Cover image for The happiness curve : why life gets better after 50 / Jonathan Rauch.
The happiness curve : why life gets better after 50 / Jonathan Rauch.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dunne Books, 2018.
Physical Description:
viii, 244 pages ; 24 cm


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
155.66 RAU Book Adult General Collection

On Order



"In this warm, wise, and witty overview, Jonathan Rauch combines evidence and experience to show his fellow adults that the best is yet to come." -- Steven Pinker, bestselling author of Enlightenment Now

This book will change your life by showing you how life changes.

Why does happiness get harder in your 40s? Why do you feel in a slump when you're successful? Where does this malaise come from? And, most importantly, will it ever end?

Drawing on cutting-edge research, award-winning journalist Jonathan Rauch answers all these questions. He shows that from our 20s into our 40s, happiness follows a U-shaped trajectory, a "happiness curve," declining from the optimism of youth into what's often a long, low slump in middle age, before starting to rise again in our 50s.

This isn't a midlife crisis , though. Rauch reveals that this slump is instead a natural stage of life--and an essential one. By shifting priorities away from competition and toward compassion, it equips you with new tools for wisdom and gratitude to win the third period of life.

And Rauch can testify to this personally because it was his own slump, despite acclaim as a journalist and commentator that compelled him to investigate the happiness curve. His own story and the stories of many others from all walks of life--from a steelworker and a limo driver to a telecoms executive and a philanthropist--show how the ordeal of midlife malaise reboots our values and even our brains for a rebirth of gratitude.

Full of insights and data and featuring many ways to endure the slump and avoid its perils and traps, The Happiness Curve doesn't just show you the dark forest of midlife, it helps you find a path through the trees. It also demonstrates how we can--and why we must--do more to help each other through the woods. Midlife is a journey we mustn't walk alone.

Author Notes

JONATHAN RAUCH, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, is the author of several books and many articles on public policy, culture, and government. A recipient of the 2005 National Magazine Award, he's a contributing editor of The Atlantic. He has also written for The New Republic , The New York Times , The Wall Street Journal , and The Washington Post , among many other publications. He lives with his husband in Washington, DC.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Rauch (Political Realism) argues for a "happiness curve" to life-a common, U-shaped path from youthful idealism, through middle-aged disappointment, to eventual happiness-in this inspired take on midlife crises. In researching the topic, Rauch gave interviewees a questionnaire about their satisfaction level at the present and at earlier ages, finding that those in their 40s often describe feeling profoundly dissatisfied, even when there seemed no compelling reason to be so. Older subjects reported feeling the same demoralization during their 40s, but also increased satisfaction at their present age and even a "rebirth of gratitude." What's the reason for that return to contentment? It can be multilayered, Rauch says; it may surface as "a sense of mastery." Or it may be that "settling increases our contentment." While Rauch provides a few suggestions for getting through the low times-a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, for instance-it's the many interviews with survey participants that will provide the most reassurance to readers. They will also take comfort from Rauch's personal investment in the subject-he has moved through the bottom of his own happiness curve and concludes his heartening self-help book by writing that it was "worth the wait." (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Thomas Coles journey-and mine
1 The Voyage of Lifep. 1
2 What Makes Us Happy (and Doesn't) The strange illogic of life satisfactionp. 20
3 A Timely Discovery How unsuspecting economists (and apes) found the happiness curvep. 40
4 The Shape of the River Time, happiness, and the curve of the Up. 60
5 The Expectations Trap Midlife malaise is often about nothingp. 82
6 The Paradox of Aging Why getting old makes you happierp. 112
7 Crossing Toward Wisdom The happiness curve has a purpose, and it's socialp. 138
8 Helping Ourselves How to get through the Up. 167
9 Helping Each Other Bringing midlife out of the closetp. 186
10 Epilogue: Gratitudep. 216
Acknowledgmentsp. 219
Sources and Methodsp. 221
Indexp. 231