Wednesday, April 02, 2008

New Release Spotlight: The Geography of Bliss

The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner

Are you happy?

This is the question Eric Weiner, a self-described “unhappy” reporter, travels the world asking people in his humorous, philosophical travel-memoir, The Geography of Bliss. Weiner visits ten different countries, from Bhutan to Iceland, to discover if happiness is indeed a location.

The results?

“I am no philosopher, so here goes: Money matters but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.”

This list is a paltry substitution for Weiner’s travels, which is what makes this book worthy of a full reading—statistics only tell so much. Weiner’s book is the story behind the studies. For example: “Happiness is more than animal pleasure.” Duh. But couch this line in a story comparing Swiss rats to middle-aged foreign men living in Bangkok and you’ve got something interesting.

Reading this book is like traveling the world, one country per chapter, meeting people and immediately getting beyond the small talk. Conversational and informed, Weiner is also an expert at creating inside jokes for his readers. (One gem is about the fruits and vegetables in Moldova. They’re very fresh.)

Each person—and each country—presents a new part of the happiness equation. For the Swiss, it’s related to clean toilets. In Iceland, happiness is a choice (according to Weiner, Icelanders choose to be drunk and happy, whereas the Russians choose drunk and miserable.) For Thais, it’s the mai pen lai attitude, or the ability to “let it go.” In the end, Weiner concludes, “All miserable countries are alike; happy ones are happy in their own way.” Learning about all those different ways makes reading this book…well, blissful.

Review by Mel Wells, Indigo Editing, LLC

Publisher: Twelve
Pub Date: January 2008
Hardcover: $25.99

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