Saturday, September 24, 2011
THE GEOGRAPHY OF BLISS by Eric Weiner
A marginally unhappy journalist travels to ten countries trying to figure out what makes people happy.
The author explores the relationship between happiness and place in this journey through countries with vastly different philosophies and circumstances. He delves into "the science of happiness" and uses a combination of research and anecdotal accounts from locals to explore his topic. He travels to Bhutan and Iceland, Thailand and India in an effort to figure out why people are happy there. He also explores some unhappy and lukewarm countries (like wealthy Qatar and miserable Moldova) to balance his research.
Weiner makes some expected conclusions, like money doesn't make us happy and neither does extreme poverty, and we are happy when we have strong family ties. He discovers that happiness is closely tied to our ability to trust the people around us. Distrustful people tend to be the least happy, and some cultures invite distrust. A sense of purpose also factors into our happiness levels, but its importance varies in different countries. Weiner concludes that the existence of and access to culture (art, music, poetry, history, etc.) also makes people happier.
This is a broad survey of the nature of happiness, and Weiner can't possibly make definitive statements because each country is so different, and of course there is a wide range of happiness levels and circumstances within each nation. However, this is a fascinating look at the way the countries view happiness. Weiner speaks with many locals who provide their own opinions of why a particular place is happy or unhappy, and this sheds some light on the attitude of each group of people. This book provides a tiny window into each country and it is worth reading for the thought-provoking ideas and interesting observations.
Eric Weiner's website
$9.99 for the Kindle edition
What is the happiest place you have visited and why?