Book Review: A Short Guide to a Happy Life, by Anna Quindlen

The other night, Courtney ran to the library for me and picked up three books from my book list at random. A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen happened to be one of them, and I had to laugh when I saw it. If you pick this book up, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The book is 50 pages long and easily half of those are full page pictures (not hard when the book is about 5 by 3 inches in size). Add to it that the text is large and double-spaced (maybe 100 words per page), and I couldn’t help but read it first.

On a dare, I challenged myself to read the entire book in under ten minutes. I did it in seven, and it was entirely worth it.

First, Quindlen’s writing is smooth, like melted butter. It’s rich, delicious, full of meaning, and deeply interpretive. It’s also wildly simple. In short, it’s not a hot fudge sundae filled with multitudes of tastes and textures. Rather, it’s that slice of warm bread right out of the oven.

I honestly expected it to be the proverbial “be happy, choose to be happy” and utterly cheesy. And it is, but in a way that isn’t necessarily bad. Nor cheesy. Rather, it was enjoyable for the simple message. She mentions early on that she often gives commencement addresses, and this book rings true to that form, but rather than being a commencement from school, it’s a commencement from monotony, from boredom, from the rat race. In trying to pick a single quote from it, my mind keeps going back to a conversation she had with a homeless man. The man, despite the availability of places to stay, chose to stay on the shore, sitting on the dock. When Quindlen questioned him why, his response was “Look at the view!”

Indeed. Look at the view. And you can’t help but want to see it yourself.

It truly is one of the shortest guides to a happy life you’ll probably ever find, but I challenge you to find one that is more quickly absorbed with plainer lessons. When I finished it, I immediately turned to Courtney and told her that if I committed to reading that book every day for a year, I’d find myself coming out the other side simply happy, paying attention to the little things that matter.

A quite solid 4 out of 4 stars, and I’ll even throw in a recommendation of BUY!

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