Saturday, September 20, 2008

'Geography of Bliss'

- a book review (attempted)

It's a good feeling when you find validation. A validation of your ideas. And it may sound a bit cliche', but you connect to someone with your ideas instantly.

Nothing like this happened for me when I started reading "Georgraphy of Bliss" - A grump's search for happiest places in the world.

The book dragged for a few pages initially and then it picked. And boy it did!
Once I started sipping each page one by one, the "wine" became tastier and more intoxicating. I sort of found a validation in my own ideas after reading this. I always knew that we as a people are whiners basically. We are looking to run away from what we have. In fact world is getting whinier every day. And this clearly comes out to me after reading this book.

Eric Weiner was an NPR journalist. As an author of this amazing travelogue he goes to about 9 or 10 countries and tries to find out why the people in these countries are happy. He tries to see if they are happy at all? If yes, what ticks.

He goes to strange places like Bhutan, Qatar and Iceland and interacts with the local people to know what's going on. He also goes to the world's unhappiest place - Moldova.
He begins his journey in Netherlands, where a Research institute maintains a list of Happiest places in the world. And he is surprised by some findings of that research. For example, a country like Iceland, where half the year is complete darkness and cold and bitter, is actually a very happy place. He says Iceland is country of only 300,000 people. It's population is about the size of Louisville or as he says the "average bus stop in China" :)

The book is evenly spaced between bouts of humor and some serious information. Weiner does a good job of keeping the balance. It's important for a funny guy who's on a mission to not loose his focus and try to be too funny. As a messenger of this research, Weiner needs to inform his audience in a way that they do not loose interest. And considering the kind of attention span we have these days, Weiner's job is not easy. To his credit he maintains that track all along. Making sure, he does not miss the point, keeping a subtle thread of humor running. I like the smooth narration. It is not preachy or high handed. It makes you feel easy.

He keeps best for the last. His last stop before coming back to his home, America,is India. And here's what he has to say about India -

"Some places are like family. They annoy us no end, specially during holidays, but we keep coming back for more because we know, deep in our hearts, that our destinations are intertwined. For me, that place is India. I hate it. I love it. Not alternatively, but simultaneously"

We all think about that elusive "perfect job". In my head that job is still not completely defined or clear. But if ever there was, Eric Weiner's job of going to 10 different countries, staying with local folks, interacting with them, interviewing them and finding what clicks or not, would be very close to a perfect job. :)

Not a masterpiece or a classic. But a good informative, relaxing read nevertheless.

Recommended : YES

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