Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author's case, moments of 'un-unhappiness.' The book uses a beguiling mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is.
Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Singapore benefit psychologically by having their options limited by the government? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy? With engaging wit and surprising insights, Eric Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.
Fortified with Eeyoreish fatalism-"I'm already unhappy. I have nothing to lose"-Weiner set out on a yearlong quest to find the world's "unheralded happy places." Having worked for years as an NPR foreign correspondent, he'd gone to many obscure spots, but usually to report bad news or terrible tragedies. Now he'd travel to countries like Iceland, Bhutan, Qatar, Holland, Switzerland, Thailand and India to try to figure out why residents tell "positive psychology" researchers that they're actually quite happy. At his first stop, Rotterdam's World Database of Happiness, Weiner is confronted with a few inconvenient truths. Contrary to expectations, neither greater social equality nor greater cultural diversity is associated with greater happiness. Iceland and Denmark are very homogeneous, but very happy; Qatar is extremely wealthy, but Weiner, at least, found it rather depressing. He wasn't too fond of the Swiss, either, uncomfortable with their "quiet satisfaction, tinged with just a trace of smugness." In the end, he realized happiness isn't about economics or geography. Maybe it's not even personal so much as "relational." In the end, Weiner's travel tales-eating rotten shark meat in Iceland, smoking hashish in Rotterdam, trying to meditate at an Indian ashram-provide great happiness for his readers. (Jan.)
Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 02, 2008
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