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The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World
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Part foreign affairs discourse, part humor, and part twisted self-help guide, The Geography of Bliss 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 beguiling 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 Qatar, awash in petrodollars, find joy in all that cash? Is the King of Bhutan a visionary for his initiative to calculate Gross National Happiness? Why is Asheville, North Carolina so damn happy? With engaging wit and surprising insights, Eric Weiner answers those questions and many others, offering travelers of all moods some interesting new ideas for sunnier destinations and dispositions. (2007)

Customer Reviews:

  • The Search for Happiness
    You must have catalogued, at some point in your life, the things that make or have made you happy. You must have evaluated whether you are generally an optimist or a pessimist. And I'm sure you've wondered if your happiness might be increased if certain factors in your life - parents (well, we can't change those), partners, professions, and place - were different.

    Eric Weiner describes himself as a generally unhappy person, and therefore curious about what brings about happiness. He decided to look into whether where someone lives has an impact upon their frame of mind, and if so, how much. Can a place make one feel better? And if it does, why? What are the built-in (natural) or imposed (societal) features of "happy places." Well, not that the places themselves are happy or grumpy, but that people residing there have a general sense of satisfaction, even ebullience, or, conversely, lead lives of quiet desperation. Are we happier when we get what we want personally, when we are indulging hedonistically, or when we adapt and adjust, compromise, establish a collective consciousness?

    Weiner visited ten wildly diverse countries in the world and spent time in each place doing a lot of wondering and inquiring. Along the way, he includes discussions of philosophical happiness, different ways that we are happy, what leads to spiritual bliss, and research on happiness (there is a "World Database of Happiness" in the Netherlands). He ponders the influence of nature and governments on our collective or individual happiness, and issues of freedom and imposed restrictions on personal choice.

    So what are the happiest places in the world? Some of Weiner's findings are surprising - lots of money does not necessarily lead to a happy culture, nor does perfect weather. At the same time, happiness is very personal. Some people will be happy no matter where they go, and others will be miserable even in the most appealing surroundings.

    The book is fascinating, entertaining, and ultimately very thought-provoking. It might make you want to move to Iceland or Thailand, and it will definitely get you to wondering about who we are as people and as peoples. It's a wonderful book in which to lose yourself - you'll be happy you picked it up!
    ...more info
  • The Geography of Bliss: Highly Recommended
    Despite extraordinary technology and modern convenience true happiness is a rare commodity. In The Geography of Bliss Eric Weiner travels the world in a quest to find which country is happiest. From Iceland to Bhutan, Mr. Weiner interacts with the people, consumes the local fare, and probes seemingly every aspect of his host nation. Needless to say, the results are sometimes surprising and in other instances confirm our own preconceptions of a country's happiness.

    While some reviews have panned the book for its lack of instruction on how to be happy, I argue that this is not a self-help book and certainly is not aimed at increasing one's own bliss. However, some valuable information on what or what not brings happiness is gleaned. Mr. Weiner has a terrific writing style and the book is an excellent light read. I often laughed and in general found this to be a very pleasurable book to read that throws in a lot of travel and a bit of behavioral science. ...more info
  • Open minded, informative, refreshing and humorous.
    As I write this I have not finished the book (I am savoring it a few pages a day with all the other books I am reading at once) but it is such a pleasing experience I want to recommend the book and its author. I have the Kindle edition and technically it is well done; no text problems etc.

