Sunday, April 11, 2010

Book Review

"The Geography of Bliss" by Eric Weiner
My grade: B

This is the true story of one man's quest for happiness. He takes you on a canny, and mostly amusing, tour of the world, as he seeks to find what makes some cultures happy and others just the opposite. He provides interesting, and often funny, insights into different peoples and their land.

In general, though, I would say this wasn't much of an eye opener for me. It's true, I wasn't exactly struggling with my unhappiness; I firmly believe I know where it comes from, and have it in grip (I firmly believe that). I found it interesting, nonetheless, to meet some of these cultures from Weiner's perspective, and will perhaps take a lesson or two from his conclusions.


  1. Inna,
    Happiness is a constant life-goal for me, both for myself and for the people and beings (my dogs :)) who I love. I'm curious: did Weiner find any single source of happiness that was consistent across all the cultures that he sampled?
    Thanks for continuing to share your thoughtful reviews with the blog community!

  2. Hi Mohamed,

    Thanks for your thoughtful question. As I'm sure you know, there are yearly surveys carried out, which determine how happy (or unhappy) peoples are. Those surveys, and Weiner, infer general correlations between certain factors and happiness. For example, data suggests that a certain amount of money is necessary for happiness, where very impoverished people will not be happy, but at a certain point, more happiness is not derived from more money. This explains why America, one of the richest countries in the world, does not necessarily score very high on the happiness index.

    What Weiner focused on in the book, however, was how cultures seemed to break these logical 'rules' for happiness, and managed to be happy nonetheless. As a kind of trend, though, there was the idea that cultures who are less materialistic tend to be happier. It also seemed that eastern philosophies warranted more happiness, with their stress on harmony and balance.

    To fully answer your question, though, Weiner himself was looking for a formula for happiness, and was very disappointed to find that there isn't one, but only contradictions to whatever hint of one existed. It seems happiness is dependent on each person himself, framed by the culture (and values) he is raised in.

  3. Thank you, Inna, for your well-thought and intelligent response. I'm currently reading Camus' "A Happy Death." One of the themes that comes through (at least to me) is that happiness is, in so many ways, a choice.

    Harmony and balance - I can see how each could contribute to circumstances that promote happiness.

    And you're certainly right that happiness can't be achieved through formulaic manipulations; that must have been the engineer in me :).