“The Geography of Bliss” Review

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I’ve just finished reading the “The Geography of BIiss” by Eric Weiner (ironically pronounced “whiner”), published in 2008. Freaking finally. I used to finish books so fast, but now I’ve developed the bad habit of only reading books on the bus, while waiting for a bus, or on breaks at work. It took me nearly two weeks. My relaxation time at home is spent watching all of the many TV shows that Kurt and I keep up with. I’m trying to change that, for I have so many books I want to read. This one, I picked up in a Half-Price Books after only reading the back cover. It was cheap, it looked interesting, and I liked the cover art. It turned out to be a book I will probably read many more times in my lifetime.

In 2008, Eric Weiner has been an NPR foreign correspondent for 10 years, reporting from at least 30 countries, as well as several major US cities. He has written for a couple of other newspapers and websites, and now lives in the Washington D.C. area, where he “divides his time between his living room and kitchen,” according to the “About The Author” section of the book. Sounds like we’d get along. After reporting news all around the world for so many years, mostly on terrible, tragic events, Weiner decided that he wanted something happy. There’s got to be something good out there, but what is it and how will he find it?

In the book, he details his quest to find out what makes different countries happy and unhappy. He starts at the World Database of Happiness (DBH), a bank of knowledge built and maintained by Ruut Veenhoven, the man at the forefront of the study of happiness. In the DBH is listed nearly every country in the world, accompanied by a number, its average happiness score. Weiner then travels to 10 of the happiest and unhappiest countries, starting with The Netherlands, where the DBH is located. In each country, immerses himself in the local culture as much as possible, collecting interviews about happiness along the way. In most countries he visits, he also meets with Americans who have moved to that country, so he gets the insider, outsider, and insider-turned-outsider perspective on why the people in that country are happy or not, and how it compares to other parts of the world. I won’t go into it too much, so you can learn what he learned for yourself.  But I will say that I found it very enlightening. It made me want to travel and meet these people.

Through all of Weiner’s experiences, he keeps coming back to one thing: Your culture will affect how you view your circumstances, but that doesn’t mean everyone is predetermined to be happy or unhappy just because of where they live. Everyone has the power to see life in a more positive light if they want to. What matters is what you choose to value. If you value family more than personal success, you’ll be happier as a housewife with children than someone who values personal success over raising progeny. It’s different for everyone, and that’s great. If we weren’t all different, the world would be so boring.

Basically, this is my first book review and it kind of got away from me, but I highly recommend this book.

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