October 9, 2009

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

BOOK #: 73
REASON READ: Random Reading Challenge, New Authors Challenge, Clear Your Shelves Challenge
PUBLISHER: Hachette Book Group
GENRE: Travelogue
ACQUIRED: Bought at bookseller
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Notice my "full disclosure" on how I acquired this book I am reviewing? Can you envision my eyes rolling to the back of my head?

Now, on to the review.

The Geography of Bliss is about Eric Weiner, a self-described "grump" who decides that instead of trying to define what happiness is, he would visit the happiest countries on Earth and discover the secret to lasting contentment.

Eric journeys to 10 countries- India, Bhutan, Thailand, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Qatar, Iceland, Great Britain, Moldova, and America. All of these places except for Moldova are ranked as having the highest number of happy people. Moldova is visited to discover why it is that the people here are so miserable.

That old saw about the glass being half full or half empty is dead wrong. What really matters is whether water is flowing into or out of the glass.
His travels are full of moments of inspiration, epiphanies, and ideas that help to clarify what makes people satisfied with their lives. He explores everything from wealth to the acceptance of failures and a program called the Gross National Happiness (which is in Bhutan.) I found it wholly interesting discovering the various reasons people feel contentment.

I began wondering what it is that makes me feel satisfied and happy. And what exactly is going on with my body and in my mind when I think I am this term I call "happy". My definition is different from yours. Thais think the key to happiness is "not to think too much", but I love thinking and learning and it makes me smile and feel at peace knowing I am not being stagnant. What do you say? To think or not to think. That is the question.

"Better to go barefoot than without a book," the Icelandic saying goes.

I found this book to be an enlightening, humorous, and enjoyable read. My only complaint is I wish he had visited the countries more thoroughly. It seems he basically hopped in and hopped out. More time spent in the countries with the people would have lent a more thorough understanding of their sources of happiness.

This book was recommended to me by Mike, a StumbleUpon friend. He has good taste in books and music. He recommended it to me (Thanks, Mike!) and I now in turn recommend this book to you.

I ask him how he knows all this to be true, since there is no proof of these things. "You see this light?" he asks, gesturing toward a lamp overhead. "Yes, I see it." "But you cannot prove it. If you were born blind, you cannot see it. If you want proof, you will never be enlightened."

Other Reviews I Know of on The Geography of Bliss:

Rhapsody in Books
5 Minutes for Books
Library Queue
Puss Reboots


  1. I think my husband (who reads travel narratives almost exclusively) looked into this and decided it wasn't his thing (I think he read the first chapter on my Kindle ... you can do that). I can't imagine a short trip to a country would tell you much though but I like the concept.

  2. I would have liked it more except for the breadth of his conclusions based on two seconds in each country. (I'm exaggerating but so did he!) :--)

  3. I enjoyed this book but agree that is rather 'light'. It did put Iceland on my hope-to-visit list!

  4. I thought the book started out strong but by Iceland I thought it started to get repetitive. I agree with your desire to see a more in depth visit to each of the countries. My review is here.

  5. I love the title of this book, and have been thinking about reading it. Your review is really insightful. Thanks.

  6. I have this on my bookshelf, I'll have to pull it out soon. I imagine I'll be disappointed by the lack of depth, but still end up wanting to visit all of the places!

  7. This one didn't do much for me from the blurbs I've seen. Boy are the publisher's underselling this one. Sounds like something I need to get.

  8. This is on my wish list, but pretty far down priority wise. Thanks for the honest review.

  9. I really liked this book when I read it. But what surprised me is how much I have thought about it since and even found reasons to throw it into conversations. It's one that sticks with you! Thanks for linking to me. I'll add yours to mine. :)

  10. I've always thought Bhutan's Happiness Index is so interesting! I think I'd really like this book, Rebecca.

  11. Wow. That looks like a really interesting book. I spent a little time in Iceland a few years ago. They do have a very different idea of quality of life and values. And they do seem like a happy culture on the whole - despite the winter darkness. Their culture seems to nurture people's interests, no matter how strange or obscure. People march to their own drummer. It's nice.

  12. Interesting concept. So why was Moldova one of the least happy places on earth? Was it because the country is named Moldova? ;P

    In my experience, thinking does not lead to happiness. In fact, it often leads in the opposite direction. But who cares--happiness isn't everything.

  13. This book certainly sounds interesting but I'm surprised that America made the list as one of the happiest countries. Are there specific places in the country that are particularly happy? Or is it counting the fact of how many people are taking medication to keep them from being unhappy? I'll check my library for this one.

  14. Funny just how easily I was able to see your eyes rolling to the back of your head.

    Great review!

  15. I really enjoy personal memoir, so I think I'll be reading this, with the warning about the exploration of the countries being minimal.

    Now, with the FTC guidelines, do I need to disclosure your recommendation as intrinsic value when I read and review GEOGRAPHY OF BLISS? (*grin* and *eyeroll*)

  16. I love books of this style -- authors putting themselves in a story to try and answer some sort of question. Care sent me this book awhile ago and it's at the top of the books to read when I get through with school reading... whenever that happens! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  17. I love travel books and have this one on audio. Glad to hear you enjoyed it!


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