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And the Pursuit of Happiness

4.27  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,823 Ratings  ·  262 Reviews
With her trademark style, wit, sensitivity, and spontaneity, Maira Kalman guides a whirlwind tour of American democracy.

And the Pursuit of Happiness is beloved artist and author Maira Kalman's yearlong investigation of democracy and how it works. Energized and inspired by the 2008 elections, on inauguration day Kalman traveled to Washington, D.C., launching a national to
Hardcover, 471 pages
Published October 14th 2010 by Penguin Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lars Guthrie
Aug 06, 2011 Lars Guthrie rated it really liked it
In this fractious time and place, when the future can seem futile, where the landscape can appear forlorn, you could do worse than spend an hour or two pursuing happiness with Maira Kalman. For Kalman, the majestic and the modest carry equal weight. Small wonders are as carefully observed and noted as grand ones. A masterpiece by Velasquez is no less important than the ‘woman in the red dress with a snappy hairdo’ examining it. Kalman’s loopy lines, just north of childlike, splashed with bold co ...more
Ann Marie
Oct 18, 2012 Ann Marie rated it it was amazing
Just re-read this book that I love so much. With not enough time for novels lately, it's been perfect to have beside my bed to read one "month" a night. When the blog came out, I looked forward to the first Friday of the month when it would appear online in the NY Times. I love Maira Kalman's illustrations, but equally love her musings on democracy. I've read the Lincoln and Jefferson chapters many times over but loved seeing all the others again this time. It's a book that makes me feel good an ...more
Jul 12, 2011 Jess rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People
Recommended to Jess by: Her blog
I liked this bunches. Kalman made me want to go places and think about things. What more can you ask from a book?

(This is the book form of what began as a blog project. It's still online if you'd like to try that first: )

Dec 05, 2010 Kathrina rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs-bios
I'm drawn to pretty pictures and artistic ramblings on personal experience, tidbits of rarely-acknowledged history, oddball nonsequiturs, etc. This one looked cute and maybe inspiring and elucidating. I was excited. I mentioned my plans to read it to a friend. She said, "Oh, you mean the one by the woman who had an affair with Len Riggio?" WHAT?! Suddenly the book felt dirty. Len Riggio is the CEO of Barnes & Noble, the company that's been putting food on my table for over a decade. He's a m ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing
At first, I didn't know what to think about the book, because I wasn't sure what it was. I, like many a human, really like to categorize, and this book seemed to defy categorization for me. I've seen Kalman's illustrations in my copy of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, which is also a beautiful book. The illustrations are whimsical and colorful, but the spirit of the book is what really captured me as a reader.

I don't often say things like this, but I was really delighted by this book
Feb 17, 2011 Terry rated it really liked it
I was delighted by this book! It reminded me in SO many ways of lovely letters I get from one particularly creative friend : ) and in general Kalman's tone and wit and observations remind me of my dearest, closest friends, so reading the book was sort of like sitting down with a cup of creamy tea and basking in the sunshine of my friends. Thus I had a very personal reaction to it.

On a more objective level, one might wonder "Ummm... what is this book ABOUT, exactly?" Kalman ranges from Alice Wate
Maira Kalman's year of musings on the USA (originally appearing in her online column of the same name in the NYT) makes for another delightful book, tracking her thoughts on our country and its democracy from the jumping-off point of Obama's inauguration.

I didn't like this *quite* as much as The Principles of Uncertainty, but I'm still giving it 5 stars for many of the same reasons: the thick heavy paper, the curly handwriting, photos, sketchbook pages, embroidery, collections, and portraits --
Jul 06, 2011 Jeff rated it really liked it
What can I say? I adore books that are about traveling... and I don't mean, travel books. It's not like I'm sitting at home reading Frommers Las Vegas 2009 (classic Frommers- totally busted a gut reading about the Wynn!)

