Tuesday, January 5, 2010

happiness is...

"My search is over. I've logged tens of thousands of miles. I endured the noon darkness of Iceland and the solid heat of Qatar, the persnickety functionality of Switzerland and the utter unpredictability of India. I survived a coup lite, savored minor breakthroughs, and mourned the loss of a Ridiculously Expensive Pen. I may have saved the life of one dumb bug. I smoked Moroccan hash and ate rotten shark. I even quit coffee, for awhile."

The above quotation is from the epilogue of Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World. The major premise is that Weiner, an international correspondent for NPR, travels to roughly twelve countries to see what makes people happy or unhappy. He has some surprising and enlightening results, which he outlines in his epilogue (below):

"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."

The first chapter was a little slow-going. However, after the chapter on the Netherlands, the book became very interesting. My favorite chapters included happiness (or unhappiness) in Bhutan, Qatar, and Iceland.  Moldova, one of the unhappiest countries in the world, is missing key elements that make other countries happy, such as trust, and gratitude (the only good thing about Moldova, according to a Peace Corps volunteer, is the fresh fruits and vegetables). The rampant envy and corruption also make people unhappy. In Iceland, failure brings happiness. In Qatar, happiness is "a winning lottery ticket." Overall, it is a funny book and one of my favorites from 2009.

The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner
Published by Twelve.