The Pursuit of Happyness

The Pursuit of Happyness

by Chris Gardner

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The astounding yet true rags-to-riches saga of a homeless father who raised and cared for his son on the mean streets of San Francisco and went on to become a crown prince of Wall Street

At the age of twenty, Milwaukee native Chris Gardner, just out of the Navy, arrived in San Francisco to pursue a promising career in medicine. Considered a prodigy in scientific research, he surprised everyone and himself by setting his sights on the competitive world of high finance. Yet no sooner had he landed an entry-level position at a prestigious firm than Gardner found himself caught in a web of incredibly challenging circumstances that left him as part of the city's working homeless and with a toddler son. Motivated by the promise he made to himself as a fatherless child to never abandon his own children, the two spent almost a year moving among shelters, "HO-tels," soup lines, and even sleeping in the public restroom of a subway station.

Never giving in to despair, Gardner made an astonishing transformation from being part of the city's invisible poor to being a powerful player in its financial district.

More than a memoir of Gardner's financial success, this is the story of a man who breaks his own family's cycle of men abandoning their children. Mythic, triumphant, and unstintingly honest, The Pursuit of Happyness conjures heroes like Horatio Alger and Antwone Fisher, and appeals to the very essence of the American Dream.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061750588
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/17/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 169,197
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Chris Gardner is the chief executive officer of Gardner Rich & Company, a multimillion-dollar brokerage with offices in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. An avid philanthropist and motivational speaker, Gardner is a recipient of the Father of the Year Award from the National Fatherhood Initiative. He has two children and resides in Chicago and New York.

Read an Excerpt

The Pursuit of Happyness

By Chris Gardner

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Chris Gardner
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060744863

Chapter One


In my memory's sketch of early childhood, drawn by an artist of the impressionist school, there is one image that stands out above the rest -- which when called forth is preceded by the mouth-watering aroma of pancake syrup warming in a skillet and the crackling, bubbling sounds of the syrup transforming magically into homemade pull candy. Then she comes into view, the real, real pretty woman who stands at the stove, making this magic just for me.

Or at least, that's how it feels to a boy of three years old. There is another wonderful smell that accompanies her presence as she turns, smiling right in my direction, as she steps closer to where I stand in the middle of the kitchen -- waiting eagerly next to my sister, seven-year-old Ophelia, and two of the other children, Rufus and Pookie, who live in this house. As she slips the cooling candy off the wooden spoon, pulling and breaking it into pieces that she brings and places in my outstretched hand, as she watches me happily gobbling up the tasty sweetness, her wonderful fragrance is there again. Not perfume or anything floral or spicy -- it's just a clean, warm, good smell that wraps around me like a Superman cape, making me feel strong, special, and loved -- even if Idon't have words for those concepts yet.

Though I don't know who she is, I sense a familiarity about her, not only because she has come before and made candy in this same fashion, but also because of how she looks at me -- like she's talking to me from her eyes, saying, You remember me, don't you?

At this point in childhood, and for most of the first five years of my life, the map of my world was broken strictly into two territories -- the familiar and the unknown. The happy, safe zone of the familiar was very small, often a shifting dot on the map, while the unknown was vast, terrifying, and constant.

What I did know by the age of three or four was that Ophelia was my older sister and best friend, and also that we were treated with kindness by Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, the adults whose house we lived in. What I didn't know was that the Robinsons' house was a foster home, or what that meant. Our situation -- where our real parents were and why we didn't live with them, or why we sometimes did live with uncles and aunts and cousins -- was as mysterious as the situations of the other foster children living at the Robinsons'.

What mattered most was that I had a sister who looked out for me, and I had Rufus and Pookie and the other boys to follow outside for fun and mischief. All that was familiar, the backyard and the rest of the block, was safe turf where we could run and play games like tag, kick-the-can, and hide-and-seek, even after dark. That is, except, for the house two doors down from the Robinsons.

Every time we passed it I had to almost look the other way, just knowing the old white woman who lived there might suddenly appear and put an evil curse on me -- because, according to Ophelia and everyone else in the neighborhood, the old woman was a witch.

When Ophelia and I passed by the house together once and I confessed that I was scared of the witch, my sister said, "I ain't scared," and to prove it she walked right into the front yard and grabbed a handful of cherries off the woman's cherry tree.

