I stalked this book. After seeing the hardcover edition, I regularly searched for an used copy at Half Price Books. When the paperback came out in January, I bided my time, waiting for a good price. When Borders added The Geography of Bliss to their "buy one get one at half price" sale, I waited two more months until I found a second book to fulfill the "BOGO" requirement. I finally acquired this book three weeks ago and started reading it when I finished the books reviewed in the previous blog entry.
Incredibly, The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World was worthy of stalking. I enjoyed this book even more than I expected. Excerpts that I read in bookstores had led me to believe it was largely a travelogue, but Eric Weiner goes far deeper. He examines what elements conspire to make us happy, finding pieces of the puzzle in countries like the Netherlands, Switzerland, Iceland, Bhutan, Thailand, and India. When he feels overwhelmed by all this happiness, he visits Moldova, a notoriously miserable country that doesn't disappoint.
It's rare that a book combines travel and philosophy like The Geography of Bliss does. As a tour guide, Weiner is informative and insightful, not to mention funny. He does a good job of involving himself in the book without making it an "all about me" memoir. In his search, Weiner discovers many ideas (or tactics, perspectives, whatever) that one can borrow and apply regardless of geography. For example, my life would be happier with the Thai concept of mai pen lai (it basically means "never mind," as in "let's just forget about this and move on"). If The Geography of Bliss isn't the best book I've read so far in 2009, it's at least in the top five.
Current tally: 44 books finished, 40 books acquired