Review: “How to be Happy: Not a Self-Help Book” by Iain S. Thomas

IMG_3716In January, my mom and I went out to dinner with some family friends, Tara and her daughter Mim. Mom and Mim coincidentally have the same birthday (January 20th) so it was a duel celebration. Mim is actually my younger brother’s age and they’ve been friends since they were about five, but I also sort of adopted her as a sister along the way too.

Though she’s only 15 now, she’s lightyears ahead of her age, especially when it comes to reading. Mim, like myself when I was her age (and still today), reads anything and everything. For years now we’ve been swapping books whenever we see each other. During our dinner in January, Mim pulled a book out of her bag and handed it to me. (Side note: I think the book was actually for my mom, but I snagged it before mom got her hands on it.) The book she passed on was How to be Happy: Not a Self-Help Book by Iain S. Thomas which Mim gave very high praise.

How to be Happy specifically says “Not a Self-Help Book. Seriously.” on the front cover and it doesn’t disappoint – some of the advice is down right terrible. The premise of the book is that Iain has no idea how to write a book about being happy because he’s not sure how to be happy himself half the time. Which of course is a completely relatable topic. It’s a small book with a strange drawing on the front of some type of candle. The book’s dedication provides a hint to the adorably touching story within:

For my wife for being both the woman I love and the woman I need; for my mother for her tireless spirit; for my late father for his wisdom and bad jokes; for anyone who’s ever shared their time with me and read what I write; and finally, for Michelle, my tireless publisher for her constant support.

But not for Sandra.

Although I do hope she’s finally getting help, wherever she is.

The first page is a tweet by the writer, @IWroteThisForU, in January 2014.


I kind of freaking out when Iain S. Thomas “liked” the tweet of my favorite line from his book.

The second page is an email from the mysterious Sandra J. And so begins the tale of Iain, his struggles of writing a book about being happy, trying to pay the bills on a writer’s salary, writing poetry and short stories for his blog, and the continued struggle of a person who doesn’t fit the mold of what other’s are expecting from him. The story branches off at a multitude of points with random stories and various other book ideas, providing relief for the reader and Iain himself as he continues to hit roadblock after roadblock, and eventually ends with a twist that will make you laugh out loud.

Each snippet of the book is made up of real tweets, real emails, real blog posts, real experiences, and real emotions. Some days on my way to work, reading this book on the T, I would go through an ocean of feelings from happiness, to sorrow, to anger, in less than 45 minutes. Reading the entire book, following Iain’s struggles with writing, struggles with Sandra, and struggles with the other various things that happen in his life along the way, is an experience within itself layered with humor and introspection.

If you’re looking for a lighthearted summer read, find your copy of How to be Happy: Not a Self-Help Book at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. If you’d like to read other work by Iain S. Thomas, he has written a myriad of other books including I Wrote This For You, as well as continually posting to his blog,


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