Ophelia ate those cherries with a smile. But within the week I was in the Robinsons' house when here came Ophelia, racing up the steps and stumbling inside, panting and holding her seven-year-old chest, describing how the witch had caught her stealing cherries and grabbed her arm, cackling, "I'm gonna get you!"

Scared to death as she was now, Ophelia soon decided that since she had escaped an untimely death once, she might as well go back to stealing cherries. Even so, she made me promise to avoid the strange woman's house. "Now, remember," Ophelia warned, "when you walk by, if you see her on the porch, don't you look at her and never say nuthin' to her, even if she calls you by name."

I didn't have to promise because I knew that nothing and no one could ever make me do that. But I was still haunted by nightmares so real that I could have sworn I actually snuck into her house and found myself in the middle of a dark, creepy room where I was surrounded by an army of cats, rearing up on their back legs, baring their claws and fangs. The nightmares were so intense that for the longest time I had an irrational fear and dislike of cats. At the same time, I was not entirely convinced that this old woman was in fact a witch. Maybe she was just different. Since I'd never seen any white people other than her, I figured they might all be like that.

Then again, because my big sister was my only resource for explaining all that was unknown, I believed her and accepted her explanations. But as I pieced together fragments of information about our family over the years, mainly from Ophelia and also from some of our uncles and aunts, I found the answers much harder to grasp.

How the real pretty woman who came to make the candy fit into the puzzle, I was never told, but something old and wise inside me knew that she was important. Maybe it was how she seemed to pay special attention to me, even though she was just as nice to Ophelia and the other kids, or maybe it was how she and I seemed to have a secret way of talking without words. In our unspoken conversation, I understood her to be saying that seeing me happy made her even happier, and so . . .


