O's Little Book of Happiness

O's Little Book of Happiness


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With a sprightly dose of insightful inspiration, a sprinkling of practical advice, and a bounty of exuberant stories by great writers, O's Little Book of Happiness features some of the best work ever to have appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine. Inside you'll find Elizabeth Gilbert's ode to the triumph of asking for what you want, Jane Smiley's tribute to the animal who taught her about lasting fulfillment, Roxane Gay's sure-fire cure for complaining, Brené Brown's celebration of the powers of play, Neil deGrasse Tyson's take on the joyful participation in the universe, and much more. Revisiting fifteen years of the magazine's rich archives, O's editors have assembled a collection as stunning as it is spirit-lifting.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250068569
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: 03/31/2015
Series: O's Little Books & Guides Series , #1
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 463,176
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Each month O, The Oprah Magazine helps readers live their best lives, serving up information and inspiration on everything from lasting love to luscious food. With a signature blend of candor and humor, fresh advice and timeless wisdom, the magazine offers people the tools they need to, as Oprah Winfrey says, "become more of who they are"-to love themselves more deeply, to look hopefully toward the future, and to leap wholeheartedly into the adventure of being alive.

Contributors to O's Little Book of Happiness

Thelma Adams *Monica Ali *Christie Aschwanden *Dan Baker, PhD *Celia Barbour *Martha Beck *Sister Wendy Beckett *Amy Bloom *Brené Brown *Jessica Bruder *Veronica Chambers *Emma Cline *Lisa Congdon *Pamela Erens *Hilene Flanzbaum *Sue Fliess *Lise Funderburg*Roxane Gay *Elizabeth Gilbert *Marianne Gingher *Anne Glusker *Neil de Grasse Tyson *Heather Greenwood Davis *Lara Kristin Herndon *Roger Housden *Joyce Johnson *Lila Keary *Andrea Lee *Beth Levine *Mark Leyner *Valerie Monroe *Catherine Newman *Mary Oliver *Meghan O'Rourke *Victoria Redel *Gretchen Reynolds *Jane Smiley *Kathryn Sullivan *Abigail Thomas *Justine Van Der Leun *Patricia Volk *Lauren F. Winner *Jessica Winter

Read an Excerpt

O's Little Book of Happiness

By The Editors of O The Oprah Magazine

Flatiron Books

Copyright © 2015 Hearst Communications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-06857-6


Simple Pleasures

Each moment in time we have it all, even when we don't.

—Melody Beattie

The Way Home

Christie Aschwanden

The walk is not negotiable. No matter how full the day's agenda, we go—my husband, my cow dog, and I—down our rural western Colorado road, past the neighbor's property to the dead end, up the old dirt track grown over with sagebrush and piñon saplings, to the top of the hill where the path ends under a red sandstone cliff. I've watched sunset after sunset from this private perch, and each is the most beautiful I've ever seen.

As an air force brat, a competitive ski racer, and then a journalist, I've lived in three countries and more than a dozen cities; trekked up and down the Alps, through Central American rain forests, and along Mediterranean coasts, seeking novelty and adventure. But a kind of loneliness lurked in my perpetual motion. I could fit in anywhere, yet I belonged nowhere.

Seven years ago, I fell in love with Cedaredge, the small town where my husband, Dave, yearned to settle, and together we decided to put down roots on a sixteen-acre homestead. Still, I refused to retire my passport. There were so many faraway mountains to climb and foreign cultures to explore. Tying myself to a single place felt confining—until finally, during a particularly irritating flight delay, it dawned on me that while I wasted time in crowded airport lounges, the life I'd dreamed of was waiting for me on the farm.

Later that week, I told Dave that I would spend the next 365 days practicing the art of living in place, never venturing more than a hundred miles from home. It was my version of a Benedictine monk's vow of stability, in which he promises to remain in the same monastery for life, resolving to accept his assigned home as it is.

Although a part of me believed I was making a sacrifice, I found that when I narrowed my boundaries, I expanded my horizons. The friendship I forged with my octogenarian neighbors taught me that a shared commitment to place can create ties far stronger than age. Joining my library's board introduced me to bibliophiles I would have otherwise never met. And with a local activist whose politics make me cringe, I found common ground in our passion for growing raspberries.

But it was my dog who finally showed me the way home. Oskar inspired the ramble that would become our ritual. And after treading this little path for hundreds of days, I've stopped longing for far-flung adventures. Here I have the aroma of sage and the bluebirds and the craggy peaks surrounding me like an embrace. I share this space with the beings whose footprints I see in the mud—coyotes, turkeys, elk, and mountain lions—and my presence has turned me into a creature of the habitat just like them.

