Here’s what we’ve been reading these days:
The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner, NPR correspondant, happiness seeker.
Who wants to be a happy person? One man’s quest to find the happiest place on earth, and it ain’t Disneyland. In fact, the United States scores pretty low on the happiness radar. Go figure. Mr. Weiner travels all over the world, we’ve gone to the Netherlands (you can guess what makes them happy), Switzerland (yes, chocolate is a stimulant for happiness) next up Bhutan, Qatar, (rich does not equal happy), Iceland (very happy!) Moldova (not so happy), Thailand, Great Britain, India! finishing in good old, disfunctional America. Physical geography has a lot do with happiness, not to mention low unemployment, economic stability, and … access to pleasure. His easily accessible prose is music to any armchair traveler. Anyone who has been to the places he’s described will get a kick out of the stories, and the information. Compare this to the wonderful writer/philosopher Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel, a book this reader had to go over a few times. BIG WORDS = BIG THOUGHTS, but that’s because my brain wasn’t warmed up yet. ‘Geography of Bliss’ is that warm up. Great stuff. Keeps your mind moving in the right direction.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Sparks.
I am a sucker for a story with a teacher in it, especially such a controversial one. Miss Jean Brodie teaches her ‘set’ the real facts of life, not the prescribed methods issued by the pre-war Scottish society she was a part of. Art, love, sex, it’s all there, but in such a unique way. Sparks hit on a really interesting idea: What if teachers were allowed to teach their students in the way that best fit them, in their own “prime”? Gets me thinking about the nature of teaching, and what the idea of ‘prime’ is in the first place. Do we have control of this notion? Our prime? Miss Jean Brodie does, and she’s going to tell you about it. Then rent the movie, also fabulous.