The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Of all the books I sometimes mention in conversation, this one comes up about as often as any. The subject matter is just so germane in so many life situations. Like last week when I was trying to choose a nice bottle of wine as a gift. I reached a point where I needed to stop torturing myself with options and just... pick one. (They are all delicious.)
Schwartz's thesis is clear and intriguing, and he supports it beautifully. As Americans, we cherish our freedoms and hard-won rights. We will not give them up. But sometimes the sheer volume of options in front of us is overwhelming... decision-making is more difficult than ever before. The profound amount of information to sift through and the ever-looming possibility of post-choice regret makes car buying, shopping for blue jeans, and picking an insurance plan so much more complicated than ever... and more stressful. We are free, but we are not necessarily happier.
I get why this book landed on Malcolm Gladwell's recent list of the last decade's best books. It's really helpful.
Years ago I had a Russian language teacher who was here in the U.S. on a short visa to teach the class I was in. I remember hearing her say that she did her grocery shopping at 7-Eleven because she found our stores to be too intense. "I want cheese," she said. "A yellow cheese or a white cheese. In America, is whole wall of cheese!" I won't deny there are times when I definitely want a smoked gouda or a big-eye Swiss, but I see her point. That's why I was so glad for this book... with its excellent advice on how to minimize the stress associated with choicemaking in our culture. Some decisions we can avoid, and some we can't, but we can always decide in advance to be satisfied with our choices... and that knowledge is worth its weight in gold.
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