No, I like reading about people striking out on their own (or with friends, or family, or lovers, or dogs, cats, bears, emus, whatever)and traveling across this great land of ours- or heck- even perhaps a pretty nice land of theirs.
I loved the books Assassination Vacation (Sarah
Chad Bearden
Maira Kalman’s “The Principals of Uncertainty” was a quaint little surprise when I first read it a few years back. It’s blend of whimsical artistry and poetic text was such a treat that I eagerly picked up her newest work, “And the Pursuit of Happiness” when it hit shelves. Happily, it contains the same defiantly eccentric art that blends childlike doodles with lush and vibrant painting, and wraps the whole thing up in simplistic, almost naïve text that is almost absurdly optimistic, but so chil ...more
Mar 12, 2016 Relyn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
I don't even know what to write for the date I started this book. It caught my eye on a shelf in Barnes and Noble months ago. I sat right down with it and gobbled up the first chapter, ready for more, but I had to go. Since then, I've been back to Barnes 3 or 4 times. This always one of the books I grab. I love it. LOVE IT! Each time I start from the beginning again reading it because it it SO delightful! I love Maira Kalman. I want to meet her. I want to invite her over for dinner and chat abou ...more
Feb 21, 2011 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Maria Kalman is an illustrator, an artist with a whimsical eye for the stuff of everyday life. "And The Pursuit of Happiness" is basically a book of her richly colored, Matisse-ish art with a sprinkling of commentary about American life and governmental functions. That sounds a bit dull, and I feel ashamed of myself for not being able to put it better, because nothing about Kalman - her personality,her art, or her writing - is in any way dull. On the contrary, she brings a delightfully fresh per ...more
Corrie M.
May 21, 2011 Corrie M. rated it it was amazing
"Hallelujah for knowledge and for the honor of language and ideas. And books. For Jefferson's glorious library full of Cicero and Spinoza and Aeschylus and Thomas More and books on bees and trees and harpsichords all intact in the Library of Congress."

Hallelujah for Maira Kalman, and her amazing illustrated book about America and Democracy and Happiness. These illustrated essays (they are most assuredly not cartoons) first appeared as a monthly column on the New York Times website.

Maira Kalman
Cassandra Freeland
Feb 22, 2014 Cassandra Freeland rated it it was amazing
I admit it: I bought this book for the pictures. Kalman wrote one of my favorite picture books, Smartypants. This book didn't disappoint. I loved the illustrations, coupled with historical facts and Kalman's personal observations (about historical figures and food), from Monticello to school gardens in Berkeley.
Aaron Maurer
May 25, 2014 Aaron Maurer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
I have a backlog of books that I need to write up reviews for.

Lately I have been trying to read a wide variety of books. I am challenging myself to read all types in hopes of gaining new insights and ideas. Needless to say it is working and along the way I have found some really great reads.

This book, And The Pursuit of Happiness, is one that jumpstarted me back to book reviewing.

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 12.49.52 PM

I just completely fell in love with this read. Perhaps it was due to the fact th
Mar 05, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
I’ve never come across a book like this before. The best way I can think to describe it is to say it’s like a children’s picture book, only for adults. There is little writing in this book which is taken up with a mixture of illustrations and photographs (mostly illustrations) which are on the subject of democracy in the United States both past and present.

Kalman writes and illustrates about many American historical figures including Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and, of
Apr 18, 2016 Nicole rated it it was amazing
I love Maira Kalman. I want to meet her for coffee one day in a discreet little cafe in New York and talk about history and literature and the old lady who lives next door who wears a fur coat that's three times too big. Kalman is one of those rare people who actually notices things and is curious about all aspects of life. Her thoughts and images are beautiful and thought-provoking, and after reading one of her books, you truly feel a little less lonely in the world.
Jan 10, 2011 Maurene rated it it was amazing
Maira Kalman blends two of my favorite things: nerdy history facts + whimsical illustrations. I discovered her on the New York Times website and instantly became a huge fan. This hefty little book is filled with gorgeous illustrations from beginning to end—narrating the lives of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, the day Obama was elected..etc. Absolute joy to read and blissful eye candy. Love.
Sep 01, 2014 Hans rated it it was amazing
Dear S-- & A--,

Belated thanks for this kind birthday gift…for that birthday 2+ years ago. I did a quick flip through back then and added to that impenetrable wall of books slowly growing on my bedside table.

