'Pursuit of Happyness' by Chris Gardner - Book Review


The Bottom Line

Chris Gardner’s life story is impressive. Despite having never gone to college, and after a period of being homeless, he became a wildly successful stockbroker and wrote his memoir, Pursuit of Happyness. It’s not surprising that Hollywood turned his story into a blockbuster film starring Will Smith. Pursuit of Happyness tracks this happy, rags-to-riches story, including his unhappy childhood and his adult progression through a few different careers.


  • Gardner’s childhood memories range from the sad to the uplifting
  • Readers will be motivated and inspired by his dedication to education and hard work
  • Gardner’s sincere expressions of devotion to his children are touching


  • Violence and sexuality make this book inappropriate for young readers
  • The writing is more complicated than it needs to be; sentences can be hard to follow


  • Chris Gardner grew up in a struggling African-American neighborhood in Milwaukee
  • Gardner’s childhood was marked by his stepfather’s abuse of his mother
  • Gardner’s two goals are to be a good father to his son and to work on Wall Street

Guide Review - by Chris Gardner - Book Review

Chris Gardner went from an impoverished childhood to become a wealthy stockbroker and entrepreneur and managed to juggle single fatherhood before it was culturally accepted. His memoir, Pursuit of Happyness, spends a lot of time recounting that difficult childhood and his transition to the military and to time spent working in medicine.

The story picks up more speed two-thirds of the way through when Gardner is living in San Francisco determined to raise his son and succeed as a stockbroker, despite having never gone to college.

Gardner’s message can seem inconsistent. On the one hand, he was moved by his own troubled childhood to vow that he would be a good father to his children.

On the other hand, a flashy red Ferrari caught his eye one day, prompting him to adopt the goal of becoming a stock broker in order to earn enough money to buy his own Ferrari. The two goals aren’t incompatible, of course, but Gardner doesn’t mention any tension he may have felt his selfless love for his son and his more superficial-seeming financial goals.

Any self-reflection present in Gardner’s story seems to be mostly the self-reflection of a motivational speaker, which Gardner has become. There is much discussion of working hard to overcome the paucity of other African-Americans on Wall Street, not to mention Gardner’s lack of a college degree. The Pursuit of Happyness makes for an enjoyable story, and an inspiring one, but leaves the reader looking for something more.

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Your Citation
Newman, Bess. "'Pursuit of Happyness' by Chris Gardner - Book Review." ThoughtCo, Feb. 12, 2017, thoughtco.com/pursuit-of-happyness-by-chris-gardner-book-review-362406. Newman, Bess. (2017, February 12). 'Pursuit of Happyness' by Chris Gardner - Book Review. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/pursuit-of-happyness-by-chris-gardner-book-review-362406 Newman, Bess. "'Pursuit of Happyness' by Chris Gardner - Book Review." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/pursuit-of-happyness-by-chris-gardner-book-review-362406 (accessed March 17, 2018).