I’ve only just begun, but I think I’m ready to recommend The Happiness Myth: Why What We Think Is Right Is Wrong by Jennifer Michael Hecht.
Hecht has a fine pluralistic sensibility and a knack for getting distance from otherwise invisible cultural assumptions by relating them to historical precedent. She’s already convinced me that contemporary body obsessions aren’t superior to corseting. Of course, I liked this bit:
It is a modern myth that money cannot make you happy. We all say that it can’t, but, given one wish, a lot of us would go for cash. We certainly opt for money over many other pleasures in structuring our real lives. Part of the reason is that what you can buy with money today you used to be able to get for free—social contact and play that can fit neatly into your life. Shopping, television, shows, and sports are not deep, but neither were the common social contact and play that kept people happy in the past.