    I love my Kindle ; it is not a swindle....more info
  • If you're happy & you know it let us know
    If you could live ANYWHERE where would you? Sounds like one of those magazine questions, doesn't it? Author Eric Weiner took this question seriously, actually traveling to and investigating TEN countries, to determine who and where is happiness. The title and subject caught my attention but Weiner's style and humor kept me reading, and learning thruout with his observation and insight. I highly recommend....more info
  • A blissful book
    "The Geography of Bliss" was a pleasure to read. Weiner combines armchair travel with wry humor that often had me laughing out loud. It was a fun and painless way to "visit" some exotic places on earth that I would never dream of visiting. Evidently, we humans can adjust and be happy in a variety of climates and cultures. In the words of my favorite character, Luba from Moldova, I rate this book much higher than her typical "feevty-feevty."...more info
  • A good read
    I liked reading this one. The content is very superficial , yet a brief run arround the world. I must say the penmanship was not to my taste and at times disrespectful. - But I can still recommand this one!!...more info
  • Great book!
    This is one of the best books I've read in awhile. Interesting, funny, insightful... I wanted to keep reading, I hope he writes another one. For anyone who is interested in other cultures or likes to wander and discover new places this is an excellent choice....more info
  • Very fun read
    This book is awesome! It's very fun to read and interesting. The author is funny and his views on the countries he visits are intriguing. This book should be enjoyable to anyone who is interested in the nature of happiness and/or people who are interested in different cultures and traveling....more info
  • Happiness makes the heart grow fonder
    I handed this wonderful book off to a friend about halfway through Britain's chapter. That's a good sign; I don't give away books I don't like. I sell them. Eric Weiner is fun to read, a shameless joker. So you can pick it up or put it down knowing that Bliss will amuse you the next page you read. Halfway through, however, I convinced myself that I was learning about the sources of happiness in one's life, regardless of place. True. Place, scenery, people, politics, and wealth matter. And The Geography of Bliss will tell you a lot about Eric Weiner's stimulating experiences with thoughtful people from disparate cultures. But locations affect bliss chiefly as places where you can trust your neighbors, fail for the right reasons, love the language, enjoy a stimulating culture (that Qatar must spend millions to import), and afford fresh vegetables. So, if you have lost track of the sources of your bliss, this is a terrific refresher course. [Oddly, Washington, D.C. was not discussed.]...more info
  • An engaging journey
    I got this book on CD from the library and listened to it on my commute back and forth to work. It was perfect for that. The commute time just flew by.

    Weiner is a good story teller. The book was engaging and smart while not being too challenging to follow while trying to drive.

    I thoroughly enjoyed every chapter (except maybe the first - which was needed to set the stage but a little boring).

    I'd highly recommend this to anyone interested in learning about different cultures and/or exploring what it means to be happy.

    ...more info
  • Excellent described International travel experiences.
    Eric Weiner's book is great. It's interesting to read the cultural differences between people all over the world. The world might getting flat, our opinion about the basics of life is not equal at all. The highlights of the book are his stories about his experiences in Iceland, Moldova and Bhutan. Possible Eric can add a part II: I am curious to read about Japan, Brazil and Jamaica. Apart from "pure-pleasure-to-read", you do learn some basic elements about happiness and being happy. Thanks for this great book, Jan Johan Poelstra...more info
  • Enjoyable read
    Weiner's an entertaining writer on an interesting voyage to find why people in different areas differ in their experience of happiness.

    If you're a sorta cynic who wonders about stuff like this, like me, this book provides a vicarious adventure in search of possible answers. Or more to wonder about. Which is good too.

    ...more info
  • Wonderful fun
    I am enjoying this CD set SO much. It is funny, witty and thought-provoking, and just perfect for my long car trips. I can't wait to get the next CD on - thoroughly recommended....more info
  • There's no place like home?
    This is my book club's current selection, and I wasn't disappointed. If you're looking for a purely scientific treatise on where the happiest place is on earth, this book ain't it. What it is is an an eye-opening geographical/sociological journey to places I knew little to nothing about, written in a low-key humorous and thoroughly readable way. I don't know whether it answers the question, "What is happiness?" but it sure gave me a lot to think about in terms of what my perimeters for happiness are. After reading it, I'm not sure that the American way - as much as I love my country - is very conducive to the pursuit of happiness. Maybe Iceland is on to something!...more info
  • Searching for happiness? Look elsewhere.
    The cranky, occasionally obnoxious Weiner relates some mildly interesting travel experiences. This is a fluffy book from a rather pathetic journalist (when a coup brings the attention of the world to Thailand, he flees as fast as his wobbly legs can take him). Weiner is supposedly searching for the secrets of the planet's happiest societies, but doesn't get far. Unable to surrender his snarkiness and preconceptions, he is a tedious traveling companion....more info
  • A collection of bitterness and the most common writing cliches
    I grabbed this book from the shelves of my local library (thank Buddha I didn't pay money for it). The title is great and is what compelled me to put it in the stack of books I was checking out. Unfortunately, the title is the best thing about the book.

