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A Private History of Happiness No. 2

After reading Myerson’s A Private History of Happiness, I’ve been thinking more about happiness and decided to consult my other new book on the subject. The Novel Cure – An A to Z of Literary Remedies prescribes for ‘happiness, searching for’ Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. That wouldn’t have been my choice I’m not going to lie, but here is what authors Berthoud and Elderkin have to say:

The relentless pursuit of happiness is an aliment, and  must be cured. Ray Bradbury knew this too…Fahrenheit 451 will teach you that life is made of a rich variety of experiences. Live to the full not by seeking happiness, but by embracing knowledge, literature, truth and feelings of every sort.

Hmmm, that feels quite profound doesn’t it? Food for thought!! But in the meantime, on a less profound note, I will leave you with a few autumnal pictures that make me happy. I hope they do for you too!

Roaring Fire

Roaring Fire and Pumpkins

2013-10-26 18.18.50

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A Private History of Happiness No. 1

I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness this week as I have been reading A Private History of Happiness by George Myerson. What makes me happy and why? How do I feel when I am perfectly happy? Is it when I have those occasional heart-flutter moments or is it the deep, calm peaceful feeling I have when snuggled up with a good book on a cold evening or when eating with friends? Or all of those things?

A Private History of Happiness is a collection of ninety-nine short written extracts from many different people in many different times. These extracts are accompanied by a short analysis from Myerson that draws out the nub of the happiness in each section. They are loosely themed in the cycle of a day, from early morning to evening. This works well as it echoes that fact that so many of these observations of happiness are about the small, mundane details of nature and nurture. This book is not only heart-warming but also, as Myerson points out in the introduction, shows us that over the centuries, human happiness is a thread that unites us:

As these people from many ways of life wrote down their experiences, there was an inner core that said, “This was a moment when I was glad to be alive.” Reading their words now, even centuries later, we can feel immediately how their happiness filled passing moments, creating occasions that needed to be recorded.

This book made me feel happier and more peaceful just reading it so if that is not a recommendation, I don’t know what is! I also read it all in one go as I was enjoying it so much, but if anything, it is more suited to reading a small bit each night before going to bed I think. The joy of savouring a beloved book just before bedtime is actually one of the extracts appropriately!

George Myerson commenting on an extract from George Ridpath, historian and vicar, writing in his diary, December 13th, 1755.

For George Ridpath, it was a real treat to settle down with a good book on a wintery evening, his sermon done for another week, his thought free to wander as he drifted towards sleep. It was the perfect end to the day and also the best of ways to welcome the night.

Interestingly, one of the other extracts that appealed to me most was one of the oldest:

Ptolemy, astronomer, making a note in the margin of his book. Alexandria, Second Century BC

I know that I am mortal by nature and ephemeral, but when I trace at my pleasure the windings to and fro of the heavenly bodies, I no longer touch earth with my feet. I stand in the presence of Zeus himself and take my fill of ambrosia.

Isn’t that beautiful? It sums up more elegantly than I ever could exactly how I feel when I take the time to look properly at the stars. The feeling of being pleasantly small and insignificant, but also in the presence of something much greater.

I find reading blogs makes me happy and I definitely gravitate to ones that make me feel peaceful and contented. I thought, because winter can often be a difficult time, I would write about experiences and things that make me happy here as a little mini-series, in the hope that it also makes you think about happiness through the dark winter nights.


Book Delivery!

Look what arrived today! I am so excited to read these! Thank you to Cornflower and dovegreyreader, without whom I wouldn’t have heard about them.

New books! A Novel Cure and A Private History of Happiness

New books! A Novel Cure and A Private History of Happiness