The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this book. Unlike some other reviews of it, I found the research aspect quite interesting and would have enjoyed even more detail about it. I didn't expect him to come to any absolute answers, and he didn't, but I did find the exploration of the topic through various and within diverse cultures interesting. Since there has been some discussion in the news right now of the differences between urban and rural living, I was glad he included side trips away from the big cities as well.
I agree with some of the answers he found: money matters, but only so much. Culture matters: it sets the stage. Community matters: it can change how we react to the places. Personal characteristics matter: they often mitigate what you might expect in those surroundings.
It would be interesting to do this on both a larger and smaller scale - more countries, especially including Africa and South America; and, on the other end of the scale, states within a large country, cities within large states. Even on the micro scale, I have seen differences. I have worked quite a few years as a substitute teacher. Some schools are definitely happy schools. Some made me anxious, just being in them. Intriguing.
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