Book Review: A Private History of Happiness by George Myerson

A Private History of HappinessA Private History of Happiness:
Ninety-nine Moments of Joy from Around the World
George Myerson
BlueBridge, June 2014
IBSN 978-1-933346-51-9
Trade Paperback

There are moments in our lives when happiness and joy overwhelm us. A wedding. The birth of a child. A graduation. A prize or award.

But there are other, quieter, more personal moments when we feel a peace, a sense of rightness, a oneness with our surroundings and the people in our lives.

George Myerson, a previous Lecturer and Reader in English in King’s College, London has culled the journals, diaries and writings of poets, writers and plain people over more that 4,000 years to synthesize the happiness that comes quietly into one’s soul from everyday occurrences.

These aren’t the milestones that mark our lives, but the recollections and reminiscences that we usually don’t share with others.

In the 24th Century BCE, the scribe Ptah-Hotep records that “Wisdom has caused me, in high place, to live…” and that he found the favor of the king. In May, 1852, Lodias Frizzell writes in her diary that they found a perfect place to camp on their wagon trek across the country to California and that she was able to cook a “general feast” for her family.

One rejoices that he was able to live in high places and one is happy that she can perform those small, daily functions that provide for her family and these actions give them happiness…maybe a small, warm spot in their soul.

Myerson has pulled selections from such people as Benjamin Franklin, Humphry Davy, Walt Whitman, Fanny Burney and Lady Sarashina, a court attendant from Kyoto about 1050. The topics range from science to fish to the refreshment of drinking from a mountain stone well.

Topics cover Love, Nature, Food and Drink, Creativity and Evening among others and Myerson discusses the selections and gives brief biological sketches of the authors.

I generally don’t read inspirational literature, but these selections give the reader a glimpse into the lives of some notables–and some obscure people–and reminds us to be aware of and absorb the grandeur of everyday life.

Reviewed by Michele Drier, September 2015.
Author of Delta for Death and SNAP: All That Jazz.

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