Saturday, September 24, 2011



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?


  1. This sounds interesting for the travel element for me, rather than the happiness element.

    The happiest place I have visited is the Grand Canyon. The beauty of it made everyone happy :)

  2. I always think of Bandon, Oregon as the happiest place on earth -- but that is mainly due to the strong family ties you mentioned earlier. That book sounds really interesting; I'll add it to my "to-do" list. Another travel book I enjoyed recently was "One Year Off" about a family who travels around the world with their three young children.

  3. Thank you both for your comments! Sam, this book definitely provides a nice picture of each location the author visits in his search. After reading it the country I most want to visit is Iceland!

    Bandon and the Grand Canyon are both very happy places indeed :).

  4. This is an issue I have thought about a lot-I agree on the family ties a lot-great post-where do you rate ultra busy business oriented Hong Kong on this scale?

  5. Vancouver, Canada was absolutely amazing. I have only the fondest of memories and dream about going back.

    Also, I would like to present Kindle In Hong Kong The Versatile Blogger Award. Details are on my blog. Congratulations and thank you for such a wonderful blog!

  6. Thank you for the award Olga! I have only been to the airport in Vancouver, but I know quite a few people who love it there. It seems like a nice city.

    Personally, I am very happy in Hong Kong. I love the energy and the variety here. I am most happy when I am busy, and now that I am settled it is easy to stay busy in HK. I think people tend to be unhappy here if they have a low tolerance for crowds, pollution or heat. I think it's important to get out into the green areas, which are fortunately very close to the dense urban districts.

  7. I like to see these blogs because we can realize about the culture different people around the world have, that's so good because we can learn about the costumes they have.


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