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Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Barry

Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Barry

4.3 8
by Dave Barry

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Now in paperback from the Pulitzer Prize winner, the hilarious New York Times–bestselling exploration of what generations can teach one another—or not.
During the course of his life, Dave Barry has learned much of wisdom, and he is eager to pass it on. Among other brilliant, brand-new pieces, Dave shares home truths with his


Now in paperback from the Pulitzer Prize winner, the hilarious New York Times–bestselling exploration of what generations can teach one another—or not.
During the course of his life, Dave Barry has learned much of wisdom, and he is eager to pass it on. Among other brilliant, brand-new pieces, Dave shares home truths with his new grandson and his daughter Sophie; explores the hometown of his youth, where all the parents seemed to be having un-Mad Men–like fun; and dives into firsthand accounts of the soccer craziness of Brazil and the just plain crazy craziness of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Live Right and Find Happiness

“Worth every penny when it comes to humor and insight. It’s wonderful to see that he hasn’t stopped writing about our foibles and his somewhat unique perspective on what makes us tick. And he’s able to do it while invoking out-loud laughter.” —Associated Press
“These latest essays will cause outright, prolonged laughter.” —Kirkus Reviews
“If you were on that clichéd desert island and could follow only one sage’s advice, it would have to be Dave Barry’s.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times

For most of us, wisdom comes infrequently and usually pops out as greeting card captions. For Dave Barry, it runs rampant and embarrasses his family when visitors are over. For decades this Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist has been tickling funny bones and nearby regions with outrageous opinions about all things humans. In this new gathering, the author of You Can Date Boys When You're Forty and Insane City reflects on topics including, but distinctly not limited to teenagers, birthdays, drivers, Vladimir Putin, Brazilian soccer fans and getting old.

Kirkus Reviews
Humorist Barry (You Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About, 2014, etc.) departs from the collections of his now-defunct syndicated newspaper column and his goofy full-length novels to write a dozen original essays gathered loosely around a theme: happiness and its discontents.In a semiserious introduction, the author notes that the topics of the essays might seem random at first but that they all touch on happiness in some way, however oblique. He carries out his quasi-theme as promised, providing laugh-out-loud moments throughout the book. In one essay, Barry discusses homeownership. Though it may constitute a significant part of the American dream, it is often not a good way to achieve happiness. In the longest essay, about the author's travel to Brazil, where supposedly friendly citizenry rob tourists regularly, Barry shifts into an exploration of the Brazilian mania for soccer. This then leads into an extended discussion about his daughter, a high school soccer player, and ends with a critique of recent World Cup matches and how futile it was to hate the Belgian team even as its members were defeating the U.S. national team. Additional essays cover Barry's travels to Russia with fellow writer Ridley Pearson, Barry's experiment wearing Google Glass, the mindlessness of 24/7 TV news, why Barry's own generation (he was born in 1947) seems less content than the generation that came before it, advice to his daughter as she reaches the age she can obtain a driver's license and a letter to his infant grandson centering on the ritual of circumcision. Needless to say, effective humor is extremely personal. For those who have found Barry funny in a good way, these latest essays will cause outright, prolonged laughter.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt


Looking back, I think my parents had more fun than I did.

That’s not how it was supposed to be. My parents belonged to the Greatest Generation; they grew up in hard times. My mom was born in Colorado in an actual sod hut, which is the kind of structure you see in old black-and-white photographs featuring poor, gaunt, prairie-dwelling people standing in front of what is either a small house or a large cow pie, staring grimly at the camera with the look of people who are thinking that their only hope of survival might be to eat the photographer. A sod hut is basically a house made out of compressed dirt. If you were to thoroughly vacuum one, it would cease to exist.

My mom, like my dad, and millions of other members of the Greatest Generation, had to contend with real adversity: the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, hunger, poverty, disease, World War II, extremely low-fi 78 r.p.m. records and telephones that—incredible as it sounds today—could not even shoot video.

They managed to overcome those hardships and take America to unprecedented levels of productivity and power, which is why they truly are a great generation. But they aren’t generally considered to be a fun generation. That was supposed to be their children—my generation, the baby boomers.

We grew up in a far easier time, a time when sod was strictly for lawns. We came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, the era of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. We were cool, we were hip, we were groovy, man. We mocked the suit-wearing Establishment squares grubbing for money in their 9-to-5 jobs. We lived in communes. We went to Woodstock. We wore bell-bottom trousers, and we did not wear them ironically.

