huffington Post
“A hilarious narrative full of barbed observations, personal anecdotes and comical stories…. a delightfully witty, enjoyable read”- Kirkus starred review
“funny and provocative”- The San Francisco Examiner
“Speckled with humorous insight”- The San Francisco Chronicle
Modern anxiety cuts across national borders and social classes, but in America right now…is a blend of soaring media driven dreams and dwindling possibilities of making a living while pursuing them. And nobody is more eloquent or wickedly funny about this reality than Ruth Whippman, author of America the Anxious.” Jason Gots, Big Think’s Think Again podcast.
“a travelogue narrated by a curious, funny and highly motivated guide…put together, the snapshots add up to an uncomfortable picture of American life….she successfully dismantles some of the major happiness studies, and she convinces us that the emphasis on personal happiness takes the pressure off, say, the social welfare system to actually help people to better their lives.”- The New York Times Book Review
“A lively memoir…Whippman- whose narrative voice is an unlikely mix of Kathy Lette and Louis Theroux- takes us on a trip through the labyrinthine lowlands (of happiness.) What follows is part investigation, part journey of self discovery”- Times Literary Supplement.
“I inhaled every page…a thoughtful, insightful and often delightful read.”- Psychcentral
“Ruth Whippman has written a thoughtful, beautifully written, important book…delightfully readable, amusing and enlightening. I can’t recommend it too highly.”- Psychology Today
“I LOVED this book. I found it SO WELL WRITTEN, so witty and funny and reading it I was often envious of Ruth Whippman’s facility with language. It was a hugely engaging read, accessible and so relevant… I’ve been quite evangelical about it.”- Marian Keyes, bestselling author of Sushi for Beginners
Wry and often hilarious………. A great – and important – read- –Brigid Schulte, author of New York Times bestseller Overwhelmed: Work, Love & Play when No One has the Time
“Ruth Whippman cuts to the heart of America’s obsession with happiness – and the strange and wonderful things we do to obtain it. America the Anxious is a funny, timely book that everyone should read.”- Jessica Valenti- author of Full Frontal Feminism and Sex Object.
“One of the best books I’ve come across in a long time……insightful, brilliant, funny (actually laugh-out-loud hilarious at times), timely, and thought-provoking.” – Dr Hal Urban, author of 20 Things that Matter and The Ten Commandments of Common sense.
“Ruth Whippman has written a laugh-out-loud examination of how, exactly, the American pursuit of happiness has led us so far astray….. AMERICA THE ANXIOUS is a vibrant, hilarious, necessary book” – Tara Conklin, author of New York Times bestseller,The House Girl
“A delightfully funny read about America and its pursuit of happiness – Will it make you happier? Probably, but one thing for sure: it will definitely make you laugh.” – Emma Seppala Phd, Author of the Happiness Track and Science Director, Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Stanford University.
If you’re on a quest for happiness, you want to start with buying this book. Wit, wisdom, and the kind of analysis only a Brit could bring to the topics of anxiety and contentment. ….And the book itself will make you happy: I laughed my way through it. Highly recommended.- Linda Tirado- Author of Hand to Mouth, Living in Bootstrap America.
“Ruth Whippman manages the trick of being very funny about what is, deep down, a serious problem: the American quest for happiness isn’t working.”- Oliver Burkeman, Guardian columnist and author of The Antidote, Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
“So well-written and witty, you won’t notice that Whippman is delivering a devastating verdict on positive psychology as pseudoscience.” –Dr James Coyne, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
BOYMOM, Reimagining Boyhood in the Age of Impossible Masculinity
Blending cultural criticism, memoir, and reporting from the frontlines of contemporary American boyhood, this is a humorous and heartbreaking deep dive into the complexities of raising boys in our fraught political moment.More | Praise
Evidence of male entitlement and aggression is everywhere—from school shooters to incels, campus rapists to the online ‘manosphere.’ In the absolutist climate of the culture wars, feminist writer and mother of three boys Ruth Whippman can sometimes find herself conflicted and defensive, as though stranded on one side of a symbolic divide with her own children on the other. But as she comes to realize, gender politics aren’t simple. Male privilege and male vulnerability co-exist in a complex relationship; and raising boys who can challenge the confines of masculine expectations is more important now than ever.
With young men in the grip of a loneliness epidemic and dying by suicide at a rate of nearly four times their female peers, Whippman asks: What are the many cultural messages we send to boys that leave them anxious, emotionally repressed, and socially isolated? How do we raise our sons to have a healthy sense of self without turning them into entitled assholes? How can we find a feminism that holds boys to a higher standard but still treats them with empathy? And what do we do when our boys won’t cooperate with our plans?
BoyMom moves beyond simplistic, polarized thinking to uncover the myriad complex and invisible ways that systems of masculinity both harm boys and teach them to harm others. Determined to widen the possibilities for her own sons and subvert the social forces already affecting them, Whippman talks to boys of all types, as well as parents, educators, and other experts, and uncovers surprising and controversial truths about boy socialization. With humor and deep vulnerability, Whippman takes a stark look at her own parenting choices as well as wider narratives about mental health, school, sex, cancel culture, screens, popular culture, friendship, neurodiversity, and loneliness to make sense of how masculinity is constructed and experienced in our culture. In doing so, she charts a new path to help us give boys a healthier, more expansive, and fulfilling story about their lives.
PRAISE FOR RUTH WHIPPMAN AND BOYMOM
“Ruth Whippman is whip-smart. Her writing is nothing short of a genius”- Ira Israel, The Huffington Post
“Ruth Whippman is my new favorite cultural critic”– Adam Grant #1 NYT bestselling author of Hidden Potential, Originals and Givers and Takers
In this beautifully written book, Ruth Whippman draws on her experiences of raising her own three sons to imagine a new future for boys in our post #MeToo world. By turns funny, heartrending and revelatory, Whippman manages to deliver both an important contribution to the feminist literature as well as an emotive page-turner. A must read, not just for mothers of sons but for anyone with boys or men in their lives.- Eve Rodsky New York Times bestselling author of Fair Play
This is a wonderful and timely book. Whippman is a gifted writer; funny, smart, vulnerable and wise all at the same time. She is able to analyze and distill countless and often contradictory studies in a writing style so conversational and inviting, you have to keep reading to discover what she’s going to say next. As a mother of 3 boys, getting to the bottom of what boys want and need is part of Whippman’s mission, but it’s one from which we can all benefit. At a time when there is cultural confusion about what’s causing so many men and boys to suffer or fail, BOYMOM provides much-needed insight, wisdom, and clarity—not only for those raising sons—but for anyone a stake in the future of boys and men. In other words, practically all of us.-Joshua Coleman, Psychologist, Author of Rules of Estrangement
In her courageous book, BoyMom, Ruth Whippman takes on a subject long considered off-limits for mothers: boyhood and its myths and misconceptions. Weaving her moving journey as a mother to three sons through a remarkably lucid review of child development and masculinity literatures, she offers a powerful critique of our contemporary model for raising boys. In the end, she lovingly affirms boys’ right to be themselves and to exercise their own imaginations for the men they want to become. – Michael Reichert- author of How to Raise a Boy