Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Geography Of Bliss by Eric Weiner

Eric Weiner spent a decade as a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio. Fascinated by other places, and curious as to why he didn't seem particularly happy, he decided to visit other countries and see if he could determine why some countries and some people are happier than others.

After finding a database in Holland that quantified each country's happiness, Weiner took off on his adventure. He visited very rich countries such as mideastern oil countries where no one pays taxes and everyone is given an allowance. He visited extremely poor countries such as countries that were formerly part of Russia and everyday life is a struggle. In Holland, most behavior is accepted; in Switzerland, most behaviour is rigidly controlled. He visited more familiar places also; the city in England, Slough, where The Office was originally set, and then Miami and Asheville, NC. The last is interesting to me as it is in my home state.

In each country, Weiner meets locals and asks if they are happy, and why or why not. Along with studies on happiness, we learn about local customs, food and culture. Weiner explores data that suggests that those who are religious are happier than those not, that Republicans are happier than Democrats, that the rich are happier than the poor, but that money is not a guarantee of happiness. Medical research suggests that there are physical reasons for happiness as well.

I love travel books and this one had an interesting hook. It is recommended for those interested in why some people are happy and others not, as well as readers that also enjoy travel books.

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