And we had fun. At least I did. I am thinking here of my college and immediate post-college years, when my main goal in life—a much higher priority than academics, or a career—was to have fun. I’m not talking about “fun” in the sense of playing charades, or canoeing. I’m talking about a more hard-core kind of fun, the kind where you might end your night under arrest in an entirely different area code from your underwear. I’m talking about partying. There are plenty of alcohol- or drug-related things I regret doing, things that I prefer not to elaborate on here other than to apologize to all the people who, over the years, I have thrown up on. But for the most part, I look back fondly on the era when I partied hearty, at least what I remember of it.
That era was basically my 20s. When I got into my 30s, and especially when I became a parent, my concept of “fun” changed, becoming less likely to involve people getting high or hammered or naked, and more likely to involve balloon animals. It was still fun, but it was a far more sedate brand of fun.

In time I came to accept it as a normal part of growing up. I hate to generalize (well, actually, I don’t), but I think this is the pattern for most people of my generation and those following us: You party hard into your 20s, maybe a little later. But then, as the burdens of age and career and—above all—parenthood press down on you, you put your bong collection on Craigslist and settle down. By your mid-30s your hard-partying days are over. You get serious about the job of parenting. It’s the inevitable course of adulthood. It has always been that way.

Or has it?

Look at “Mad Men,” the widely acclaimed TV series about Madison Avenue in the ’60s. (It starts back up April 5.) One of the things the show is acclaimed for is its authenticity, which is significant because, if the show really is authentic, then people in the advertising industry back then spent roughly 90% of their time smoking, drinking or having extramarital sex.

If “Mad Men” really is authentic, it explains much about the TV commercials of my childhood, which, in terms of intellectual content, make the commercials of today look like “Citizen Kane.” Back then many commercials featured a Male Authority Figure in the form of an actor pretending to be a doctor or scientist. Sometimes, to indicate how authoritative he was, he wore a white lab coat. The Male Authority Figure usually spoke directly to the camera, sometimes using charts or diagrams to explain important scientific facts, such as that certain brands of cigarettes could actually soothe your throat, or that Anacin could stop all three known medical causes of headaches:
1. Electrical bolts inside your head.
2. A big coiled spring inside your head.
3. A hammer pounding inside your head.

Another standard character in those old commercials was the Desperately Insecure Housewife, who was portrayed by an actress in a dress. The Desperately Insecure Housewife always had some hideous inadequacy as a homemaker—her coffee was bitter, her laundry detergent was ineffective against stains, etc. She couldn’t even escape to the bathroom without being lectured on commode sanitation by a tiny man rowing a rowboat around inside her toilet tank.

Even back then, everybody thought these commercials were stupid. But it wasn’t until years later, when I started watching “Mad Men,” that I realized why they were so stupid: The people making them were so drunk they had the brain functionality of road salt.

FIRST AD EXECUTIVE: I got it! We put a tiny man in a rowboat in the toilet tank.
SECOND AD EXECUTIVE: Perfect! Pass the whiskey.

But here’s the thing: Despite all the drinking and sex on “Mad Men,” nobody ever seems to have any fun. The characters are almost universally miserable. And that, to me, does not seem authentic.

I grew up during the “Mad Men” era; my family, like many of the “Mad Men” characters, lived in Westchester County, N.Y.—in our case, the village of Armonk. Most of the moms of Armonk back then were housewives; many of the dads—mine was one—rode the train to work in New York City. Some of those dads were advertising executives.

So during my childhood I got to watch a sliver of the “Mad Men” generation as they went through their late 20s, into their 30s and 40s, raising their kids, pursuing their careers and, in some cases, becoming very successful. Like the “Mad Men” characters, they smoked a lot and drank a lot, including at work. I don’t know how much extramarital sex went on, and I don’t want to know.

I do know this: Unlike the “Mad Men” characters, the grown-ups back then had fun. A lotof fun. And it didn’t stop just because they had kids. My parents had a large circle of friends, and just about every weekend, throughout my childhood, they had cocktail parties, which rotated from house to house. I loved it when the party was at our house. Dozens of cars filled our driveway and lined the narrow dirt road we lived on, and dozens of couples poured into the house—the men in suits and ties, the women in dresses and heels, everybody talking, shouting, laughing, eating hors d’oeuvres, smoking, heading to the lineup of bottles on the kitchen counter to pour another drink.

