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Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness

3.12  ·  Rating Details ·  162 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
What does it mean to be happy? Americans have had an obsession with "the pursuit of happiness" ever since the Founding Fathers enshrined it—along with life and liberty—as our national birthright. Whether it means the accumulation of wealth or a more vaguely understood notion of self-fulfillment or self-actualization, happiness has been an inevitable, though elusive, goal.

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Hardcover, 208 pages
Published April 27th 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Bruce
May 24, 2011 Bruce rated it really liked it
“The fox-trot has no raison d’être. There is no reason to dance at all except one - pleasure - and the greatest pleasure is calculated uselessness.” Thus Willard Spiegelman begins a charming little book that I enjoyed immensely.

Spiegelman, professor of English at Southern Methodist University, writes in an easy and conversational style, rejecting happiness based on religion or psychopharmacology, on the one hand, or the typical American happiness focused on instant gratification and wealth, on t
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Lynne Marie
Dec 03, 2010 Lynne Marie rated it it was ok
I picked up this book on a whim because I enjoy memoirs and books about happiness. The problem with it is sometimes it is hard to relate to this guy. The whole premise of the book is that he discusses seven simple things that bring him happiness (walking, reading, listening, etc), but his examples aren't simple or even recreatable. He talks about the joy in walking and observing people, which is very enjoyable, but the entire section is about him traveling abroad just to walk in another country ...more
Allison
Dec 07, 2013 Allison rated it did not like it
Thank god I am finished with this hideous book. Seven Pleasures is particularly frustrating because this book of personal essays wouldn't have to be such an excruciating experience--Spiegelman can write, there's no doubt about that--if it weren't completely undone by the fact that it's written by one of the most pretentious, self-involved writers I have ever read. This is not a book about pleasure, and it's not a book about art or leisure. It's a book about Willard Spiegelman, and Willard Spiege ...more
Sara
May 15, 2012 Sara rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, essays
"Reading -- I am tempted to call it 'the best reading' -- is endangered now not only because our culture has become visual and obsessed with images, but also, and more dangerously, because the culture has become a mass one. The most popular activities are performed in groups -- music, sports, spectacular public entertainment, whereas the best readers are idiosyncratic solitaries. We have to much noise, especially when we least desire it. At the theater, at a concert, or at the movies, people beh ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Mar 17, 2010 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it liked it
Shelves: happiness, essays
I always make a mental list of books I might want to buy when I go to the Texas Book Festival each year. This book was on my list. Then I heard the author speak and I reconsidered: No, a library choice, I decided.

I was right. The author is an erudite man, a professor, and this book reeks of his desire to share what he knows with others. I’m quite certain there are many who would love to read of his encounters with his seven pleasures, and perhaps, given the right mindset, I would have enjoyed t
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Matthew
May 28, 2010 Matthew rated it really liked it
Typical Spiegelman--engaging, thoughtful, never a word wasted. He dazzles with his entertaining wit. This book doesn't disappoint.

Seven Pleasures turns the American obsession with the pursuit of happiness inside out. Rather than focus on religion or pharmacology, Spiegelman advocates thoughtful activity and engagement with the world. The book is a collection of essays each titled with a gerund: Reading, Walking, Looking, Dancing, Listening, Swimming and Writing--all, with the exception of danci
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Gloria
Apr 27, 2009 Gloria rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Men/Women who like slower, philosophical reads
Shelves: for-the-spirit
There are "a million" books available about happiness and its pursuit. The subtitle of "Essays on Ordinary Happiness" is one of the minor flaws I would say exists simply because it adds this wonderful book to the happiness category of books.

While somewhat intellectural and academic in tone, this book is nevertheless warm and appealing. Some of the words and references to art and travel are less familiar, but most readers will be fine. Easy to read just one essay at a time; you can come back days
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Charlene
Apr 08, 2011 Charlene rated it really liked it
I read this book over the course of several weeks -- finishing one essay and then waiting a while before reading the next. I think book is best appreciated that way. Author's seven pleasures are reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming, writing and then there's a short personal introductory essay on "being". Author is a literature professor & writer and while the book is no means a memoir, it is a personal reflection on these things that have brought him pleasure throughout hi ...more
Sarah
May 28, 2010 Sarah rated it did not like it
This book is pretentious, dry and even anti-intellectual. The author is self-absorbed and too blinded by narcissism to know that reading and writing and being part of the human condition means that we should interact with other people. He actually pooh-poohs the idea of reading clubs.

