Learning from stories, not theories: My book review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “The Infidel”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I was recently a guest blogger at trulymadlydeeplyhappy.com hosted by the wonderful Julie Zommers. Here’s the beginning of my book review in which I argue that we learn from stories, not theories.

“There are probably millions of books written about happiness. They are usually available in the self-help or the psychology sections of bookstores. However, when I want to learn about happiness–what is and how to achieve it–I avoid these two sections and head straight to biographies and memoirs. I believe that no theory can truly make us happy and that we learn from stories, not theories. As doctoral students, my classmate and I reveled in critiquing all sorts of theories and could find fault with all of them. They are not universal and not applicable to the beautiful and superbly unique beings that we are. Theories always include caveats and exclude context-specific circumstances and unforeseen events. So reading a book about someone who reveals their life story of overcoming adverse circumstances, of personal growth, and achieving their full potential is what makes me happy and inspired.”Read more

We Learn From Stories, Not Theories


As children we revere and emulate the heroes of books and cartoons: Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, Nancy Drew, to name a few. As we grow older, we look for a more “scientific” solution to our problems and seek help in books or individuals who advocate the use of theories that are the key to solving our problems. “If you do x, y, and z, and if you stick to them, you will resolve situation a,” they proclaim. And if you do not manage to follow through the x, y, or z, it is your own failure, not the theory’s. Continue reading »