My sister and brothers and I would lurk on the edges of the party, watching the show, until we got noticed and sent off to bed. But we didn’t go to sleep; we’d sneak back and peek into the smoke-clouded living room to watch as the party got more boisterous, the sound rising to a joyous roar. Sometimes the partyers sang, pounding on our upright piano and belting out popular songs, or parody songs they wrote, sometimes on the spot. They’d give each other elaborate gag gifts, and sometimes put on skits or little musical shows, complete with costumes. They held theme parties—charades parties, talent show parties, parties involving scavenger hunts. They’d hire a dancing instructor to teach them the mambo, the cha-cha, the twist, whatever was popular. The parties would go late into the night; the next morning, the living room would be littered with empty drink glasses, loaded ashtrays and, occasionally, a partyer or two snoring on the sofa.

One morning, after my parents had hosted a scavenger hunt party, my little brother, Phil, came into my bedroom and woke me up, shouting, “There are two giant Bs in the living room!”

“Giant bees?” I said.

These turned out to be two 4-foot-high letter Bs, made of wood and painted gold. They came from IBM signs that had been erected on property owned by the IBM Corp., which was building its world headquarters in Armonk. How, exactly, the giant Bs ended up in our living room, and whether IBM was aware of their new location, I do not know. What I do know is that it was a hell of a party.

My parents’ big-party era continued until about the time I headed off to college. As they got into their 50s, they still had parties, but these were generally smaller, quieter affairs. By then it was the Boomers’ time to have fun. And as I said earlier, we did have fun.
But not as much fun as the Greatest Generation. And for nowhere near as many years.
Now, before I get to my point—and I know what you’re thinking: “There’s a point?”—I need to stipulate some things:

• Smoking cigarettes is bad for you.
• Drinking too much alcohol is bad for you.
• Driving under the influence of alcohol is very wrong and you should never, ever do it.
• It is also wrong to steal private property from corporations, even for a scavenger hunt.
• My parents and their friends probably would have lived longer if their lifestyle choices had been healthier.

So I am conceding that by the standards of today, my parents’ behavior would be considered irresponsible. Actually, “irresponsible” is not a strong enough word. By the standards of today, my parents and their friends were crazy. A great many activities they considered to be perfectly OK—hitchhiking; or driving without seat belts; or letting a child go trick-or-treating without a watchful parent hovering within 8 feet, ready to pounce if the child is given a potentially lethal item such as an apple; or engaging in any form of recreation more strenuous than belching without wearing a helmet—are now considered to be insanely dangerous. By the standards of today, the main purpose of human life is to eliminate all risk so that human life will last as long as humanly possible, no matter how tedious it gets.

And the list of things we’re not supposed to do anymore gets longer all the time. I recently encountered an article headlined:


The answer, in case you are a complete idiot, is: Of course your handshake is as dangerous as smoking. The article explains that handshakes transmit germs, which cause diseases such as MERS. MERS stands for “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome,” a fatal disease that may have originated in camels. This is yet another argument, as if we needed one, against shaking hands with camels. But the article suggests that we should consider not shaking hands with anybody.

If you could travel back in time to one of my parents’ parties and interrupt the singing to announce to the guests that shaking hands could transmit germs and therefore they should stop doing it, they would laugh so hard they’d drop their cigarettes into their drinks. They were just not as into worrying as we are today.

And it wasn’t just cigarettes and alcohol they didn’t worry about. They also didn’t worry that there might be harmful chemicals in the water that they drank right from the tap. They didn’t worry that if they threw their trash into the wrong receptacle, they were killing baby polar bears and hastening the extinction of the human race. They didn’t worry about consuming trans fats, gluten, fructose, and all the other food components now considered so dangerous they could be used to rob a bank (“Give him the money! He’s got gluten!”).

Above all, they did not worry about providing a perfect, risk-free environment for their children. They loved us, sure. But they didn’t feel obligated to spend every waking minute running interference between us and the world. They were parents, but they were not engaged 24/7 in what we now call “parenting,” this all-consuming job we have created, featuring many crucial child-rearing requirements that my parents’ generation was blissfully unaware of.

They didn’t go to prenatal classes, so they didn’t find out all the things that can go wrong when a person has a baby, so they didn’t spend months worrying about those things. They just had their babies, and usually it worked out, the way it has for millions of years. They didn’t have car seats, so they didn’t worry that the car seat they just paid $249 for might lack some feature that the car seat their friends just paid $312 for does have. They didn’t read 37 parenting handbooks written by experts, each listing hundreds, if not thousands, of things they should worry about.

