Eric Weiner can help you find happiness. Or at least point you in the right direction. In “The Geography of Bliss,” the veteran NPR correspondent takes readers on a whirlwind tour of the “happiest” countries on earth, hoping to discern why some places are undeniably more joyful than others.
Weiner begins by consulting Ruut Veenhoven’s World Database of Happiness (in Holland), which “contains mankind's accumulated knowledge about what makes us happy.” Using Veenhoven’s statistics as a guide, Weiner visits seven other allegedly upbeat countries—Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Thailand, England and India—plus Moldova, the former Soviet Republic which is, “according to Veenhoven’s data, the least happy nation on the planet.”
For the most part, Weiner’s experiences conform to the statistical evidence. On Iceland: “I was sorry to leave.” On Bhutan: “[I]t has a policy of Gross National Happiness. Need I say more?” And on Moldova: “There is nothing I will miss about Moldova. Nothing.”
In the last chapter the author finally gets around to addressing his home country, the United States, which is not nearly as happy as one might expect. “Americans believe deeply in the connection between place and happiness,” begins Weiner. “Every year some 40 million Americans move. Why? Because they think they’ll be happier somewhere else.”