Sunday, 18 April 2010

Book #6: Hector and the Search for Happiness

On my way to the airport I realised that I had neglected to bring any reading material for the journey. So we wound up looking in WH Smith on customs side for cheap reads. I ended up buying Hector and the Search for Happiness.

The book is written in a very simplistic way, like that of a children's book, which lends it a sense of naivety and exploration. The story is a simple premise as well. There is a psychiatrist, Hector, who, noticing all the unexplainable unhappiness in his seemingly well-to-do patients, goes on a round-the-world trip to find the rules of happiness.

Here we go to China, some troubled African country and a wealthy country, presumably the USA. We meet a variety of characters, from prostitutes, wealthy bankers, professors, drug barons and fortune tellers. He finds 23 lessons of happiness (well, 24 if you count the one he crossed out), and shares them with a Einstein-esque expert in Happiness Studies.

The main things I've learnt is that if you want to be irresistible to women, dress like a psychiatrist. If that means having little glasses and a little mustache (like in Hector' case), then so be it. Hector's dabbling in misogyny (the crossed out lesson 18) is not the only disappointing thing in the book.

Like a psychiatrist, the books fails to condemn anything. War-torn nations, affairs, drug dealing, prostitution, governmental corruption, economic exploitation and the criminal underground are all found in this book and are only dealt in terms of whether it makes people happy or not. Despite this, it does not make patronising assumptions that if you are poor then you are not happy, in fact it does quite the reverse.

The wisest lesson in this book that the biggest mistake is to make happiness your goal, because once you do that, you will find it hard to get it.

It is a simple and enjoyable book, and it is not one that is meant to be thought to hard about (although I can't help it, I'm an English graduate after all).

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