It would never have occurred to members of my parents’ generation to try to teach a 2-year-old to read; they figured that was what school was for. And they didn’t obsess for years over which school their kids should attend, because pretty much everybody’s kids went to the local schools, which pretty much everybody considered to be good enough. They didn’t worry that their children would get bored, so they didn’t schedule endless after-school activities and drive their kids to the activities and stand around with other parents watching their kids engage in the activities. Instead they sent their kids out to play. They didn’t worry about how or where they played as long as they got home for dinner, which was very likely to involve gluten.

I’m not saying my parents’ generation didn’t give a crap. I’m saying they gave a crap mainly about big things, like providing food and shelter, and avoiding nuclear war. They’d made it through some rough times, and now, heading into middle age, building careers and raising families, they figured they had it pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good. So at the end of the workweek, they allowed themselves to cut loose—to celebrate their lives, their friendships, their success. They sent the kids off to bed, and they partied. They drank, laughed, danced, sang, maybe stole a piece of an IBM sign. They had fun, grown-upfun, and they didn’t feel guilty about it.

Whereas we modern parents, living in the era of Death by Handshake, rarely pause to celebrate the way our parents did because we’re too busy parenting. We never stop parenting. We are all over our kids’ lives—making sure they get whatever they want, removing obstacles from their path, solving their problems and—above all—worrying about what else will go wrong, so we can fix it for them. We’re in permanent trick-or-treat mode, always hovering 8 feet away from our children, always ready to pounce on the apple.

Yes, we’ve gotten really, really good at parenting. This is fortunate, because for some inexplicable reason a lot of our kids seem to have trouble getting a foothold in adult life, which is why so many of them are still living with us at age 37.

They’re lucky they have us around.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“Happily, everything bad is good, when Barry applies [his] humor.”—Contra Costa Times
“[A] hilarious collection . . . Barry is particularly sidesplitting when describing his role as the 65-year-old dad of a 13-year-old daughter.  His description of taking his teen to a Justin Bieber concert is brilliantly funny . . . Parents and non-parents alike will find plenty of laughs.”—Publishers Weekly
“Humorous take on life . . . Barry offers a baby-boomer perspective on a faster-paced life of electronic gadgetry and the Internet and ponders the aging process, including getting mail marketing Medicare and watching Viagra commercials in the company of your children.”—Booklist
“[A] wide-ranging collection of funny essays . . . even those who don't have children and have never lived in Miami or searched for a Wi-Fi connection in the Israeli desert will appreciate Barry's lighthearted absurdity.”—Kirkus Reviews
Praise for INSANE CITY
“Picture The Hangover with a splash of Miami Vice, and you get Dave Barry's Insane City. . . This is a quick, fun (and laugh-out-loud funny) read, and the action never slows.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"[A] very funny new novel . . . [Barry's] sly observations, well-delineated characters, and intricate plotting mesh perfectly."—Publishers Weekly

Meet the Author

From 1983 to 2004, Dave Barry wrote a weekly humor column for The Miami Herald, which in 1988 won a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. He is the author of more than thirty books, including such bestsellers as the nonfiction Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Much Faster), You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty, and  I’ll Mature When I’m Dead; the novels Big Trouble, Tricky Business, and Insane City; the very successful YA Peter Pan novels (with Ridley Pearson); and his Christmas story The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog. Two of his books—Big Trouble and Dave Barry’s Guide to Guys—have been turned into movies. For a while, his life was even a television series, Dave’s World, but then it was canceled. The series. Not the life. For many years, Dave was also a guitarist with the late, infamous, and strangely unlamented band the Rock Bottom Remainders.

Brief Biography

Miami, Florida
Date of Birth:
July 3, 1947
Place of Birth:
Armonk, New York
B.A. in English, Haverford College, 1969

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Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Barry 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have always liked Dave Barry's sense of humor and this was no exception. It was a fun read with many chuckles.
TheShort1 More than 1 year ago
Dave is great at stating normal things in a hilarious way. I loved the chapter that is a letter to his daughter who is about to get her learner's permit to drive--in Florida. Example: "If you're driving in Miami and do not wish to be the target of small-arms fire, IN THE NAME OF GOD DO NOT GO AT A 'STANDARD' SPEED OF 30 MILES PER HOUR. [His caps] Miami drivers go faster than that in a car wash." Some parts are funnier than others, but it might depend on the reader's point of view. It is an enjoyable read!
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TREBORNOSNHOJ More than 1 year ago
A chuckle here, a groan there and enjoyment every where.
NY_Reader1 More than 1 year ago
Dave been a consistently decent humor writer for years. His latest book is on my Nook, and I read a few stories, put it down, then get back to it. There is a definite sameness about all Dave's books but that's his style.