During most of August, I parsed out the 12 months of journal entries (which I now know were published as blog in The New York Times). My August reading was actually focused on a stack of short works for a while, including this book, Joe Sacco's brilliant dark graphic journalism, Carl Bar
Tantri Arihta
Sep 17, 2015 Tantri Arihta rated it it was amazing
This is my first book of Maira Kalman after admiring her artworks for quiet some time.
When I started reading I was thinking, OK, very nice drawings, but seriously why am I buying this nationalist book? I'm not even an American and don't follow any American president.But as I turned the book pages by pages, Kalman takes me to beautiful places with her innocent words and, of course, her enchanting illustrations. I sometimes smiled seeing how nationality can be so beautifully drawn and described.
Mar 30, 2012 Katy rated it it was amazing
Such a cool book (it's kind of like a graphic novel/art book?) I agree with Gwen that this would be an awesome gift, especially for lovers of American history.
Apr 04, 2013 Jane rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics-graphic
I love Maira Kalman. I love how she thinks about things. I wish I could feel less cynical about the people running this country.
Sep 24, 2014 Momo rated it it was amazing
A marvelous, sometimes quirky, occasionally sad, often humorous, and always poignantly depicted tour of the United States. Maira Kalman, through her vibrant and colorful paintings, drawings, photos, and needlework, offers her take on our country's pursuit of happiness--from her impressions from Barack Obama's first inauguration and her portraits (visual and verbal) of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and others to her visits to Congress, the Pentagon, the Supreme Court, the White House, Monticell ...more
Jan 19, 2011 Betsy rated it it was amazing
loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, loved. You may borrow it but you MUST give it back.
Oct 18, 2010 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Actually 4.5 Stars.

From my book review blog Rundpinne:

What at first appears to be a very thick and exquisitely illustrated book for children is in fact a brilliantly well-written book for adults about Democracy and the founding fathers of the United States of America. And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman is an exquisite addition to any library, as she takes the reader through the history of the founding of democracy, details from quite serious to quirky about our founding fathers along w
Kasey Jueds
May 09, 2012 Kasey Jueds rated it it was amazing
So hard to choose shelves for this book, or, really, for any of Maira Kalman's work. Her books are so purely HER, and like nothing else I've ever read--surprising and vivid and full of joy and sadness, both at once. Her words and pictures move effortlessly between ideas and worlds--one thought follows another in a way that's both unexpected and absolutely right. I love how surprised I am, over and over, by the way Maira Kalman's mind works, how surprised I am to be entertained and deeply moved a ...more
Expectations! They are a bitch.

About a week ago, I read Maira Kalman's other book The Principles of Uncertainty and loved it. It is full of charming joyful paintings, paintings of all manner of things/couches/hairstyles/hats, lists and photos of people's backs, etc. All strung together in the loosest wandering free-form way possible, which is part of the charm. Afterwards, I read online about her newest book 'And the Pursuit of Happiness':
Inspired by the 2008 elections, artist Maira Kalman set o
Jun 30, 2012 Petergiaquinta rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful little book, although it's not little at all with its 471 pages and its heavy stock paper, but there is something oddly beautiful to Maira Kalman's twelve whimsically illustrated meditations on American democracy, one for each month, and each dedicated to a figure from American history. Picture maybe what you would get if Lynda Barry collaborated with Walt Whitman ("The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem"?) and Margaret Wise Brown and Jeff Mangum helpe ...more
May 31, 2011 Marcie rated it it was ok
This is a beautiful book, 471 pages of the author’s private thoughts, observations, and favorite trivia about our country, each page bursting with her bright child-like paintings, sketches, and photographs. She travels to Monticello, the Pentagon, Capitol, White House, Supreme Court, etc. The font is really nice.

But, it’s an odd book. Who is it for? On the inside back cover, I read that the author writes and illustrates children’s books. Ahhh. At first I thought a child wrote it, or an adult wit
Very delightful, quick read. A series of essayish journalish type things with photos and drawings. She got excited about Obama's election, toured the country to kinda help define what being an American is. She goes into a lot of historical places and then always says "then we got hungry" and talks about lunch, which is very humane and lovely. She misses people like George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette. And she talks about Thomas Jefferson in a way that makes you more curious and confus ...more
Sep 20, 2011 nicole rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, art, 2011
It's not that I've never read about Benjamin Franklin before or anything. It's just that until now nobody had ever made me stop and think "hmm. Wish I were a bit more like THAT GUY".

There's just something about Maira Kalman. Whether she's writing or illustrating a children's book, style manual, or in this case, some unplaceable something that falls somewhere between American History and personal diary/sketchbook... the woman has great energy. Everything she touches pen to appears playful, sponta
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Maira Kalman was born in Tel Aviv and moved to New York with her family at the age of four. She has worked as a designer, author, illustrator and artist for more than thirty years without formal training. Her work is a narrative journal of her life and all its absurdities. She has written and illustrated twelve children's books including Ooh-la-la- Max in Love, What Pete Ate, and Swami on Rye . Sh ...more
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