Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Review: The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

genre: travel/non-fiction/memoir
rating: 3.5/5

What is it about some people, some places, that makes them inherently happier than others? What about those places that rate lowest on the "happiness scale," what can they teach us? Weiner, an NPR correspondent, traveled the world trying to answer these questions. A self-described grump, Weiner casts a skeptical eye on such places as Qatar, Bhutan, Switzerland and Moldova as he travels and meets with locals and local celebrities alike, attempting to get at the root of a happy place.

I don't know why this book rubbed me the wrong way sometimes. Some chapters I loved and found nearly laugh out loud humorous - the chapter on Iceland was this way. I felt like he opened up the core of Icelandic culture for me and I got an interesting view of a place I have traveled in briefly but very much enjoyed. Qatar, too, was a memorable chapter. Other times, though, I felt like his humor brushed past me like a lame Saturday Night Live joke and I wanted more of the place and less of his humor and grumpiness.

The studies and statistics that he interspersed throughout the text gave some depth to his memoir, although they broke up the flow of the story for me. It was like he switched between zany/drunk storyteller-nomad and NPR journalist, which sometimes worked and sometimes didn't. I was amazed by how numerous his contacts were around the world and the personal stories of actual residents/immigrants to the different countries made his story even richer. America, as both a superpower and as a melting pot, is put into context within the happiness research also.

I can't say it's not worth reading - it certainly gives the reader food for thought. I wouldn't think TOO hard though, because one thing we learn is that sometimes, THINKING too much about happiness actually DECREASES our happiness :)


Anonymous said...

I need to go to my parents to do their taxes soon and I'm planning to listen to this in the car.

Anna said...

This is the second review I've seen of this book, and you said pretty much the same thing. I think I'll pass on this one, though the topic itself sounds interesting. Thanks for the review.

Diary of an Eccentric

bethany said...

I don't like it when I read a book and have mixed feelings about it, like you did about this one. This doesn't sound like one I'll try. Thanks for the review!!

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