I kept wanting to write about The Geography of Bliss by NPR correspondent Eric Weiner as I read, but I resisted. I thought it was better to think about it as a whole at the end. I may have taken the wrong tactic, as I now find it hard to decide what to write. Weiner's text is so full of interesting data and ideas, it is difficult to know what to bring up, especially since the book comes to no grand conclusion. He never really finds happiness in a place.
The quest was grand. He was both courageous and a bit silly to go all the places that he went, asking people whether they and their neighbors were happy and why. Of course, many people thought he was a bit strange. His accounts are delightfully comic and insightful. I marked lots of pages with little orange tabs.
On page 45, Weiner tells us that Americans are alone in preferring that our ice cream shops have over fifty flavors. Most of the world is happy with about ten varieties.
On page 54, he tells us how his daughter really wants his undivided attention, which really makes her happy. Perhaps a key to being truly happy is being able to pay attention or receive attention. We are often multitasking and not feeling one bit happier for all our accomplishment.
On page 87, he comments on Americans having to have dual climate controls in cars and different comfort setting for the sides of mattresses. Through a lack of practice, we have lost our ability to compromise. This has frightening ramifications.
On page 128, the author reveals that he hoards camera bags, tote bags, and briefcases. He has a closet full of them, some unused. In view of what he says in the rest of the book, he might find happiness by donating them to a good cause. Possessions rarely make us happy unless they connect us mentally to people or places.
On page 130, he tells how studies show that out of work people are not satisfied with welfare, even when it is generous. They would rather work. The good life is not languid.
On page 211, he reports that people in helping professions, like clergy, nurses, and firefighters are happier than lawyers, bankers, and doctors. Of course, some people could argue that lawyers, bankers, and doctors are helping professions with more pay.
Funny, I seem to have marked thoughts that reflect back on Americans and not the stories about other cultures. It is the diving-into-another-culture stories that make the book worth reading.
Weiner gives us much to think about and deserves its popularity. It is in libraries everywhere.
Weiner, Eric. The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World. Twelve, 2008. ISBN 9780446580267