The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner

As I mentioned in my previous post, concerning Iceland, I was reading The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner. In a nutshell, Weiner looked at research on the happiness levels of people in various countries, then visited some of the happiest and least happy countries to see what he could learn.

Yes, his visits were likely too short to get much more than a surface impression, and yes, he relies on anecdotes and personal experience. This isn’t a textbook or scholarly treatise, however. Weiner works for NPR, and has spent his career creating short bursts of information aimed at a broad audience. That’s what he does here, very successfully entertaining the reader while also making us a wee bit more informed about the places he visited.

I liked this book. I still have no idea why the seemingly humorless Swiss and the organized Dutch are among the happiest people in the world; if anything, Weiner decreased any interest I had in visiting Switzerland. But I’m an American. It very well might be that the Swiss are happy because their lives strongly reflect their values — values that aren’t mine, since I’m not Swiss.

You see where this is going? While I do feel as if I read a series of travel essays that shared a theme, I don’t feel like I know more about happiness after reading this book. Still, it was fun. The Bhutanese have made happiness a core value in a way that makes Western measures of wealth seem inadequate and maybe even fraudulent. In fact, with the juxtaposition of Eastern and Western values, which Weiner doesn’t point out so much as he puts it under our noses, I wish he’d gone to Japan, which gives the impression of being the most materialistic Eastern country.

I do recommend this book — reading it will probably make you happy. It’s funny in spots, and Weiner is a charming narrator. One thing I noticed and appreciated was that in each country, he spoke with both men and women in equal or near-equal numbers. That’s good reporting.

For those who read this blog because I discuss whether or not a book is safe for animal lovers, I will declare it SAFE.  I had to love the British woman who said “Dogs are the key to happiness.” I might say “dogs and cats” or “pets,” but the point remains. A loving animal, furry or feathered (or finned? I don’t “get” fish as pets), can brighten our days. There are a couple of brief mentions of negative animal incidents, like dogs traumatized by fireworks in India, and a psychology experiment involving dogs (page 193, skip the bottom paragraph if this kind of thing bothers you), but that’s it.

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March 19, 2009 - Posted by | animals, Book Reviews, travel | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

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