Excerpted from The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner Copyright © 2006 by Chris Gardner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Pursuit of Happyness 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 52 reviews.
fsantiagoeagle More than 1 year ago
i am still reading it- down to earth and very honest
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner tells the tale of Chris' life and his struggle to the father that he has never had. His wife has left him, and he has to get a job to insure a place for him and his son to live. This is a wonderful, intriguing fictional novel that you will not want to put down. If you like a book about a father's struggle to have a good live for his son, then this is the book. This book has shown me that if I put my mind to it, i can do anything. Even if times are hard, they can always go up. This book is very inspirational and by far one of my favorite books. I give it four stars, and i recommend this book to anyone.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was uneasy going into this book. The movie made Gardner to be an American hero, moving up from homelessness into riches. The full story as Gardner tells it is much more grim. I won¿t itemize Gardner¿s list of crimes, but it¿s enough to say, I think, that the movie omits or glosses over most of the shadier events of his life. And, no, as you might expect, even with a writer helping him, Gardner is not good at setting down the story of his life. I was left with the feeling that Gardner is just a man who wanted to become rich and did so. His greatest accomplishment was to do this without tossing aside his kids when it would have been easy to do so.
pdxwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Good Read, But Not the Father of the Century I'd Heard He WasGardner's story is interesting and worth reading just to see the leap from where he came from to where he took himself.It was not, however, at all what I expected given the fanfare surrounding this guy as Father of the Century. I was surprised to find that the vast majority of their time on the streets was due to his choice to pursue his own stable of clients rather than work under an experienced broker.At least he's honest -- he openly admits that he cheated on his wife, that they were homeless because he wouldn't work for the established brokers, and that he gave his son to the son's mother and moved to New York City to make even bigger bucks (getting his son back a year or two later, I believe).
theportal2002 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an incredible story of hard work and patience in the face of adversity. A lot to be learned here. I don't think his strong suit is writing books though.
tinkerbellkk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very interesting insight to a truly inspiring success story. Chris Gardner tells a very sad story of his life but shows that determination and will power can turn anyone's life around.
momom248 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good book but not great. It was very slow and boring in many parts. Seems like he spent a huge amount of time on his childhood and not alot on his adult hood. I am still amazed that he went from rags to riches and give him credit for achieving that. Movie was just ok--left out alot from the book
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This biography is amazing because it is so inspirational.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Pursuit of Happyness is a fascinating book about a man who, against all odds, figures out how to be successful in his career as a stockbroker and as a single parent father. His name is Chris Gardner and he grew up with a loving mother but very abusive stepfather that caused him a lot of emotional and physical damage. He made a promise to himself early on that he would always be present in his childrens¿ lives and would never harm them, unlike his stepfather. Throughout the many hardships of his adult life- including homelessness, divorce, and single parenting- he managed to do this all the while pursuing his own version of happiness. The major messages of this book were to dream big and to never stop reaching for your goals, no matter the roadblocks that may come your way. Chris¿ mother was highly influential in his life and she became one of his major role models. This was shown especially when it came to striving for the very best for your children, which was a value that Chris later managed to reflect in his own parenting style, even when he later found himself homeless with a young child to take care of. Some of the elements of this book that I really enjoyed were the positivity that could be found on every page of the book, and the family pictures in the middle of the book. Even during some of the toughest parts of Chris¿ life, such as when his stepfather became abusive, Chris came up with ways that he would cope with the violence at home by promising himself he would never act that way towards his children. The only dislike I had about this book was the technical language regarding his profession that was sometimes difficult to understand. Anyone who is interested in following their own route to happiness should read this book because it is full of inspiration and positive energy that will encourage you! Some other recommended works (not literary) would be to watch the Pursuit of Happiness movie, if you happened to enjoy the book. Other than this one, Chris Gardner has not written any other books so the movie is my personal recommendation. I would give this book an overall rating of a seven out of ten, because it something worth spending time reading but it was not written as eloquently as I would have preferred.
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Enchantress0fTales More than 1 year ago
Never in my life will I find an obsticle where I will think "No I can't" to. This man has faced so much. Even in just the first thirteen years of his life he had faced more than I will ever dream of! I had to read this memoir for career management as an inspirational success story. And boy was it. It took a while to get through because I was forced to read it, and lets face it, no one likes to be forced to do anything, even something they love. He was very open in his writing and so explicit it feels like listening to a friend opening up to a dark secret. He has inspired me to overcome any obsticle and I hope you read this book so you can be too.
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The Pursuit of Happyness written by Chris Gardner describes his personal life and the many struggles he overcame to be successful. Chris was born to Bettye Jean Triplett, his mother who spent time in jail and married an alcoholic and abusive husband who was stepfather to Chris and his three other siblings. After growing up in a tough neighborhood, Chris joined the Navy and began medical training while enrolled in the Navy. After time spent in the Navy, Chris married the women of his dreams, but had a mistress on the side, who became pregnant with his son. After leaving his wife to live with his mistress Jackie, his son Christopher was born but times were tough, both financially and emotionally with Chris working as a low class salesman with a $1000 income a month. Jackie eventually left Chris Sr. with a two year old toddler to care for alone. While in San Francisco, Chris met a stockbroker and decided he needed a change in jobs. He applied for an internship for a stockbroker, which offered very little money. Due to financial struggles, Chris became homeless, therefore he and his son were forced to live out of motels, homeless shelters and in one case, Chris and his son had to sleep in a public restroom. Chris worked at the internship with commitment towards a goal that at first seemed impossible. Eventually, the result was passing the security exam required to be a stockbroker and ultimately being hired at Dean Witter. Chris then went on to build a portfolio of business first in San Francisco then working on Wall Street. Currently he owns his own investment company based out of Chicago and has a net worth estimated upwards of $60 million. This book is what a true American Dream story is because the assumption of a millionaire and his life style is not what Chris has experienced. Yet, he is living the American Dream. Seeing the movie first, my reaction was sadness, not what the message was trying to say; an uplifting message of overcoming obstacles, and eventual prosperity. Instead, when I read the book, the message became clearer and more inspiring. This book is a must read for teenagers and college students so the lessons of a difficult childhood, whether they be emotional, financial or other difficulties demonstrates that many people come closer to Chris' situation and they don't even know it. The one thing that I enjoyed most about this book was that it didn't just jump into how successful he was; instead, the narrative described his childhood, growing up a disadvantaged African-American and overcoming obstacles to be the person that he is today. The biggest message and lesson for anyone who reads this book, is never give up when things become difficult because there's always tomorrow and if you take it one day at a time, The Pursuit of HappYness never ends.
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