Book Review: “A Guide To Rational Living”

Dr. Albert Ellis was voted by the American Psychological Association as being the second most influential psychologist of all time.

This book is the first book that Dr. Albert Ellis wrote on Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy ( REBT – later known as “cognitive therapy”). I also think it is one of the best.

REBT is built on the idea that our thoughts cause our emotions. Ellis believed that people can change their emotions by disputing their irrational thoughts with facts and reason. Dr. Ellis believed that behaviors and emotions reinforce thoughts. To make lasting changes Dr. Ellis advocated exercises to change behavior and emotions along with changing irrational beliefs.

In this book Dr. Ellis goes through what he believes are the top 10 irrational ideas that cause most people to experience unpleasant emotions needlessly.

Ellis is not known for being a great writer, but in this book he pulls it together. The tone is direct as well as clear, free of psychobabble, and you never doubt that you are being addressed by one of the great psychological minds of the 20th century.

Dr. Ellis views evolved substantially over the decades and over many editions of this book. To get a modern view of the concepts that Dr. Ellis considered to be the most important I would recommend starting the book at chapter 20, going to the end and then starting from the beginning.

Beware, there are multiple editions of this book. To get the latest edition with the most content make sure you have the 3rd 1975 (August) edition. ISBN 0-87980-042-9. For some reason some book sites list this publishing year as 1997. Perhaps that year just refers to a fresh printing. Regardless, the edition you buy should have 23 chapters. Earlier editions do not.

I consider this book to be one of the most influential books I’ve read in my life.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: “A Guide To Rational Living””

  1. “Ellis believed that people can change their emotions by disputing their irrational thoughts with facts and reason. ” Good, but what is reason? Answer: Rational thinking means starting from basic principles, applying logic, and checking with empirical verification. Facts are the empirical verifications which can modify the basic principles. We just throw around words like facts and reason without understanding. This is the fault of our educational system. See the new book, “Rational Thinking, Government Policies, Science, and Living”. I tell my university math students that if they understand the math, i.e., know the principles and logic, they will be happy. This point is also discussed in “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better”.

  2. I agree.

    I didn’t understand math until one day in a college philosophy class the professor decided to save writing by circling parts of an argument on the chalk board and assigning a symbol to each circle. Then it dawned on me. That is where math came from and math was just a terse language.

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