    As I made my way through the first hundred pages of the book I was mildly interested. There were a few entertaining factoids in the book. I have traveled quite a bit but there were some places in the book I hadn't been to or even knew that much about.

    To put it simply, the awful thing about the book is the writing. Every few pages I would encounter a cliche so dreadful it would make me cringe. For example, as the author is flying into Bhutan he claims a seatmate on the jet turned to him and said "Your first time?" Even if this really happened, which I highly doubt, one would think a published author would avoid writing this kind of stomach-turning cliche.

    It was during the chapter on Qatar I had to close the book and chuck it in the return-to-library ASAP pile. He writes that one of the people who shows him around Doha, the capital of Qatar, is a woman named Lisa. Right away, the author makes a snarky, off-handed remark about his guide having a checkered past. I thought to myself "Hmmm.. that's not very nice." When I got to page 116 the jackass author devotes an entire page, I am not exaggerating here, an entire page, to demean, debase, and totally trash the character of this person Lisa. This had absolutely nothing to do with the culture or people of Qatar or any other nation. It was completely unwarranted.

    I can't imagine why in the world this writer would go to such great lengths to unnecessarily assault a person whom was helping him in his research of the country. Did she refuse his advances? Steal his money and credit cards while he slept? Make fun of his ridiculously small member? The mind reels.

    In any event, the book has a few interesting tidbits and stereotypes about various countries. However, I don't recommend it unless it's free and you need something to prop up your computer monitor or would like to replenish your kindling supply. Really....more info
  • Basically boring
    This book is not half as funny as the author thinks he is. Bill Bryson need not worry. It wasn't terrible, but I considered it a waste of my time when there are so many great books out there to be read (as did several other members my book club). His analysis of "happiness" and what it is and how to achieve it was confusing, inconsistent and half-hearted....more info
  • I Got a Boot Out of It...
    Not a bad book - could have used some more editing (some phrases repeated on the same page)but not bad. I did get a tad tired of hearing people compare themselves to the US - I wondered just where they got their impressions of Americans from. Like the guy in Thailand who said that Thais are different from Americans 'cause they like to laugh and joke at work. What? I don't think I've ever worked in an environment where laughing and joking didn't go on. And dear Mr. "Whiner" - you're not really a grump, you're just a Melancholy. Check out the Personality books by Florence Littauer (and others) and you'll see for yourself. ...more info
  • A Great Read
    I enjoyed this book, which I received as a gift. It was insightful and fun, tackling a serious topic -- what makes us happy -- without getting too philosophical or preachy. I bought this extra copy as a gift for a friend....more info
  • Bliss is a read about happiness
    Taking a trip in the back pocket of a skeptic trying to find out where and why people are happy is sheer bliss. Eric Weiner not only knows the art of description, he knows about meaningful travel and how to write a engrossing tale. The book is NEVER boring or repetitious. It moves and flows and shines. In case you can't tell, I loved it!...more info
  • OK
    For me the book was good enough.Moldova was unfortunately what it sais it is...and yes Omar is 100% correct.I have not visited England but looking at their Queen I would say those people have big reasons to be unhappy..I would! Unfortunately I think the book was superficial, many times the autor could not connect with the roots of countries he was is like eating a burger, fast food, fast info...
    ... use this book justfor snaks.The real food is in fact "beying there"...more info
  • Thoroughly enjoyable!
    Loved this book. It is so well written and thought out, and kept me quite entertained. Using my Kindle, I underlined and annotated my way through the book and shared those along the way with friends and family. We've all picked our "happiness location" - where we thought we would best fit in. Looking forward to reading more from this author....more info
  • Fun Study on Happiness
    I really enjoyed "The Geography of Bliss" by Eric Weiner. In the book Weiner, an NPR correspondent, travels across the world to understand why people are happy or unhappy. In the process he ponders on his own happiness or lack thereof. You will do the same when you read it.

