Book Review

The Pursuit of Happiness: A History from the Greeks to the Present By Darrin McMahon Allen Lane

This is a very bold book indeed, setting out, as it does, to chart the evolution of western thinking on happiness over the last 2,000 years. Freud, nearly a century ago, aware of the complexity of even defining something as elusive and subjective as happiness, not to mind writing a history of the term, glumly counselled all would-be historians of... Read More

Posted: 02 September 2006

Book Review

A fad insane. Book Review. Madhouse: A Tragic Tale of Megalomania and Modern Medicine by Andrew Scull

The mock-Gothic subtitle of this brilliant piece of medical scholarship - "A Tragic Tale of Megalomania and Modern Medicine" - hardly prepares you for the almost unbelievable horrors that Andrew Scull documents within: how Dr Henry Cotton, one of the leading psychiatrists in America in the early 20th century, in his grandiose pursuit of a biological basis of mental disorders, maimed,... Read More

Posted: 14 January 2006


We need to look beyond our new material wealth

It's New Year's Eve. Many of you - maybe even governments and governments-in-waiting - are making resolutions. For the past decade, governments have concentrated on making us prosperous. For the new year, they might consider trying to make us happier. We are at a golden moment in Irish life. But there is a fork in the road. One way is to... Read More

Posted: 31 December 2005


Home environment rather than childcare remains key influence

In her column of last Saturday Breda O'Brien takes issue with my "certainty" regarding the effect of childcare on children's emotional attachment: that is, that the quantity, quality, stability of arrangement and age of entry into childcare have no effect on the security of mother-child attachment. She goes on to cite - in apparent opposition to that conclusion - the National... Read More

Posted: 17 September 2005

Book Review

Making Babies: Stumbling into Motherhood By Anne Enright

This is the kind of book that had me regularly thinking, "Oh, yes, I remember that", or, more often, "How could I have forgotten that?". Yet, the half-unconscious memories evoked were so intensely private that I have never said them out loud to anyone. But Anne Enright has - to great effect. This is a book about the experience of motherhood... Read More

Posted: 14 August 2004


In a state about status. Book Review. Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton.

After reading a newspaper profile of someone prominent and successful, do you find that you sometimes react with a preoccupied gaze, a brittle smile? Or after hearing news of a colleague's achievement, or even of the great success of a friend, do you react with an over-extended pause? Of course you don't . . . But if you do, you are... Read More

Posted: 01 May 2004