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The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living Hardcover – January 17, 2017
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"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
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“The Little Book of Hygge, which is already a best seller in Britain… is the most engaging of what is becoming a full-fledged lifestyle category.” (New York Times)
“Infectiously positive... the best beginner’s guide.” (Mail on Sunday)
“This book explains everything you need to know about the Danish art of living well.” (Metro)
“Meik Wiking…knows the secret to happiness…[he] has written a gorgeously designed …guide to the Danish state of being that embraces coziness, sociability, thankfulness and comfort food.” (The Times (London))
“The Little Book of Hygge… may just be your passport to bliss.” (Real Simple)
“Meik Wiking…[cites] psychological research showing that close social relationships and time spent socializing, eating, and relaxing… tend to be the greatest drivers of joy.” (Elle)
“Much has been made, as of late, of the Danish philosophy of hygge…And a new tome, The Little Book of Hygge… instructs on how to use the practice to cure the ailments of the modern world.” (InStyle)
“Denmark’s concept of supreme coziness and comfort has taken the world of interiors by storm…But the concept of hygge doesn’t just apply to your home. As I learned in the cute hygge reference book The Little Book of Hygge… you can hygge anything.” (Vogue.com)
“The world fell head over fuzzy-sock-clad-heels for the Danish concept of hygge…Meik Wiking (author and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute) breaks down the concept of hygge into a simple, 10-part manifesto.” (Popsugar)
“A charming, illustrated guide to the hygge essentials. It’s like the ultimate hygge initiation.” (The Dallas Morning News)
From the Back Cover
New York Times bestseller
Get consciously cozy.
The Danes are famously the happiest people in the world, and hygge is a cornerstone of their way of life. Hygge (pro-nounced Hoo-ga) loosely translates as a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right. It is about gratitude and savoring the simple pleasures in life. In short, it is the pursuit of everyday happiness.
Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life and what makes people happy. From bringing out the candles and spending time with your tribe to giving yourself a break from the demands of healthy living (cake is most definitely hygge), Meik’s beautiful, inspiring book will help you to be more hygge.
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Before going any further, I do want to say that I think some people have vastly missed the point of such a book. I know it may sound elementary, but often times, actually reading the title of the book should be your first assessment of the content. In this case, we have "The little book of Hygge", so I find it both astonishing and at the same time unsurprising that a few folks have bemoaned its brevity and introductory nature. Forgive me for saying it, but if the title itself is more or less telling you that this is the quick and dirty run down on something, it seems particularly asinine to lament that it turns out not to be a dissertation on the subject. It never claimed to be, and if you thought it was, that's more an indictment of your own reading comprehension than the author's writing ability.
With that out of the way, and I'm sure a few readers' panties in a wad, the first thing I want to note is that this is definitely a quick read. I am quite certain that with a couple hours to kill, you could make it from cover to cover. The writing style is brisk, down to earth and genuinely lays out the concept of hygge in the way you might try to explain it when among friends. As I said, this is not a dissertation nor is it a chapter in an encyclopedia, but instead (and others have correctly pointed out) pretty much an extended magazine article of sorts. Is that a bad thing? Maybe if the context were different, sure, but this purports to be a quick guide and that's exactly what you get. The authenticity is there, and you can tell when you read about things like unscented candles being the status quo, and how the most popular manufacturers don't even offer scented products. If only that were true on this side of the pond, but alas, most Americans tend to be obsessed with stinky candles. Likewise, the references the ubiquitous mid-century light fixtures, advent candles and, most importantly, the predominance of wood furniture over composites or synthetics, all rings true to anyone that has spent any time in Denmark. Additionally, while many casual tourists likely skate right past, I think the regulars will appreciate the discussion of hygge in the Danish workplace as well. Spend enough time there, and you will realize that much of what is mentioned in the book is spot on. Another bit that made rang true was discussion of the Danish weather, in particular the fact that some Danes will tell you there are only the gray and green winters. If you've never heard that phrase from Danes discussing the weather with foreigners, you would be the first. All these examples speak to the authenticity of the author and the frankness with which he dispenses his brief but complete introduction to the concept of hygge.
Now, you might ask, what does my Danish wife, born and raised, have to say about this book? Believe it or not, here only real gripe was the recipes. I actually agree on this point, because while it may be a regional thing (I spend most of my time on Fyn (Funen) when in Denmark), nobody and I mean nobody I've ever met would make, much less eat, any of this stuff in order to get their hygge fix. The fact that I've never been offered any of the food or drink included in this book, after more than a decade of visiting on an at least annual basis and visiting both in the countryside and city (Odense) with the in-laws, should tell you something. Again, it may boil down to a regional bias, as I steer far clear of Copenhagen and Zealand in general, as well as Jutland (unless popping over into Germany to shop!), but if I had any axe to grind with this book, that would probably be the one and only thing.
