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The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the… (2008)

de Eric Weiner

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1,975886,084 (3.78)123
Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, this book takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author's case, moments of "un-unhappiness." The book uses a mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Singapore benefit psychologically by having their options limited by the government? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina, so darn happy? NPR correspondent Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.--From publisher description.… (mais)
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After years as a foreign correspondent visiting places where bad things happen, Weiner decides for a change to follow up one of those column-filler/clickbait "new research has found that" stories and visit some of the countries that consistently rate highly in world surveys of happiness. He starts off with a briefing from Professor Ruut Veenhoven at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, who is known as the "godfather of happiness studies" and runs the World Database of Happiness. This prompts Weiner to say "normally I do not associate the words 'happiness' and 'database'". I think that was where he lost me, or possibly on the previous page where he spelled "Trappiste" with only one "p"...

It's a reasonable enough journalistic travel book, written in standard self-mocking feature-article style, a bit like Bill Bryson but without Bryson's compulsion to put a hundred thousand instances of hyperbole on every page. But on places I know, like the Netherlands (soft-drugs, prostitution and Islamists) and Switzerland (chocolate, petty rules and punctual trains) it felt very superficial, nothing he really needed to visit those countries to find out. So I'm not all that inclined to trust him to be saying more than the obvious about the places I don't know, like Iceland, Bhutan and Qatar. He visits Moldova and Slough (!) as examples of "unhappy" places, but doesn't seem to find out much more about the former than that it's a poor country in a rich region, and that because of Soviet-era internal migration it doesn't have a clear cultural identity any more. We could probably have guessed that. In Slough he discovers that Betjeman wrote a nasty poem about it eighty years ago, and that the English enjoy grumbling. Hmm.

The text is larded with remarks on happiness from various Great Thinkers, and at first that is quite impressive, but there are so many of them and they have so little context that it starts feeling like a tear-off calendar, or someone who has googled "happiness quotes". It's quite possible that Weiner spent a couple of years researching this book and reading everything ever published about happiness, but if so he forgot to include his bibliography.

A pleasant enough, undemanding sort of book, but I don't think I learnt anything from it. ( )
1 vote thorold | Sep 15, 2020 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/13155308
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
Better than I expected it to be.

This is a type of nonfiction book that has become popular lately: a personal journey in search of something, or following some rule, or doing some thing for a set period of time. It follows the usual format of taking us to the first stop, making observations, then inserting information from the writer's research, drawing some conclusions or asking questions, then moving on to the next stop.

In this case the subject is "happiness". Weiner wants to find the happier places on earth, based on research by so-called happiness experts. Of course these experts had to define happiness in some way or another, not always agreeing with each other. Weiner begins the journey by disagreeing with the trend among psychologists that says that happiness comes from within. He believes it has something to do with where you are.

But does it really? We go to hot places and really cold places, places of great wealth and of little. These normal measures of a good life don't turn out to be the arbiters of happiness.

What Weiner discovers is a number of conditions that tend to make people happy. Some of them are contradictory, suggesting that some people are happy doing these things or having these things near them, and others not so much. I don't think any of the discoveries is earth-shaking, really new, but finding them through the different environments puts a different spin on them and helps us to remember them.

Weiner clearly did not set out blind. He was super-prepared, as befits a former NPR reporter. He knows where he wants to go and whom he wants to meet. He has read up on his subject and his geography. Because of this his work is worth looking at. He could have written a book simply on happiness and said he'd found this and that out about it but how many of us would have bought that book? By encapsulating his findings in geography he has a hook.

Easy to listen to, with enough substance to keep one's interest. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
Being a cynic myself, I loved the title of the book. The author, an NPR correspondent, provides a humorous and witty account of his travels around the world in search of the happiest places in which people live. His goal was not to find what makes people happy but rather locating the geographic area where there appears to be an abundance of happiness. The author's witty sarcasm is better appreciated listening to the audio version. I found it a laugh out loud informative book. ( )
  marquis784 | Feb 15, 2020 |
Journalist Eric Weiner travels to the "happiest" countries in the world, trying to figure out why these populations are happy life. Weiner's own journey of happiness (or lack of) didn't particularly interest me, but learning about other countries (Burma, Qatar, Denmark, Moldova) did. ( )
  alyssajp | Jul 29, 2019 |
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Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, this book takes the reader from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author's case, moments of "un-unhappiness." The book uses a mixture of travel, psychology, science and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is. Are people in Switzerland happier because it is the most democratic country in the world? Do citizens of Singapore benefit psychologically by having their options limited by the government? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina, so darn happy? NPR correspondent Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions.--From publisher description.

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Hachette Book Group

4 edições deste livro foram publicadas por Hachette Book Group.

Edições: 0446580260, 1600242588, 044669889X, 1600244343

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