book review blogs
I enjoyed Weiner's humorous touches and his skepticism about many of the theories he found. He is a good sport, willing to try anything to experience local customs whether it is smoking Moroccan hash in a Dutch "coffee shop" or tasting the Icelandic delicacy of rotten shark. While he dives into the local culture, he doesn't necessarily embrace it. In India, for example, his experience in an ashram is disappointing; he feels no spiritual enlightenment, but is more concerned that he has to give up coffee for three days. As a fellow caffeine addict, I can empathize.
The Geography of Bliss is a book of substance, not pop psychology. Weiner includes quotes from philosophers and a great deal of evidence from various research studies on happiness to support or contradict the theories he encounters. One of my favorite excerpts is near the end of the book, when he realizes that there is no such thing as paradise on earth.
One man's paradise can be another's hell, and the converse holds true as
well. When European missionaries first landed in Greenland several centuries
ago, intent on converting the pagan natives to Christianity, they offered the
usual carrot-and stick approach: Convert and you get a shot at heaven; don't ,
and you will be condemned to an eternity in hell.
"What is this hell like?" asked the curious Greenlanders.
"Oh it is very, very hot," replied the missionaries. "It is hot all of
The Greenlanders surveyed the frozen Arctic tundra that was their home
and replied, "We'll take hell, thank you."
In the end, Weiner finds no definitive answers to the secret of happiness--though he does share some hypotheses--and isn't necessarily any happier than he was before he began his quest. Yet he does find that his attitude towards many things in life have changed for the better. In the same way, as I read his book I found myself contemplating my own life and whether I was happy. I have always thought of myself as a "glass half-empty" sort of person and once thought that only a big, new 3 1/2-bathroom house was necessary for my personal happiness. But I see things differently now than before: I will probably never live in that beautiful new house, but you know what? I don't care. I realize it is the simple things that bring me joy and make me happy. A good book, a fresh cup of strong coffee, and a little chocolate bring me pleasure. Beyond that there are the most important things in life:
New Year's Eve was also special, as we ushered in the new year in our traditional way with a toast along with two dear friends.
Friends with four legs and unconditional love and devotion.
And, of course, my Garden!
Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
All book reviews posted here are solely at the whim of this blogger. No remuneration of any kind was given for this review.