It has taken me most of my life to learn how to inhabit a place, and I learned it, finally, by walking—up the hill and around the back side of our farm, day in and day out. The repetition is the point. My journey home was not a whirlwind excursion but a geological process: my soul mingling with the soil, step by step, over time.

Lumps Are Treasures

Patricia Volk

I love the dark film that forms as cocoa cools in the pot. Break it up with a spoon, stir it in, and you've got dirty hot chocolate, unsmooth and imperfect, hence complex. There are those who will tell you dirty food does little to enhance presentation. But a brisket sandwich would be torment without pan scrapings. I like seeing and eating something that shows it was made by human hand in a slow old-fashioned way. When I'm eating a lemon mousse, discovering a bit of pulp exhilarates. You never have to strain anything for me. Lumps are treasures, and so are little bits of black fat at the bottom of the roasting pan if onions are in it. In Yiddish, these carbonized fat-soaked threads are known as gribenes. People, families, have been known to fight over them. In France, burnt crumbs that collect at the bottom of the skillet when you sauté floured food is fond. Gribenes and fond are why we have Lipitor. Congealed anything, stuff that leaks between the bread and gets frazzled on the panini maker, hard bits, dried bits, soggy bits, crunch, globs, gobs, and flecks—anything you might toss even though it has more taste per concentrated morsel than the star of the meal—I say bring it on. There's a reason the word incredible contains the word edible.

Book Lust

Pamela Erens

I've been a passionate reader since childhood. Print is beautiful to me. My eyes automatically seize on any text in the vicinity, whether a DANGER HIGH VOLTAGE sign or the side panel of a box of Cheerios. Some grown-ups remember the times they swam in a cold pond or raced their bikes along a country road as children. I remember going out to the beach one morning with The Once and Future King and looking up to find that the sun was setting. I remember the time I read The Outsiders, a book about disaffected teenagers, from cover to cover while draped upside down over a kitchen chair. My body hurt like hell, but I would have had to stop reading to get up.

I can't read with that level of absorption anymore. In fact, during much of the day there are things I can't read at all. The newspaper, a book review, a lively magazine profile are all fine. But even when I have the luxury of complete solitude, I'm unable, before the hour of ten P.M., to read a novel or a reflective essay.

Only after the children have gone to bed, my husband and I have performed triage on our to-be-discussed list, and my schedule for the next day has been organized can I sink into language with a capital L. I get into bed, adjust my thin pillow against my fat pillow. I put on my socks (it's no fun reading with cold feet). I open my book, and the following thought allows me to begin: No one needs me. Maybe no one even remembers who I am! It's too late in the day for me to make any more mistakes, disappoint anyone, complete any uncompleted tasks. However I may have failed or fallen behind, I'm off the hook until sunrise. And time, which all day has pressed like a tight band against my consciousness, slackens. The clock finds a thirteenth hour.

Sometimes I do stalk my bookshelves in the middle of the afternoon during an unexpected windfall of free time, eyes scanning the unread novels, essay collections, ruminations on God and love and history—all the biggies. My heart beats rapidly; I grow excited with possibility. I'm in love with the many things that I have yet to feel and know. I'm experiencing the idea of reading, which is generally so stimulating that I discover I can't begin at all.

But when the bedroom light is dimmed and the telecommunicatory hum of the universe has been smothered behind the closet door, I'm ready for the reality of reading, which is less exalted but ultimately more satisfying. I find it in myself to begin; I open to page one. A man is standing in a bakery on a hot summer afternoon. I see the shirt the man is wearing, note the fact that his tie is folded in his pocket. I see the baker's wife at the cash register. Suddenly I'm sheltered by a thicket of detail. The sights and sounds and smells of the book pull me in and slow me down in a way that those of the real world, oddly, often do not. I'm no longer at the wishing-fearing-planning pace of my day. I'm not running but walking. And where I wind up, book after book, is an unmatched state of bliss.

Paradise: Seventeen Cents a Spoonful

Mark Leyner

Imagine condensing the evolution of gastronomic pleasure from the very first mammalian sip of mother's milk to everything savored and swallowed over the millennia into one single alimentary act. Sound crazy? If so, you've never had pudding. And, friends, I'm not talking about hot, steamy Christmas puddings, bread puddings, figgy puddings, crème brûlées, or zabagliones. I'm talking about the store-bought, ready-made pudding you find in the refrigerated section of your supermarket. I'm talking six plastic four-ounce cups of cold, thick, dizzyingly sweet pudding for around two dollars. I'm talking Swiss Miss. I'm talking Kozy Shack.

