There’s reason to be happy about One Book, One Mesa County

This began as a column about the weather. It turned into a shout-out for One Book, One Mesa County, the program at the Mesa County Public Library that urges everyone in the county to read the same book and then get together at various venues throughout the year to discuss it.

I figure anything that encourages reading can’t be a bad idea. Although the program has been around for several years, this is the first year I read the book. My good friend Janine Rider is on the One Book, One Mesa County committee and she insisted all her friends read it. Thank you, Janine.

As reads go, “Geography of Bliss” by Eric Weiner is OK. It’s an interesting premise. Someone, at some time or other, using some kind of metrics, figured out which countries in the world are the happiest, and which are the unhappiest. Weiner apparently came across the data and figured there was a book in there somewhere. He proposes to figure out why the happy places are happy and, in one instance, why the unhappiest place on Earth ended up at the bottom of the happiness heap.

The way he does it, of course, is to convince his publisher that he must personally travel to each and every place and partake in whatever it is that makes people happy. That’s a pretty good gig if you can get it. I’ve been on the convincee side of the table many times; Weiner must be good.

Off he sets in search of the source of happiness. Is it money? Is it family? Is it friends? Is it there at all? All good questions. I don’t know that he ever answers them, at least not completely. But don’t let that stop you from reading the book.

Weiner’s book is a very good piece of travel writing. He has an eye for detail reminiscent of John McPhee. His descriptions are layered and well-crafted. Go with him as he takes you around the globe to such disparate locales as Iceland (it’s not the rotten shark on the menu that makes people happy) to Thailand (learn when people are faking a smile), to the U.K. (hard to believe, I know) to Moldova (the unhappiest place in the world) to Switzerland (boring and happy) and various other countries, some of which may surprise you.

Part of this year’s One Book, One Mesa County activities included a screening of the documentary, “Laughology,” Thursday night at the Avalon. Kathy and I went, after I’d spent a frustrating day trying to write a column about the weather. What I’d ended up with was a virtual wastebasket crammed full of a couple dozen mangled sentences and a looming deadline.

On a cold, late February night, we trudged downtown to watch a film about laughter. It was the perfect antidote to the miserable weather.

Yes, it’s been a rotten winter, not one to laugh about. Colder than normal with more snow than normal. What’s generally thought of now as the worst winter ever, although the data don’t bear that out, began on Dec. 4, when nearly 10 inches of snow fell. Some of it is still in my yard. I didn’t find that particularly laugh-inducing as we left the house to see “Laughology.”

Canadian Albert Nerenberg’s film is a sometimes-scientific, sometimes-serious, sometimes-funny investigation of laughing. Why we do it. How we do it. What it does for us. Why it matters. It’s a complement to Weiner’s book.

I don’t know that I’ll ever find myself joining a “laughter club,” although they apparently are all the rage among the self-help crowd.

The idea of a bunch of people getting together and forcing laughter until it becomes real doesn’t appeal to the grump in me. But hey, to each to his own.

I will, though, return to the YouTube video of one Doug Collins. “Laughology” bestows upon this Tennesseean the title of the person with the most infectious laugh in the world. Check him out the next time the weather gets you down.

He’ll make your day.

Denny Herzog is the retired executive editor of The Daily Sentinel. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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