Harper Academic

The Sweet Spot

The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning

by Paul Bloom

On Sale: 11/02/2021

Price: $18.99

The Sweet Spot

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The Sweet Spot

The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning

by Paul Bloom

On Sale: 11/02/2021

Format:

Price: $18.99

About the Book

“This book will challenge you to rethink your vision of a good life. With sharp insights and lucid prose, Paul Bloom makes a captivating case that pain and suffering are essential to happiness. It’s an exhilarating antidote to toxic positivity.” —Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

From the author of Against Empathy comes a different kind of happiness book, one that shows us how suffering is an essential source of both pleasure and meaning in our lives

Why do we so often seek out physical pain and emotional turmoil? We go to movies that make us cry, or scream, or gag. We poke at sores, eat spicy foods, immerse ourselves in hot baths, run marathons. Some of us even seek out pain and humiliation in sexual role-play. Where do these seemingly perverse appetites come from?

Drawing on groundbreaking findings from psychology and brain science, The Sweet Spot shows how the right kind of suffering sets the stage for enhanced pleasure. Pain can distract us from our anxieties and help us transcend the self. Choosing to suffer can serve social goals; it can display how tough we are or, conversely, can function as a cry for help. Feelings of fear and sadness are part of the pleasure of immersing ourselves in play and fantasy and can provide certain moral satisfactions. And effort, struggle, and difficulty can, in the right contexts, lead to the joys of mastery and flow.

But suffering plays a deeper role as well. We are not natural hedonists—a good life involves more than pleasure. People seek lives of meaning and significance; we aspire to rich relationships and satisfying pursuits, and this requires some amount of struggle, anxiety, and loss. Brilliantly argued, witty, and humane, Paul Bloom shows how a life without chosen suffering would be empty—and worse than that, boring.  

Critical Praise

“[The Sweet Spot] is lucid and elegantly written throughout so that there’s little suffering involved in reading it—in this, it’s reminiscent of Michael Sandel and Martha Nussbaum. A bracing, convincing argument that toil, torment, and tribulation can be good things.” - Kirkus Reviews

“This book will challenge you to rethink your vision of a good life. With sharp insights and lucid prose, Paul Bloom makes a captivating case that pain and suffering are essential to happiness. It’s an exhilarating antidote to toxic positivity.” - Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

“Paul Bloom can always be counted on to take your confident assumptions about humanity and turn them upside down. With The Sweet Spot, he’s done it again! But this time, his investigations into pain and suffering, pleasure and meaning ask—and answer—the perennial question of what makes life worth living. You won’t want to miss this eloquent and erudite book.”
- Susan Cain, author of Quiet

“Paul Bloom has a gift for spotting paradoxes in human nature and resolving them with deep, satisfying explanations, and this lucid and fascinating book does it again with our puzzling masochisms.” - Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and the author of How the Mind Works and Rationality

“Provocative, fascinating, and insightful—in other words, just what you’d expect from Paul Bloom, one of the world’s best writers and deepest thinkers about human behavior. His argument about why we sometimes seek sorrow, fear, and pain is, paradoxically, a pleasure to read. So get out your highlighter and clear your calendar, because once you open this book, you won’t be able to put it down.”
- Daniel Gilbert, Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of New York Times bestseller Stumbling on Happiness

“A laugh-out-loud-funny and totally thought-provoking tour of the most curious parts of human pleasure! With tantalizing examples you can’t wait to tell your friends, Bloom provides a fun and theoretically insightful journey into our species’ strangest forms of enjoyment. It’s a book that will definitely hit your sweet spot!” - Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale University and host of The Happiness Lab podcast

“Paul Bloom, one of the best writers we have about the human condition, has done it again. What a fascinating book! The Sweet Spot is a profound meditation on happiness, family, and meaning. This book provides enough challenging ideas to give you just a bit of beautiful discomfort, but it is, above all, a joy to read.” - A. J. Jacobs, author of It’s All Relative

“Paul Bloom is a phenomenal psychologist. His research is always thought-provoking, and his writing clear and eloquent. I eagerly look forward to seeing what he tackles next.” - Maria Konnikova, author of The Biggest Bluff

“This delightful and wonderfully written book manages to ask one of the most important questions in modern thought: What is happiness, really? Paul Bloom gets to the heart of the matter, taking on a truly important mission: to illustrate how complex and rich human happiness really is. It turns out that, like all things human, happiness can be confusing, paradoxical, embarrassing, and sometimes just bizarre.”
- Greg Lukianoff, president and CEO of FIRE and coauthor of The Coddling of the American Mind

"Forget your favorite motivational speaker for a moment and read this book. Paul Bloom gives you the real scoop on what it takes to live a good life, and it’s not what you may think. Beyond pleasure, beyond joy, and even beyond happiness lies something deeper, more meaningful, and more transcendent. Chosen wisely, suffering can get you there. Paul Bloom shows you how.” - Scott Barry Kaufman, author of Transcend and host of The Psychology Podcast

“In 1982 I rode my bicycle 3,000 miles in 10 days in the Race Across America, resulting in crushing fatigue and almost unimaginable suffering. Until I read Paul Bloom’s book on the pleasures of suffering, I never fully grasped why it was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Now I understand how struggles emboldened one to take on new challenges and better deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that most of us encounter in our lives, and to find meaning therein." - Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of The Moral Arc

Praise for Against Empathy - ///

"An invigorating, relevant and often very funny re-evaluation of empathy, one of our culture’s most ubiquitous sacred cows, which in Mr. Bloom’s view should be gently led to the abattoir."  - New York Times

"Provocative . . . In a time of post-truth politics, his book offers a much-needed call for facts." 

- The Economist

"Like a tough-to-crack case against an idea that most of us have long known is key to repairing the world . . . will legitimately change how you think about the world and your own sense of morality." 

- New York magazine

"Mr. Bloom is undoubtedly right that empathy alone makes for bad policy: While it can motivate us to care, we need reason to help us design and implement policies aimed at reducing suffering."  - Wall Street Journal

"A nuanced foray into some fraught grey areas."  - Nature

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780063214200
  • ISBN 10: 0063214202
  • Imprint: Ecco
  • On Sale: 11/02/2021
  • Trimsize: 5.500 in (w) x 8.250 in (h) x 0.760 in (d)
  • Pages: 304
  • List Price: $18.99
  • BISAC1 : PSYCHOLOGY / Emotions
  • BISAC2 : PSYCHOLOGY / Social Psychology
  • BISAC3 : SELF-HELP / Personal Growth / Happiness