Alan’s Favourite Book

When we met at Euston train station for a tour of the London Underground on which he was to be my guide, I had a smile on my face, for I had finished friend and colleague Alan’s favourite book at long last. Despite being about a quarter of the length of some of the other books I’ve taken to for this project, Positively Happy took me probably the longest to read. It wasn’t that it was particularly challenging, nor was it that I was so skeptical about a book by Noel Edmonds on the subject cosmic ordering that I had reluctantly crawled through it. The truth is, there was so much simple, relatable wisdom in it that I had felt the need to take notes.

We refrained from discussing the book in London, we had too much to see, but on our return the following day we nestled ourselves in the corner of the world’s tiniest Costa in Bridge House of BBC MediaCity on Salford Quays. Toasties consumed and appetites satisfied, Alan tucked into his teacake while I took diction.

Alan says he can’t remember who recommended the book to him or why, but he ended up reading it all the same and it’s since been one of the most influential books in his life, although he is keen to point out that’s not such a bold statement as it sounds. He’s a man with no interest in fiction (in fact, at first he’d wondered if this impeded his involvement in my project. I thought about it, but concluded I’d asked for his favourite book, not his favourite novel, so his choice was fair game) and little time in which to read, so his favourite book was not as hard to choose as, say, his favourite painting. Either way, I was reading something I never would have thought to read before, and if a book can hold the attention of someone who by confession doesn’t read much in the first place, to the extent of them not being able to put it down, and be important to them, there must be something to it.

Alan reads mostly autobiographies, but even then has specific tastes, focussing on those who have a positive, go-ahead attitude (even figures he adores have been consigned to the bookshelf before Chapter 3 if their life story was at all average or unexciting), and this book has real elements of that in it, with autobiographical excerpts to illustrate the points being made, and throughout these I really got the idea that Noel believes firmly that the principles he’s writing about really are the key to happiness and really have worked for him.

On to the points themselves then, and I’m sure you were as put off as I was by the words “cosmic ordering”. In fact, try as I might, I found little to disagree with in this book, and that was it’s appeal. Concepts that could easily seem quasi-religious nonsense are made into practical, real-world common sense. Instead of trying to claim that if you want something enough the cosmos will provide, Edmonds concentrates on making your own luck and creating opportunities with practical measures – surrounding yourself with positive people, interpreting in the most positive way possible and always moving forward. Although anyone would be hard pushed to disagree with any of this, it’s the first of these that both Alan and I most identify with.

Alan, when you talk to him, has a hundred stories for how this book helped him, and how its principles have affected his day-to-day decision making for the better. Positivity doesn’t come naturally to any of us, and requires, at times, extremely hard work. This book is a good and easy framework to use for that. Our discussion at ten o’clock in the morning in a quiet cafe was intense on the subjects of removing negative or energy-draining people from your life and whether public positivity is the same or closely related to inner happiness. Much of what we touched on is too personal to be thoughtlessly splurged onto an online blog, but the fact that this book brought us to such a strange place is its strength.

Positively Happy is not, nor does it claim to be, a literary, excellently sculpted book, nor a revolutionarily original work, nor a dictation of a rigid or unwavering way of life. What it is, and is excellent at being, is a book of practical methods and examples of everyday positivity from which one can pick and choose what works and be happy. I can see why Alan loves it.

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