Title: The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World
Author: Eric Weiner
Genre: Literary Journalism
Acquired: A gift from Care at Care’s Online Book Club
One Sentence Summary: Journalist Eric Weiner is unhappy so he decides to visit some of the world’s happiest places to see if where you live can really make or break your mood.
One Sentence Review: Weiner’s book is a little light and sometimes lacks detail, but overall it’s an amusing journey I’m glad I tagged along for.
Long Summary: Eric Weiner has always been sort of unhappy. Not depressed, really, just a self-described mope who doesn’t enjoy a lot of things. Despite this, Weiner has always believed that “happiness is just around the corner. The trick is finding the right corner.” He goes to the Netherlands to visit the World Database of Happiness, a database that contains all the research done about human happiness. After perusing what there is to see, Weiner sets off to visit the places where people are rumored to be the most happy.
His journey takes him around the world. From Switzerland, where happiness is being bored, to Thailand, where happiness is nothing more than not thinking to much. Along the way he chats with people who’ve always lived in these countries, along with American expatriates to try and find out what it is that actually makes us happy.
Long Review: I got this book from Care after she reviewed it, and I commented that it sounded cool and that I thought I could use something happy to read. It was in the middle of a stressful time of the semester (when is it not stressful, really?), and I wanted a cheery and interesting book. When Care e-mailed and asked if I wanted the book, I was so excited!
First of all, this book was really funny. It ended up being the perfect kind of book to lay down with at the end of the day and read before I went to bed. It didn’t make me think too much, but it felt like I learned something and had gotten a good laugh every time I put it down.
It makes total sense that Care would have sent me this book. The tone of it is chatty, light, funny, and a little sarcastic. It’s really similar to the tone she has on her blog, so I was smiling from that most of the time I read the book too. There were about a million passages I wanted to quote that were awesome and gave a sense of style, but I’ll keep it to just this one so you can see what I mean.
In this one passage, Weiner is talking about how Bhutan feels like an upside-down place to him:
Or take Marijuana. In Bhutan, they have a novel use for it. They feed it to pics. This makes the pigs hungry and therefore fat. The first time I heard this, I couldn’t help but imagine an entire barnyard of pids with the munchies. They’re marching to a 7-Eleven, a pig 7-Eleven, and buying goopy chicken burritos and now — I can see it clearly — they’re trying to hear them in the microwave, but their pudgy pig paws get stuck in the microwave door so they start squealing wildly, as pigs are wont to do, until the clerk, a pig himself, waddles over and asks them, in pigspeak, to please keep the racket down because this is, after all, a 7-Eleven and not a barnyard or something.
These are the kinds of thoughts I find myself having in Bhutan.
Now, aside from that whole section being a long digression about pigs smoking weed, I think his tone and word choice are just hilarious. I love the phrase “pudgy pig paws” and word “waddles” so much. Plus, pigs are my favorite animal anyway, so that made it especially amusing. There are lots of those sorts of tangents and asides in the book, which I loved.
A criticism I have of the book is that, in a lot of ways, it’s quite light. Research on happiness is pretty scarce, so there’s not a ton of it for Weiner to play around with. And he never stays in a country for a very long time, so his sketches of the country and the people sometimes felt a little rushed. But it’s also a travel story, so it makes some sense that he’d be moving quickly through places to get a feel and then moving on.
I’m also really curious about how the people in the countries he profiled would react to some of his characterizations — not all of them are flattering! But they’re never malicious, which is what I think keeps Weiner’s sarcasm and teasing tone from being to much. Despite his mopiness, you can tell the project is pretty fun for him and for his readers.
If you’re at all interested in a new take on travel writing, some light science on happiness, or just want something funny to sit down with, this book should hit the spot.
If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!