My friend Tina took time during her recently completed sabbatical to send me a book she had just read. Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss fit right into her normally random reading suggestions. Weiner tackles the question of how geography affects happiness as only a fairly grumpy NPR correspondent could. With some research guidance from a Dutch professor, the author travelled to Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and back to America trying to figure out, geographically, why people who claimed to be happy were happy and why people who claimed to be unhappy were unhappy. Weiner (whose name is pronounced as one who whines a lot) by no means took a scientific approach and his own bouts of unhappiness are interwoven with the stories of others. He approached his slightly haphazard research through the eyes of a reporter rather than a scientist and the results are wonderful. The book is full of beautiful stories of people: people who are joyful in places the sun rather shines, miserable in the midst of prosperity and hanging on to slivers of joy in places where life is just plain miserable.
The Geography of Bliss, for the most part is just fun. But, it may also make you think a bit, especially about what makes you happy. By the way, if you are a pastor, it is full of sermon illustrations.
If you have read the book or choose to read it, I always love to hear other thoughts.
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