The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner

Jan 8, 2009

“Normally, I do not associate the words “happiness” and “database,” but this is different”. Thus Eric Weiner begins his journey with a visit to The World Database of Happiness in the Netherlands. Upon being told that he may not like what he finds, Weiner admits that “while we may not be able to differentiate fine shades of happiness among countries, surely we can say that some countries are happier than others.” And he proceeds with his research.

In each place he visits Weiner makes an effort to meet political or spiritual leaders, average citizens, and often times Americans living abroad. In every case, he writes of his hosts with humor and compassionate curiosity. At one point he decides that in order to know happiness, you must know unhappiness and visits some of the least happy places. Of Moldova he says, “Getting to Moldova turns out to be nearly as tricky as finding it on a map. It’s almost as if the Moldovans are off sulking in their corner of the globe. "Leave us alone. We’re not happy, and we like it that way. We said go away!” I know it’s just a cry for help though, and am not about to give up.”

Is Weiner ultimately able to determine who’s happy and why? Maybe not definitively, but his exploration uncovers some common themes across this “atlas of bliss”.

Reviewed by Helen H.
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