Inspiring, uplifting, amazing, outstanding. These are just some of the many positive words I could use to gush about Andrew Matthews’s book Being Happy! As one of the first self-help books on happiness that I read about 20 years ago, it’s now become one of my favorite and most cherished.
First published in September 1988, this international bestseller has been reprinted over 50 times. According to Andrew’s online biography, Being Happy! has been translated into eight languages and has sold over one million copies. It’s easy to see why. Andrew’s clarity and wisdom, plus the joyful feeling exuding from every page, is obvious from the start, and his concepts are as relevant today as they were 22 years ago — Andrew’s ideas are timeless.
Style of writing and highlights of Being Happy!
Since first reading Being Happy! as a teenager, I have re-read many parts of this book over the years. I find Andrew’s succinct and non-patronising style a welcome and refreshing change from some self-help authors, who string out their ideas in a waffly array of words that comes across as trying too hard to show everyone how clever they are, rather than getting their ideas across clearly.
I especially enjoyed reading the many quotes Andrew includes throughout Being Happy!, plus his cartoons and the real-life stories and examples he uses to illustrate his concepts.
Andrew’s illustrations add light and laughter to what could be — in the hands of a less talented artist and author — a depressing read. A professional artist and cartoonist, Andrew draws all the cartoons in the book himself. Rather than these drawings coming across as childish and poking fun at depression and negative character traits, Andrew cleverly enables us to see the humor in our flaws and foibles, without causing offense.
Another bonus of Being Happy! is that you don’t have to read all of it to understand Andrew’s ideas. Turn to any page in the book and you could find that reading a paragraph or two is enough to help you. I’ve done this when I’ve been feeling low, and it felt like a good friend just gave me the exact pearl of wisdom I needed.
At the end of most topics, Andrew includes a brief summary of his concepts. He calls each summary In a nutshell. These are great to read if you don’t have enough time to read the entire topic. You can also read the topics in Being Happy! in any order.
I’ve received more help from this book in the few hours it took to read compared to the same time I’ve spent in some counselling sessions I’ve had.
So what’s Being Happy! about?
To quote the publisher’s website:
“‘Being Happy’ is about:
- how HAPPY people think
- being able to laugh at yourself
- being able to forgive yourself
- why some people always seem to be in the right place at the right time – and how you can be one of them.”
The above description only touches on the book’s contents. Andrew writes on a variety of topics about happiness — from the law of sow and reap, to the law of attraction, self-image, patterns, risks, gratitude, dealing with depression and more.
Ultimately Being Happy! is a handbook for how to find happiness, prosperity, and inner peace.
Excerpts from Being Happy!
Below are excerpts from pages 88 to 90 of Being Happy! I think these are great examples of Andrew’s wit, wisdom and writing skills. He’s writing on the topic of problems.
““We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.”
The thought can occur to us from time to time, “Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have any problems?” We could just laze on the beach all day doing absolutely nothing. You could be like a shellfish. Shellfish don’t worry that much about anything, as far as we can tell.
I suggest though, that after about eight years of lying on the sand contemplating your navel, you might be a little desperate for some challenge to present itself.
We are designed to solve problems and to find new ways of doing things. Problems are an inherent part of the universe and they prod us to learn, experience, to get off our backsides. Dogs are not great problem-solvers. If you are a dog, you get to take things easy. A pig has an even more relaxed approach to life. But who wants to be a pig?
The unique thing about being human is that you get to experience so much more. You can create something out of nothing. Pigs don’t write music. Dogs don‘t build companies. Shellfish don’t go to the movies. The package deal in being a human involves problems, and it also means we get to love, to laugh, to cry, to try, to get up and to fall down and get up again.
In a nutshell
Problems require us to stretch. As Horace said, “Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it.””
Andrew Matthew is a happiness guru, a master writer and a master artist. I highly recommend and praise Being Happy! This book has helped me during the toughest times in my life. It’s given me hope, strength and courage. It’s inspired me to write in a similar down-to-earth style to help others.
Thank you, Andrew, for your wit, wisdom and knowledge. Five stars.
written by Nyomi Graef
Matthews, A, 1988, Being Happy!, Singapore: Media Masters, pp. 88-90
Seashell Publishers – Andrew’s Books, n.d., Seashell Publishers,