The Geography of Bliss

As a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, Eric Weiner has spent much of his career traveling to some of the world’s least happy places — Iraq and Afghanistan among them. With his first book, The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World, he decided it was time for a change of approach. “What if, I wondered, I spent a year traveling the globe, seeking out not the world’s well-trodden trouble spots but, rather, its unheralded happy places?” he writes. “Places that possess, in spades, one or more of the ingredients that we consider essential to the hearty stew of happiness: money, pleasure, spirituality, family, and chocolate, among others…” So he set about seeking a variety of Shangri-Las: testing tolerance and Moroccan hashish in the Netherlands; learning to accept loss and relinquish regret in Bhutan; marveling at the darkness, drunkenness and remarkable creativity in Iceland; eschewing introspection and embracing fun in Thailand; looking for contrast in miserable Moldova, “the world’s least happy country.” Along the way, Weiner gathers insights from many wise and well-traveled people, relates the latest findings in the field of happiness research, and turns enough pleasing phrases to keep even the surliest reader ? happy.