This book reads like ramblings that only a vanity press would publish.

In the final part the author says he finds writing to be effortless. A good writer exerts some effort, so ipso facto we have in Seven Pleasures a
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Tim
Sep 05, 2011 Tim rated it liked it
Spiegelman's essays on reading and writing, the beginning and end of the book, are wonderful. The ones in between, while supposedly about personal and accessible topics, became a little more rarified and elite. If you talk about walking and end up focusing on walking in Venice, the rest of us get lost (as he often did in Venice). The seven pleasures were loosely arranged around the idea of happiness, a conceit Spiegelman did not pursue intensely, probably for the best.
Jay
Apr 17, 2013 Jay rated it it was ok
"None of the arts, however, makes you a better person, and nothing should promote the belief that anyone else has an interest in another person's pictures, songs, or poems, just as no one is interested in other people's travel photos, dogs, or children. One engages in the activity to please oneself, and if others want to overhear or to read it, so much the better."
Sara
May 01, 2009 Sara rated it liked it
I had such high hopes for this collection of essays because I do the chapter headings: swimming, reading, writing. Although the author is quite companionable and interesting, I wanted more. I wanted him to abandon his academic persona and take some risks, some imaginative leaps. I wanted at least one epiphany. Instead, I was entertained and informed. Still, it was enjoyable.
W.
Oct 04, 2011 W. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an extraordinary collection of interconnected essays on happiness. The essays are indeed connected and work together as a narrative thread for the book. Although they stand alone, they are much more meaningful when read together.

I stumbled upon Seven Pleasures and am so glad that I did. It's a book I also think I will return to for its insights.
Molly
May 25, 2011 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
"Why write fiction when reality has so much to offer?"

With that line, Spiegelman made clear to me what I have subconsciously known all along. Both when I'm writing and when I'm reading, "familiar essays" give me pleasure.
Alexandra
Jul 06, 2012 Alexandra rated it it was amazing
Dr. Spiegelman is one of my favorite professors I've ever had because of his personality, and it comes through beautifully in his book. He's very well-read and I've really enjoyed reading about the simple things in life that bring us joy. It's contagious. So far loving it :)
Brandon
Dec 23, 2009 Brandon rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned, reviewed
One would think that I would have sympathy for those who cannot forsake the erroneous beliefs of thier childhood - coming from an ultra conservative background, but alas I found the preface contrite and heavy handed seeking acolades for merely surviving childhood in a minority.
Kristin
Dec 22, 2010 Kristin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-of-2010
The librarians themselves seemed possessed of some secret authority; they embodied, they exuded the quiet command that comes from wisdom, or at least the knowledge that you get from books. (pg. 32)
George Witte
A wonderful book about life's small pleasures: reading, ballroom dancing, swimming, looking, listening.
Mary
Nov 30, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A really lovely, thoughtful book of essays on happiness. In particular I enjoyed the essays on swimming and dancing.
Monica
Monica rated it it was ok
Oct 01, 2016
Mike
Mike rated it it was ok
Jul 30, 2016
Humby Bernal
Humby Bernal rated it did not like it
Sep 23, 2014
Michelle
Michelle rated it really liked it
Feb 21, 2011
Nicolette
Nicolette rated it it was ok
Oct 18, 2011
Lisa taylor
Lisa taylor rated it it was ok
Jun 11, 2013
Kathrine
Kathrine rated it liked it
Jul 11, 2015
Marianna
Marianna rated it really liked it
Jun 10, 2009
Fiona Mackinnon
Fiona Mackinnon rated it it was ok
May 30, 2016
Ruth B
Ruth B rated it it was ok
Dec 29, 2013
Ashima
Ashima rated it did not like it
Feb 08, 2017
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