Tuesday, May 19, 2009

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

by Eric Weiner

According to studies by happiness researchers, the people of certain countries are, on average, much happier than those of other countries. Obviously, people living in hunger or abject poverty are likely to be unhappy, but how about those countries where people are relatively well-off? For instance, why are people in Moldova so much less happy than people in Bhutan? Why are Icelanders happier than Brits? Eric Weiner (yes, pronounced "Whiner,") a self-described neurotic and public radio commentator, travels around the world to find out.

First he stops in Amsterdam to, among other things, check in with Ruut Veenhoven, who created the World Database of Happiness. He asks how, exactly, happiness could be measured. What, exactly, is it - is it pleasure? Is it the satisfaction of doing good deeds? Is it spiritual enlightenment? And how accurate are people at knowing their own happiness levels?

Weiner brings the perfect mixture of cynicism and wonder to the task; he spends time in each country he visits, getting to know the people, the culture, the basic philosophies people live by. I found it an entertaining and thought-provoking philosophical travelogue.

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