    Far from a dry, scholarly sociology study, the book is totally readable and at times very, very funny. In addition to the "happiness studies" we learn a little history and a lot of culture about the various countries. We also get to know some of the people Weiner meets as he investigates his topic, and in some cases you start to care about them.

    The happiest countries may not be the ones you expect and the reasons for their happiness may also come as a surprise.

    This is one of those books that I highlighted and wrote on the margins - there's a lot of good information and common-sense wisdom.

    I definitely recommend the book.
    ...more info
  • Living in Bliss
    I am a Mexican citizen living in Qatar, one of the countries visited by the author in the book. I bought it because I wanted to read from the perspective of others how Qatar is like.

    His impressions are spot on most of the times. Among other things, he points out with accuracy the differences between casts of expats, and the quasi fantastic life Qataris live- as in lived without adherence to reality.

    However, he misses to capture how generous and welcoming the culture can be. Then again, he only spends a few days in each country, and to me, this fact makes all the difference. How can you make a true assessment in such a short time?

    The rest of the chapters are alright. The writing is well paced and light, which makes it the perfect book to read on a plane or a train.
    ...more info
  • Excellent read
    I really enjoyed this book. As some have commented, it is both very funny and very thought-provoking at the same time. In fact there are so many theories on what does and does not create happiness throughout the book that my head began to spin after awhile. While many people have naturally compared him to Bill Bryson (usually favorably, sometimes not), I was reminded more of (1) Elizabeth Gilbert's great book "Eat, Love, Pray" (since Bryson's writing tends to be heavier on the descriptive and lighter on the contemplative), as well as (2) A.J. Jacobs, who--though not a travel writer--still has a similar humorous writing style as Weiner.

    Three things surprised me about his choice of countries. First they are all north of the equator. No South America, no countries in Africa, etc. Second, I'm surprised he didn't pick one or two sunny vacation-type spots, like in the Caribbean or something similar. This is not so much because people there necessarily WOULD be happier in those places, but perhaps we imagine that they would be and he could have told us what the reality is, or seems to be. Finally, I've always heard that Australians are quite happy and I would have been interested in read his take on that. Maybe Australia is just too big for him to take on.

    Anyway, I really recommend the book. ...more info
  • Terrific Book
    I checked The Geography of Bliss out from the library and after a few pages, decided I needed to own it. I bought the book and savored every page.

    Eric Weiner is hilarious and an excellant writer and thinker. Weiner spends a year trying to figure out how cultural differences affect the happiness of people in a variety of countries.

    Weiner tells a great story while revealing the human condition.

    For example: "Several studies...have found that trust--more than income or even health--is the biggest factor in determining out happiness."

    "The God Ambition is a false God and always has been."

    In Iceland, people are happy becuase they don't envy others and there is no stigma associated with failure.

    "People are not likely to be happy if they don't have control over their lives--not in some abstract, geopolitcal sense, but in a real, everyday sense. Moldovans are caught in a misery loop. Their unhappiness breeds mistrust, which breeds more happiness, which leads to more mistrust."

    In Thailand,people are happy because they don't think too much. Weiner writes: "Thais are deeply suspicious of thinking."

    Weiner's voice was what made the book so endearing. He manages to be funny, insightful and always real.

    By the author of the award winning book, Harmonious Environment: Beautify, Detoxify and Energize Your Life, Your Home and Your Planet

    ...more info
  • Bliss is not nailed down but the effort is entertaining
    On page 322 the author gets as close to defining happiness as is possible for him: "Money matters, but less than we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude." This result of Eric Weiner's research is supported by many amusing and instructive international happiness stories (with statistics woven in). This "supporting data" is what makes the book go....more info