The Happy Life: The Search for Contentment in the Modern World

( 3 )

Overview

By Australia’s greatest contemporary author, an elegant, succinct meditation on what makes for a happy life. ;-)

“Happiness surely is among the simplest of human emotions and the most spontaneous,” says David Malouf. But what exactly are we looking for when we chase happiness? At this particular moment in history, privileged, industrialized nations have lessened much of what makes us unhappy: widespread poverty, illness, famine. Yet we are still unfulfilled, turning increasingly to yoga, church, Match.com, drugs,...

See more details below
Hardcover
$12.44
BN.com price
(Save 37%)$19.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (23) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $1.99   
  • Used (14) from $1.99   
The Happy Life: The Search for Contentment in the Modern World

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

By Australia’s greatest contemporary author, an elegant, succinct meditation on what makes for a happy life. ;-)

“Happiness surely is among the simplest of human emotions and the most spontaneous,” says David Malouf. But what exactly are we looking for when we chase happiness? At this particular moment in history, privileged, industrialized nations have lessened much of what makes us unhappy: widespread poverty, illness, famine. Yet we are still unfulfilled, turning increasingly to yoga, church, Match.com, drugs, clinical therapy and retail therapy. What is at the root of our collective stress, and how can we find our way to contentment?
 
Drawing on mythology, philosophy, art and literature, Malouf traces our conception of happiness throughout history, distilling centuries of thought into a lucid narrative. He discusses the creation myths of ancient Greece and the philosophical schools of Athens, analyzes Thomas Jefferson’s revolutionary declaration that “the pursuit of happiness” is a right, explores the celebration of sensual delight in Rembrandt and Rubens and offers a perceptive take on a modern society growing larger and more impersonal.
 
With wisdom and insight, Malouf investigates that simplest, most spontaneous of feelings and urges us to do the same.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a world filled with devastating natural disasters and discouraging economic declines, who can be happy? As award-winning novelist and poet Malouf (Rabsin) reminds us in this yawn-inducing meditation, “happiness is surely among the simplest of human emotions and the most spontaneous.” Drawing deeply from the philosophical wells of Plato, Heidegger, Jeremy Bentham, and others, he reminds us that philosophers have long distinguished the pleasures associated with material goods from the longer lasting contentment that comes from spiritual well-being. Happiness, for the ancients, lay in self-containment and self-sufficiency. Some 18th- and 19th-century thinkers promoted the idea that happiness occurs when individuals achieve certain goals, such as higher production or more land being brought under cultivation. Malouf reminds us that we often confuse the happy life with the good life, which we measure in material terms of proper food and housing, justice, civil liberty, and civil safety. In the end, after all his searching, Malouf comes to the less than profound conclusion that happiness grows out of a balanced life, and that happiness is subjective—different for every person—and fleeting, much like the lessons of this simplistic book. Agent: Sophy Williams, Black Inc. Books (Australia). (Jan.)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Happy Life

“These musings on happiness by an eminent Australian novelist and poet revolve around the question of why it eludes so many of us…Malouf’s prose is as clear as his quiet, unexpected conclusions.”
The New Yorker

“What is happiness, anyway? In this slim volume, the topic is covered…in five linked essays, each considering aspects of happiness, from social to sexual…rich and thoughtful…a useful riddle for midwinter meditation.”
The Boston Globe
 
“A brief but piercing meditation.”
The Los Angeles Times
 
“Penetrating…Malouf eloquently weighs the appeal of material goods and well-being against the heft or morality and individual longing for something we can’t always articulate.”
Booklist
 
“Engaging…A slim volume of meditations on the conundrum that is happiness.”
Kirkus Review
 
The Happy Life is no self-help book, and David Malouf is not naive enough to suggest he has an easy cure for our persistent angst. But for anyone who wants an intelligent primer to begin the process of asking some of the questions whose answers may relieve it, Malouf offers a useful starting point.”
Shelf Awareness
 

Praise for David Malouf

“David Malouf is one of our finest writers, a poet with an ear for language that transforms an interesting concept into a classic meditation on the role of chance in each of our lives.”
San Francisco Chronicle
 
“A richly imagistic writer, philosophical and literary in the best sense.”
The Washington Post Book World
 
“A first-rate writer—–a sensitive historian of the spirit.”
The Wall Street Journal
 
“[Malouf is] a storyteller of achievement, for whom simple things gracefully become totems for deeper thought.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Malouf’s prose is delicate, marvelously alert to the natural world, and endowed with a quality that has one name only: wisdom.”
The Sydney Morning Herald

