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Publisher's Summary

A groundbreaking exploration of why we want what we want, and a toolkit for freeing ourselves from chasing unfulfilling desires.

Gravity affects every aspect of our physical being, but there’s a psychological force just as powerful - yet almost nobody has heard of it. It’s responsible for bringing groups of people together and pulling them apart, making certain goals attractive to some and not to others, and fueling cycles of anxiety and conflict. In Wanting, Luke Burgis draws on the work of French polymath René Girard to bring this hidden force to light and reveals how it shapes our lives and societies.  

According to Girard, humans don’t desire anything independently. Human desire is mimetic - we imitate what other people want. This affects the way we choose partners, friends, careers, clothes, and vacation destinations. Mimetic desire is responsible for the formation of our very identities. It explains the enduring relevancy of Shakespeare’s plays, why Peter Thiel decided to be the first investor in Facebook, and why our world is growing more divided as it becomes more connected.

Wanting also shows that conflict does not arise because of our differences - it comes from our sameness. Because we learn to want what other people want, we often end up competing for the same things. Ignoring our large similarities, we cling to our perceived differences.

Drawing on his experience as an entrepreneur, teacher, and student of classical philosophy and theology, Burgis shares tactics that help turn blind wanting into intentional wanting - not by trying to rid ourselves of desire, but by desiring differently. It’s possible to be more in control of the things we want, to achieve more independence from trends and bubbles, and to find more meaning in our work and lives.

The future will be shaped by our desires. Wanting shows us how to desire a better one.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Press

"This book makes a startling case that many of our goals are merely reflections of what we think others want. It’s a spellbinding read, and it will leave you rethinking your own motivations for months and maybe even years later.” (Adam Grant, New York Times best-selling author of Think Again and Originals, and host of the TED podcast WorkLife)

"Luke Burgis’ Wanting is a brilliant exploration of the hidden and powerful dynamics of desire operating in our age of social media memes, commercial rivalry, and rising partisan scapegoating and violence.... It’s a call to discernment and a deeper fulfillment that lights a path beyond the darkness of our current world." (Stephen Hanselman, New York Times best-selling co-author of Lives of the Stoics and The Daily Stoic)

©2021 Luke Burgis (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

Dear Listener,

What do I hope you will take away from Wanting?
"I started writing this book at a coffee shop in Washington, DC. I finished it during lockdown at my childhood home in Michigan, where I was taking care of my parents. Who would’ve thought that our desires would be so radically altered in just a few weeks? New things became important. Fight-or-flight mode kicked in. Many desires took a back seat to more immediate needs—survival, protection, financial security. Now we’re emerging from the pandemic with new perspectives and, with them, new desires. Understanding the forces shaping those desires is more important than ever. How do we know what we truly want? How do we make sense of radical changes in direction? How can we insure ourselves against disillusionment? I wrote this book because my own desires were subject to wild fluctuations in my early life—and it took me a long time to understand why. My hope for this book is that it will help you understand yourself, and our society, better. We have a chance to break free from destructive cycles of conflict and rivalry in our world. It starts with becoming aware of one powerful force that has been hidden since the foundation of the world." –Luke Burgis, author of Wanting

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One of the most important books you'll ever read

Personally, I think this is one of the most important books of recent years, and that’s no exaggeration. I had never heard of Luke Burgis, but I kept hearing about this book, so I decided to grab a copy, and I was hooked from the beginning. I didn’t know if I should expect a book leaning towards neuroscience and discussing dopamine, or if it’d be more in the realm of psychology and behaviorism. Surprisingly, as someone who was unfamiliar with mimetic desire, the book was more philosophical, and I loved it. This topic is extremely important to me because I was an alcoholic and drug addict for most of my life who suffered from extreme depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Since getting sober in 2012, the most important lesson I learned is how I was constantly trying to fill a void by acquiring money, status, relationships, and more, but it ultimately left me empty. I can’t explain the freedom I’ve found since realizing this, and since then, I’ve seen how it’s one of the primary sources of suffering for many others who are struggling in their lives.