And actually, I've refined the act of pudding eating even further, down to its Eucharistic essence—a single spoonful. Two ounces. Seventeen cents' worth.

Here's how it's done: Scoop out a tablespoon of pudding from the plastic container (butterscotch is regarded by pudding illuminati as the epitome of flavors), put it in your mouth, do not move it around or disperse it in any way with your tongue, swallow the glob intact, and let Mother Gravity slowly draw it down. Remember—this is as much about how it feels as it is about how it tastes.

Anticipation of that single sweet glob is the fuse that drives me through the day. A tablespoon of pudding is the perfectly titrated dose. It's a fugitive pleasure, swallowing a syllable. That sweet, thick syllable—pudd. The ing is simply the slide down the throat, the pudd as it bids adieu. ... The parting of the pudding is all sweet sorrow.

A cowboy's shot of whiskey in a saloon sends the cowboy west, far from Mama, toward trouble, exile, and ultimately into the sunset. But the spoonful of pudding has a completely opposite vector. It sends you back, back east, back to Mama, toward the dawn, all the way to Eden ... before the fall of mankind. Paradise at only seventeen cents per glob! That's what I'm talking about.

Tall Tales

Victoria Redel

Somewhere after Farson, Wyoming, my sons grew restless in the backseat. Who could blame them? We'd been traveling all day and well into the night, driving out of Utah to Thermopolis, Wyoming, home of the world's largest hot spring. "Just go to sleep," we commanded from the front seat, already exhausted by this vacation. "Tell us a story," they said—and so began the adventures of Extravaganza and her sidekick and more or less true love, Cowboy Pete. From that night on, they became part of all long family car trips.

Extravaganza rides her horse with a diamond tiara shining in the light of the moon. Or, hobo-style, she jumps trains to Detroit to win a few hands of cards while searching for the parents of a lost boy. Or she and Cowboy Pete crack treasure from a sunken lobster boat—they use the gold to help the lost boy, and the change is spent on strappy sandals. Our car rides are a means of going on vacation, of course—but now they've also become a way to go on a wild adventure, even when we're still strapped and buckled in.

A Slice of Summer

Abigail Thomas

My grandmother lived in a big house on a ghost of a road at the end of which lay the Atlantic Ocean. Her house had once been an inn, was reputed to be haunted, and had been purchased for eleven thousand dollars in the late 1940s. Once a year, from wherever we were living—Baltimore, New Orleans, Minnesota—my family made the trek back for summer vacation. The place was always the same. Always the same bright green grass, the big gray front porch, the huge elms, flowering privet and roses and salty air, always the beach at the end of the road. Always summer.

At Bigmom's the smell of camphor and old books mingled with whatever was in the oven. There was always something good going on in her kitchen. The first thing I did when we arrived was run and look in her icebox. There (as I'd hoped) were glass ramekins filled with custard, each with a sprinkling of nutmeg. This silky treat was my favorite, and I was allowed to have two or even three in a row. Sometimes she made applesauce, hard green apples cut up and cooked in orange juice, which she pressed through a fine sieve. This thin, delicious substance was served with heavy cream. Her recipe for fudge, now lost, contained the instructions "Cook until the bubbles look as if they don't want to burst." My mother poured it over marshmallows. On the back of the old stove was a pot of broth, thick chunks of beef cooking with rice in water. Even though this was meant for Winston, the ancient, ailing English bulldog, I would stand at the stove and secretly eat spoonful after spoonful.

The earliest aroma of the day was Bigmom's coffee percolating at five thirty, and I tiptoed down the wide front stairs and into her kitchen, where I sat in the old rocker (now in my living room) and talked, about what I can't remember. For an hour, my grandmother was all mine. She let me have a cup of coffee with sugar and cream, and I felt alive with the possibilities of what life might be like for me. I guess this was because she appeared to take me seriously. Our coffee was accompanied by buttered toast cut into long strips she called soldiers.

When the rest of the household woke up, we kids went to the beach. We grew up there as much as anywhere, on that beach, in that water, stopping for lunch at noon, eating our chicken sandwiches—white meat, plenty of butter and salt, the crusts cut off the bread—or red onion sandwiches on tiny rounds of rye, hard-boiled eggs, everything eaten with the sand you could never quite keep off.

When the sun was over the yardarm, we trudged our sunburned selves back down Indian Wells Highway to her house. Interesting grown-ups were drinking their pink gins in the library; to the left was the parlor, filled with mysterious objects under glass domes and always as hushed as church. We'd race one another to the shower (her upstairs bathroom had a skylight with an old metal chain) and then back downstairs, avoiding the room where our parents were happily occupied. Our winter lives were harder. Schools and cities changed; almost as soon as we got settled somewhere, we were moving again. But summer was always summer.

