Sometimes when you pick up a book, you know you’re going to enjoy it before you even start reading. Maybe it’s something in the grit of the cover, the weight of it in your hands, or something about the title speaks to you. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but it’s there, nonetheless: compelling you to sit your butt down and turn those pages. For me, The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau is one of those books.
And as it turns out, I was drawn to the core message, which is only hinted at in the title, that many people feel a deep-rooted need to find purpose in their lives by following a quest. This book is about the psychology behind that seemingly-unexplainable desire and the meaning in life that can be found by undertaking something bigger than ourselves. Categorically, I’d say this book is a non-fiction mash up of psychology, self-help and memoir.
So let’s start with what makes this book really great: the author has a quirky sense of humor which catches readers off guard, especially in the footnotes. Guillebeau even gives a hilarious synopsis of The Odyssey in Chapter nine. Another great thing about this book is how easy it is to read. The style of writing is very conversational and the narrative moves along pretty quickly. There are a lot of lists, quotes, and tips spread throughout the book to keep readers interested, too. One of my favorite inspirational quotes is
“Embracing new things often requires us to embrace our fears, however trivial they may seem. You deal with fear not by pretending it doesn’t exist, but by refusing to give it decision-making authority.”
I also appreciated that the author wrote from personal experience in addition to interviewing over 50 people who’ve gone on crazy, personal quests.
Along with the positives, though, I have to come clean about my frustrations, too. My biggest grievance within The Happiness of Pursuit is that Guillebeau plugs his previously published books far too often. The first few times I didn’t mind it, but after four of five mentions, it was pretty distracting and it brought me out of the perfectly good storyline I was trying to read.
Another thing that bothers me about this book is the overly general ‘how-to’ advice that the author lays out for people who might be considering, but for some reason are unable to pull the trigger on, embarking on a quest. The advice given doesn’t seem like anything readers can’t figure out themselves or learn from someone they know who’s gone on a personal quest. These parts of the book were a little too “one size fits all” for my taste and I didn’t feel like they add as much value as the main content.
Besides those two gripes, I definitely enjoyed reading this book. And as someone who’s on the verge of undertaking my own quest, I found it to be an interesting and insightful read about the psychology behind it all. Chris Guillebeau does a great job showing readers that there are a lot of people in the world who have a strong desire to experience life in a bigger, more meaningful way than what their daily life offers. And just like me, they’re searching for a way to gain clarity about their purpose in life. Maybe I’ll find mine on my upcoming quest, or maybe not. But either way, I’ll be damned if I don’t give it a shot.
Happy reading, everyone.
Just sayin’: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.