All told, I actually think the book lives up to what it purports to be, and that's a simple, quick introduction to the subject of hygge. If that's what you're looking for, then you certainly won't be disappointed. On the other hand, if you're after some deep, PhD dissertation style treatise on the subject of hygge, from the foundations all the way to modern practices and with every aspect beaten to death for 750 pages, then no, this is not the one for you. But then again, if you expected that from something called "the little book of", you almost certainly have larger problems, reading comprehension being chief among them.
In a nutshell, hygge is a feeling of well-being that can be engendered by pleasant surroundings, tasty food, and good company.....or whatever else makes you feel safe and content. As Wiking describes it, hygge is 'an atmosphere, an experience' - what we feel when we're with people we love in a warm and comfortable place.
Things that promote hygge are called 'hyggelig.' For instance, the following would be hyggelig: a small group of friends sitting around a fireplace in a cabin, wearing big jumpers (sweaters) and wooly socks, drinking malt wine. It would be even more hyggelig if a storm was raging outside. LOL
Danish people strive to have all their life experiences be as hyggelig as possible. They try to have hyggelig homes; go to hyggeling restaurants; entertain hyggelig visitors; play hyggelig games; work at hyggelig jobs; go on hyggelig trips; etc.
A lot of creating hygge is common sense, but - if you want some pointers - Wiking provides a guide:
- Use lots of candles. The Danes place candles everywhere - in bedrooms living rooms, bathrooms, classrooms, boardrooms, etc.
- Place dim lighting in strategic locations. Wiking recommends light fixtures designed by Poul Henningsen, whose lamps provide soft, diffuse light.
- Create a feeling of togetherness with friends and relatives; togetherness is 'like a hug without touching.'
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance. Spend a lot of time with your family.
- Socilaize with friends and colleagues.
- Good food. Danish people like meat and potatoes.....and they love sweets - especially cake. A traditional feature of Danish children's birthday parties is 'Cakeman' - a pastry in the shape of a large gingerbread man, decorated with flags, sweets, and candles.
In the book, Wiking includes recipes for a few of his favorite Danish dishes. One is called Skipperlabskovs (Skipper Stew), which is brisket sitting in potato mash - served wtih pickled beets and rye bread.
- Hot beverages. Danes love coffee. If you watch Danish TV series, the characters are always making coffee, drinking coffee, and offering each other coffee.....(like tea in British TV series....LOL)
- Comfortable clothing. For professional wear, Danish men like a T-shirt or sweater under a blazer, usually in black or gray. Danes don't favor three-piece-suits. For casual wear, Danes like a comfortable jumper.....with leggings for girls or skinny jeans for boys. And Danes LOVE scarves.
- Casual hairdos. Danish hairstyles are 'wake up and go'.....or maybe a loose bun for women.
- Comfortable furnishings. Danes enjoy interior decorating, and their decor often includes wood furniture, vintage items, and an open fireplace and/or a wood-burning stove.
- Blankets and cushions. Necessary for snuggling up and getting cozy.
After providing this overview of hygge, Wiking goes on to talk about how to be hyggelig outside the home; during every month of the year - from January to December; and during every season of the year. Wiking also describes various hyggelig experiences he's had with his friends, and writes about his happiness research.
Wiking's suggestions for hyggelig pastimes include things like: spend a weekend in a cabin; have a cooking party with your friends; go out on a rowboat and bring a picnic basket; put couches in your office; have a movie night - with popcorn; go to a hyggelig restaurant and order pickled herring and schnapps; buy confections at a bakery; enjoy exhibitions of Christmas lights; have smorrebrod (an open sandwich on rye bread) with beer or schnapps; read a good book; and so on.
You can probably think up hundreds of 'hyggelig' activities yourself. For example, here's one: invite a couple of friends over; watch Netlfix; bring in Mexican food; drink sangria....and later on - have chocolate eclairs for dessert. If you have some hygge suggestions, feel free to comment below.
Wiking sums up his treatise on hygge by noting that a complete hygge experience includes 'taste, sound, smell, and texture.'
- Hyggelig tastes are familiar and sweet.
= Hyggelig sounds might be: the crackling of burning wood; the pitter patter of raindrops; and trees waving in the breeze.
- Hyggelig smells could be aromas that trigger fond memories.
- Hyggeling textures might be wooden surfaces; smooth ceramic cups; and reindeer fur.
I feel like I gained a pretty good understanding of hygge from Wiking's book. However, Wiking's numerous suggestions for 'hyggelig experiences' got very repetitive.....and after awhile, it seemed like a lot of padding to have enough words for an entire book.
Still, if you're curious about hygge, this is a good crash course.