My grandmother died and the house was sold, but for years and years afterward, whenever I returned to Amagansett, I felt at home. This was where I belonged. Anytime I walked down that half mile of road to find the ocean glittering at the end, I was a child.

Wind, Sand, and Sardines

Monica Ali

One year I took the children on holiday to Morocco, where we spent much time feasting, either with our eyes in the market or with our bellies in the cafés and restaurants. One meal in particular marked a highlight. We were staying in Essaouira, a town with such an atmospheric and photogenic medina that it has remained a popular film location since Orson Welles chose to shoot there for his Othello. Setting out from the fishing harbor, we took a camel ride up the coast along vast deserted stretches of windswept golden sand, past the ruined forts and castles, which are said to have been the inspiration for the Jimi Hendrix song "Castles Made of Sand." Camel rides are notoriously uncomfortable, except this one wasn't—we lolled back on hugely overstuffed palanquins, going with the motion as if rolling with the waves. After a couple of hours we branched off at a small river and rode inland, seeing nothing but the occasional house and a few tree-climbing goats. When we stopped for lunch, our guide quickly swept together some leaves and twigs as kindling while the children collected bigger sticks. From somewhere in his saddlebags, he produced two dozen sardines, which he had caught that morning, and grilled them on the open fire. There was fresh bread and heavenly tomatoes. For dessert we ate dates. It was the simplest of meals and the most delicious. Why? It had been a long ride, for one thing. Food tastes better when you're hungry. How easy that is to forget! Everything was fresh and tasted of itself, no need for dressing up. And there was time for a doze beneath the acacias while the children fed the leftovers to the camels.

Personal Growth

Lara Kristin Herndon

Two years ago, as my bitter divorce dragged on and on, I moved out of the high-rise apartment my ex and I had shared and into a small walk-up with our daughter. I felt like a shipwreck survivor—glad to have washed up on dry land, traumatized to be starting over from scratch.

A few days later, a package arrived. I opened it to find a beautiful green stalk sprouting several glossy emerald leaves. It was a lemon tree, a gift from my mother. My first thought: It was the dead of winter in Manhattan—how would I keep this thing alive? But caring for the little tree proved easy; all it needed was water and a warm windowsill.

When it blossomed—white waxy stars with sunshine yellow centers whose sugar and honeysuckle scent my daughter and I gulped in by the lungful—our cramped apartment felt transformed.


Excerpted from O's Little Book of Happiness by The Editors of O The Oprah Magazine. Copyright © 2015 Hearst Communications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
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.

Table of Contents

Contributors to O's Little Book of Happiness

Thelma Adams *Monica Ali *Christie Aschwanden *Dan Baker, PhD *Celia Barbour *Martha Beck *Sister Wendy Beckett *Amy Bloom *Brené Brown *Jessica Bruder *Veronica Chambers *Emma Cline *Lisa Congdon *Pamela Erens *Hilene Flanzbaum *Sue Fliess *Lise Funderburg*Roxane Gay *Elizabeth Gilbert *Marianne Gingher *Anne Glusker *Neil de Grasse Tyson *Heather Greenwood Davis *Lara Kristin Herndon *Roger Housden *Joyce Johnson *Lila Keary *Andrea Lee *Beth Levine *Mark Leyner *Valerie Monroe *Catherine Newman *Mary Oliver *Meghan O'Rourke *Victoria Redel *Gretchen Reynolds *Jane Smiley *Kathryn Sullivan *Abigail Thomas *Justine Van Der Leun *Patricia Volk *Lauren F. Winner *Jessica Winter

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O's Little Book of Happiness 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I must admit, I was never a big fan of Oprah until now. I was only given this book as a gift by my mother after I recently ended my marriage of three years. Within a day, I had read this book cover to cover because of it’s wealthy of content provided by everyone from Elizabeth Gilbert to Shonda Rhimes. I am glad that she bought it for me. This book is inspiring me not only to do better but to be better. It is helping think deeper about my own journey as well as about my relationships with others. I am now more than capable of thinking about the future and where I want to see myself going personally and professionally. At this point in my life, where I have found myself reassessing my priorities and seeing where I want to focus next, the biggest piece of this puzzle is to ensure my own happiness. If you are struggling with your own happiness, I highly recommend this book. I’d also recommend that you read When God Stopped Keeping Score, which takes an intimate look at the power of forgiveness. I love that book too. It too is a must have!