Kirkus Reviews
A slim volume of meditations on the conundrum that is happiness. Early on in the book, Malouf (Ransom, 2010, etc.) reflects on the unique position we find ourselves in with regard to the idea of "unrest," noting that something seemingly in opposition to a broad idea of happiness has undergone a reversal of sorts. Smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, constant news updates, etc.--the situation maintains a state of unrest, without which we're faced with unendurable inactivity, stillness and quiet. The author notes that it's likely that a majority of people reading this book would, when asked if they are happy, report that they "can't complain"--even though the opposite is often true, with disgruntlement about politicians, the pace of modern life and other issues leading to a too-common base line of unrest. Malouf bounces among ideas throughout this short book, calling on a who's-who of philosophers and writers for historical perspective on the winding path happiness has taken through the milleniums. Perhaps the world's interconnectedness in the digital age has led to an increased feeling of insignificance; perhaps not, but Malouf takes these theories and mines Seneca, Thomas Jefferson and others to shed light on both the ideas and their naysayers. At certain points, the author comes off as crotchety and out-of-touch with current realities, but the majority of the text is engaging. A tidy introduction to basic philosophies and their relation to how we view our happiness.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307907714
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 696,412
  • Product dimensions: 4.90 (w) x 7.16 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

David Malouf is the author of eleven novels, as well as bountiful collections of stories, poetry and opera libretti. He has won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Prix Femina Étranger and the Australia-Asia Literary Award; he has also been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He lives in Australia.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

The Happy Life

The Search for Contentment in the Modern World
By David Malouf

Pantheon

Copyright © 2013 David Malouf
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780307907714

The Character of a Happy Life
 
Happiness surely is among the simplest of human emotions and the most spontaneous. There can be no one, however miserable the conditions of their daily existence, who has not at some time felt the joy of being alive in the moment; in the love of another, or the closeness of friends or fellow workers; in a baby’s smile, the satisfaction of a job well done or the first green in a winter furrow; or more simply still, bird-song or the touch of sunlight. But for the vast majority of men and women who have shared our planet in the long course of human history, these can have been no more than moments in a life that was unremittingly harsh.
 
Think of a medieval farmer as he struggled to keep body and soul together, at the mercy of famine, plague and the periodic arrival over the horizon of mercenaries in search of food or plunder; or women and children in the eighteenth century who spent fifteen hours a day hauling a truck loaded with coal out of a pit; or the African slaves who endured the Middle Passage to the Americas. Think of the millions, soldiers and civilians both, caught up in the wars and social upheavals of the last century, the invasions, evacuations, forced resettlements, the daily struggle to survive the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau or Belsen or Mauthausen.
 
We get some idea of what “happy” might mean to an inmate of the Soviet Gulags from the list of small mercies at the end of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich:

Shukhov went off to sleep, and he was completely content. Fate had been kind to him in many ways that day: he hadn’t been put in the cells, the gang had not been sent to the Socialist Community Centre, he’d fiddled himself an extra bowl of porridge for dinner, the gang-leader had fixed a good percentage, he’d been happy building that wall, he’d slipped through the search with that bit of blade, he’d earned himself something from Tsesar in the evening, he’d bought his tobacco. And he hadn’t fallen ill—had overcome his feelings of illness in the morning.
The day had gone by without a single cloud—almost a happy day.
There were three thousand six hundred and fifty-three days like that in his sentence, from reveille to lights out.
The three extra days were because of the leap years;.;.;.
 
The truth is that for most of our history only the few, who had the privilege of living free of long hours of hard labour and vulnerability to privation and every form of accident, enjoyed the luxury of considering what happiness of a more settled kind might be: the freedom to cultivate, outside the turmoil of daily living, their “garden.” Either a real one of orchards and shady walks—Horace’s Sabine farm or Voltaire’s Ferney—or the metaphorical one of Marvell’s “green thought in a green shade.” Or, within a life that is still engaged with contingency and dailyness, what Montaigne calls “the little back-shop, all our own, entirely free,” that we must set aside for our self-preservation in even the most crowded household. “In this retreat,” he tells us,
 
we should keep up our ordinary converse with ourselves, and so private, that no acquaintance or outside communication may find a place there; there to talk and laugh, as if we had neither wife, nor children, nor worldly goods, retinue or servants; to the end that, should we happen to lose them, it may be no new thing to do without them...Since God gives us permission to arrange for our own removal, let us prepare for it; let us pack up our belongings, take leave betimes of the company, and shake off those violent holdfasts that engage us elsewhere and estrange us from ourselves. We must undo those powerful bonds, and from this day forth we may love this and that, but be wedded only to ourselves. That is to say, let the rest be ours, but not joined and glued so firmly to us that it cannot be detached without taking our skin along with it, and tearing away a piece of us. The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to yourself.
 
Montaigne knows only too well, of course, that one needs more than “God’s permission” to achieve this. It helps if one is also the Seigneur de Montaigne, Chevalier de l’ordre du Roy et Gentilhomme ordinaire de sa chambre, mayor and governor of Bordeaux, a child of fortune and high privilege; though even then one will be as vulnerable as any other to the ills of the body, and to the hesitations, doubts, irrational hauntings, moods, fears that trouble our fragile consciousness; and of course no one, however protected by royal favour and titles, is safe from Death. 
 



Continues...

Excerpted from The Happy Life by David Malouf Copyright © 2013 by David Malouf. Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(1)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    ...

    This book sucked super bad

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    Michelle

    Hi

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    I HATE THIS BOOK

    I JUST WANT TO THROW IT IN A FIRE AND WATCH IT BURN? :o

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)