Burgis shares some of his personal story about chasing after the things he thought he wanted for most of his life, but he found a sense of relief when a major deal fell through. Then, he goes on to break down the work of French polymath Rene Girard to explain how one of the main driving forces in our lives is mimetic desire, which has a lot to do with social comparison and mimicry. We all think we’re in total control of our lives, but so many of us are depressed, anxious, and angry, but we don’t know why. Burgis shows how mimetic desire affects just about every aspect of our lives, but what’s great is that he doesn’t say this is necessarily a bad thing. His goal is to make us aware of this force so we can self-reflect, make better decisions, and hopefully find some peace and serenity.

I can’t do this book enough justice with a review, so I’ll end by saying that if you’re struggling, you need this book. There are a few reads I have on a list of books I should revisit at least once a year, and this one was just added to that list.

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Tedious - feels like it misses the point

Another reviewer said that this felt like a teenager who hadn't quite got the concept and then referenced everything through that half baked idea... and this is exactly how it felt. Not well thought through by someone trying a bit too hard to appear intellectual. Avoid

8 people found this helpful

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Simplistic and amateutish reading of Gerard

This is a rather simplistic, and amateurish review of Gerard's work. It is so repetitive and badly written The author will tell you "in this chapter you will learn ...." then he will fill pages with mundane anecdotes seen from the spectacle of mimetic theory.. Gerard's work is intetesting, especially his theory of the scapegoat but I have not got this impression listing to this book. For a theory to be of value it has to offer a new or better explaination of world compared to existting theories. It is not enough to project mimesis on everyday experience and call it a theory. This is exactly what this author is doing . He comes across as an impressionable teenager who just got introduced to new cool idea. Most probably it was Peter Thiel who left the impression not Gerard.

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Boring

Useless and boring. Wish I could figure out how to mimic how to get a refund for this

6 people found this helpful

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A solid explanation of human rivalry

Can't agree more with what Luke has to say. I've seen and been influenced by mimesis, rivalry and scapegoating firsthand in my job.

The ideas presented are not new if you have ever exercised a bit of self awareness. What is new is the way that Luke articulates these ideas and projects them to modern life and not just literature.

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Keep it on repeat!

Just finished the first time through and will be going back for round two to pick up what I missed. There is a lot here and all or any of it can make like better, relationships deeper and more real, and help focus energy toward true vocation.

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Some insights, some dubiousness

This book is at its strongest in the first half when he discusses the theories opinions and ideas of Renee Girard, talks about Birnays, and gives a few examples. As the book continues, it feels like the author claims more and more, with less of an explanation. A few conclusions the book reached struck me as so disconnected from the source material as to make me suspicious of other claims made in the book of which I knew less about. As the book goes on, things like simple metaphors he makes seem less and less analogous to the concepts he is trying to elucidate, to the point where I remember saying to myself, "sure X is like Y, but only if you don't think about it." As these kind of metaphors become more common the purpose of the text becomes less clear.

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Very insightful, so impressed with this book

I feel there is so much practical knowledge I can take from Wanting and apply to my own life.

I was unfamiliar with the teachings of René Girard before reading this book but the author does a great job of introducing the concept of mimetic desire. It’s both fascinating and practical. I’m looking forward to now going back and reading the book for its illustrations. Having listened to Wanting, I can now begin to see how Girard’s insights are playing out in my own life.

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Mind blown

I have learned so much about my subconsciousness and realized why I am the way I am because of this book. I thank the author for going on the Art of Manliness Podcasts where I first heard of these concepts and made me want to read more.

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  • 06-07-21

Very insightful!

This book provides a very interesting perspective to why we want what we want and a deep dive to Renee Girard’s mimetic theory. Highly recommended!

2 people found this helpful