Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Posted by nliakos on July 22, 2009

by Eric Weiner (Twelve, 2008)

It always amazes me how some people persuade other people (publishers?) to foot the bills for extensive travel and purchases so that they can write books or articles about them–like the person who got his publisher to pay for a horrifically expensive bottle of very old wine so he could review it (he wasn’t impressed).  Eric Weiner somehow got funding to travel around the world to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, and India (not to mention the United States), as well as to purchase a Ridiculously Expensive Pen (which he subsequently lost)–so he could reflect on that experience.  Life is tough.  I loved the book, though, so why am I complaining?

Weiner did his homework concerning research on happiness, and he asked informants in all those different places whether they were happy, how happy they were, what made them happy, and so on–not very scientific, but it makes for very interesting reading.  In the end, he sums up what he learned: Wealth does not ensure happiness, especially if Culture is absent.  Familial and social connectedness are necessary to happiness, as is trust; envy makes happiness impossible. If we think too much about happiness (or anything), it will elude us.  That last comes mainly from the chapter on Thailand, which also yields the expression, mai pen lai, or “never mind”.  If we don’t let the bad stuff get to us, if we just let it roll off our backs–mai pen lai–we can be happier.  I think I will try it (although I am pretty happy, generally–maybe a 7 or an 8 out of 10, depending on the day).

English language learners may enjoy reading the chapters about their own countries–although they may not always like what Weiner has to say about their compatriots!

I’d definitely recommend this book.

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