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The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World Paperback – January 5, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
Weiner's quest here is to find a place and conditions that might cheer him up. He apparently considers only slightly the fact that any place he goes, he takes his unhappy self with him. The sub-title, One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World, sets the stage.
Can the conditions of place cause or at least contribute to happiness? My personal experience and letters from readers says yes. I confined my search to the contiguous 48 states; travelholic Weiner takes us to nine more countries.
First to The Netherlands and the World Database of Happiness to learn what Ruut Veenhoven, "the godfather of happiness research" knows. On to Switzerland, where the natives feel more than contentment but less than joy. Thence to Bhutan, where the king has proclaimed Gross National Happiness; Qatar, where each new husband gets a $7,000 monthly allowance, a building lot and a no-interest home loan; Iceland, where we learn that colder is happier; Moldova, "the least happy nation on the planet" according to Veenhoven's data; Thailand, where keeping the long view of life creates much joking and laughter; Great Britain, where culture hinders happiness; India, a destination happy place; and then back home to Miami, where all that sunshine leaves our author cold.
We learn that money wealth gives but a small edge.Read more ›
Two tiny countries offer a brilliant contrast in the principles that Weiner set out to examine. Qatar and Bhutan are relatively hard to reach. Both have inhospitable climates and a low population. Both have been altered greatly in very recent history, allowing for radical changes in the lifestyle of the citizenry.
Qatar is a pile of sand somewhere in the Middle East that became an earthly Eden when oil and natural gas were discovered there in such vast plentitude as to make work, for its extended family of Arabic inhabitants, obsolete. A Qatari will be paid to attend school, paid to marry, given a house and allowed to carelessly wreck as many cars as he sees fit. Rules no longer apply to the people of Qatar, in a broad sense, as long as they obey the dictates of their Islamic religion and stay inside, living within the bizarre hierarchy that dictates their society --- indoors because it is not possible to live very long without air conditioning in Qatar, which is basically a series of connected malls and mansions, and hierarchical because, of course, Qataris cannot do their own work. For that they import Indians, Nepalis and other lesser races.
These strictures made it difficult for Weiner to do what a journalist must do: interview the natives of the country. He was told that his American passport and Jewish name would prevent him from meeting real Qataris. So to experience the country, he had to be content with talking to expatriates and buying one "Ridiculously Expensive Pen.Read more ›
Weiner has a lovely turn of phrase (reminiscent of Bill Bryson) and although The Geography of Bliss wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny as I expected (more dryly amusing), it is both immensely readable and packed to the gills with fascinating nuggets of information. Weiner visits two countries that I have spent considerable time in (India and Switzerland), and while I felt his observations of Switzerland were pretty much spot on, I felt that he only scratched the surface of India, a country which I consider to be particularly complex. But I loved his description of Slough in England (the location for the UK TV show "The Office") as "a showpiece of quiet desperation" and I now have even less desire than ever before to visit Moldava which sounds like a hideously depressing place.
Ultimately there are no major revelations in this book - essentially, his argument is that happiness means different things to different people - but it makes for easy, thought-provoking reading. I enjoyed it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The seller shipped fast and the book is as described!Published 11 days ago by Lillian Ramirez-Castillo
I like the book but find the writer somewhat ethnocentric and judgmental. His descriptions of other cultures are interesting, but as I said he judges. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Readerrover
This book made me very happy after reading it. We love travel, and so does this author. I don't usually keep or even buy books, but this one is a keeper and is on my travel... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mom of 5
One of my absolute favorite reads. He is witty, clever, intelligent and full of insight. You will be amazed at the facts and info and personal insights- all written in a way that... Read morePublished 1 month ago by HarL
Great read for all. Learn about a few amazing places and learn the keys to a blissful existence anywhere. Great gift idea 🎁🎁Published 2 months ago by Rebecca Dean
I love travel, humor and meeting local people in foreign places. This book has all of that and more.Published 2 months ago by Cathy Quinn
Weiner's prose is fun, sensual and introspective anyway, but then to add just a clever, interesting and adventurous thesis like "where can we find happiness? Read morePublished 2 months ago by K Grubb