Reviews elsewhere on the web:
The Simple Dollar
Doug Brown
FPA Journal
Nicole-Anne Boyer (pdf)
Alexander Kjerulf
Classical Bookworm

Barry Schwartz

The Paradox of Choice

We all want the opportunity to decide things for ourselves, rather than having our lives determined by others. However, the choices available in today's society can be overwhelming, and you may begin to wonder whether choice is such a good thing. In The Paradox of Choice:Why More is Less Barry Schwarz argues that it is not, and give some advice on what we can do about it.

The book begins with examples of the choice available on supermarket shelves, where there can all to easily be hundreds of versions of one product type. Maybe that isn't so difficult to deal with, but Schwarz goes on to point out areas such as health insurance and retirement planning where making the wrong choice can have serious consequences. What is presented as consumer choice can also be seen as a way to blame the customer if things don't turn out well.

Schwartz goes on to examines the ways we make choices. Some people are 'maximizers' - they put great effort in choosing the best possible option - whereas others are 'satisficers', who will accept the first thing which meets their criteria. The book also looks at why our choices don't always provide the benefits we hope for, and at the nature of regret.

The final chapter gives the readers advice on how to deal with the choices they face everyday. However, this isn't the sort of self-help book which pushes a plan down your throat, so even if you don't intend to change the way you make choices, it's worth reading for the insight which it gives into modern life.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 304 pages  
ISBN: 0060005696
Salesrank: 23328
Weight:0.89 lbs
Published: 2005 Harper Perennial
Amazon price $9.27
Marketplace:New from $8.09:Used from $2.31
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 304 pages  
ISBN: 0060005696
Salesrank: 22496
Weight:0.89 lbs
Published: 2005 Harper Perennial
Amazon price £8.99
Marketplace:New from £4.71:Used from £2.84
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback 304 pages  
ISBN: 0060005696
Salesrank: 47005
Weight:0.89 lbs
Published: 2005 Harper Perennial
Amazon price CDN$ 19.79
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 7.03:Used from CDN$ 2.53
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Product Description

Whether we're buying a pair of jeans, ordering a cup of coffee, selecting a long-distance carrier, applying to college, choosing a doctor, or setting up a 401(k), everyday decisions—both big and small—have become increasingly complex due to the overwhelming abundance of choice with which we are presented.

As Americans, we assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression.

In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice—the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish—becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice—from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs—has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. Schwartz also shows how our obsession with choice encourages us to seek that which makes us feel worse.

By synthesizing current research in the social sciences, Schwartz makes the counter intuitive case that eliminating choices can greatly reduce the stress, anxiety, and busyness of our lives. He offers eleven practical steps on how to limit choices to a manageable number, have the discipline to focus on those that are important and ignore the rest, and ultimately derive greater satisfaction from the choices you have to make.