Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “How To Be Happy” as Want to Read:
How To Be Happy
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

How To Be Happy

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  3,930 ratings  ·  480 reviews
Eleanor Davis's How to be Happy is the artist's first collection of graphic/literary short stories. Davis is one of the finest cartoonists of her generation, and has been producing comics since the mid-2000s. Happy represents the best stories she's drawn for such curatorial venues as Mome and No-Brow, as well as her own self-publishing and web efforts. Davis achieves a rar ...more
Hardcover, 146 pages
Published July 10th 2014 by Fantagraphics (first published 2014)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about How To Be Happy, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Good Joe it's one of the stories that shows she can think just like a man would. OF COURSE it isn't rabbits in the sacks. a guy's gotta eat, though, and so do …moreit's one of the stories that shows she can think just like a man would. OF COURSE it isn't rabbits in the sacks. a guy's gotta eat, though, and so do his wife & children, so, "Rabbits."

George Saunders' "Exhortation" says the same thing in a different way.

"Stick and String" is a Work of Utter Genius. the expression on the guy's face in the final panel is worth the cost of the entire book.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.80  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,930 ratings  ·  480 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of How To Be Happy
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it

This book has one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen. I’m in awe.


How To Be Happy is a collection of graphic/literary short stories, which are two of my favorite things combined into one. I was doomed to give this 5 stars.

And I would have if I was rating it solely based on the illustrations, but the execution of the stories was a little confusing.

Every time I didn’t get the ending of the storyline, I would feel a little foolish— which I really don’t like feeling while reading.

But t
Jan Philipzig
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the contrasting visual styles that range from bold watercolors to loose pencilling, but I am afraid the stories just did not grab me. Some felt too inchoate or wilfully obscure to get a potentially interesting idea across, others were more fully realized but surprisingly unoriginal. While there were a few nice touches here and there (I loved the strong dude's facial expression on that story's final page!), as a whole this did not add up to much for me. ...more
Dave Schaafsma
Dec 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: gn-women
It's colorful. Davis makes a special point of saying this book is NOT how to be happy, no not at all… so what I expect she means about this is that it is not intended to be a self-help book, but a kind of multivaried look at the idea of happiness. . . what it is, and what it is not. And other stuff maybe related to happiness, though it's not always obvious… but why be obvious?

Davis is a great, watercolor illustrator. . . and she does a variety of great and beautiful things, but that variety does
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If I could write a review of this book as beautiful as the book itself, you would cry, like a mother cries at seeing her new born baby for the first time.
How to Be Happy defies the self-helpy title with several melancholy and satirical vignettes, accompanied by breathtaking artwork in several styles (watercolor, sketching, traditional comic heavy-lined paneled pen/ink).

Observational in its approach, many of the vignettes are like overhearing a conversation at the next table over... just a little slice of emotion or pathos that is removed from context, yet highly applicable to your own life and situations.

It surprised me, and scratched an itch t
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"This is not a book on how to be happy," says Eleanor Davis at the beginning of this lovely collection of graphic short stories. With unique expression and sentiments half-said, Davis draws strange, lonely, meaningful worlds for us. Despite the title, her pictures of sadness are the largest and most vivid, but it's pull of the communion that keeps it together. It's teacup fragile, and worth trying. ...more
First Second Books
I like HOW TO BE HAPPY as much as anything I've read in the last five years. ...more
Dov Zeller
Mar 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphics-comics
In some sequential art story collections I really enjoy the variety and even the inconsistency, the different styles of art and narrative. In this one I found it a bit distracting, the shifting narratives and modes, and I was torn between rating it a 3 and a 4. But there is a richness that stays with me and sort of deepens in retrospect, so I am giving this one a four. This is a dogged exploration of idealism and the unhappiness it creates and more than that, the destruction it leaves in its wak ...more
Elizabeth A
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015, graphix
This is a collection of short stories/vignettes on the pursuit of happiness. I liked the sketchy art, and the bold watercolors, but the rave reviews this book gets simply stumps me. Yes, each story explores a different take on what happiness means, and how one pursues it, and there were one or two that seemed to be right on the money, but overall I was left unimpressed.
I'm thinking the connecting message behind the vignettes is that we aren't alone in our sadness????
Beautiful graphics- the segment of the skinning of the fox is hard to get through. Please explain this book to me if you wish.
Abbi Dion
Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Strange, lyrical, thought-provoking, beautiful, sad, open-ended...
Seth T.
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
Review of How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis

You wake up from the perfect night’s sleep, your cycle having been monitored and corrected by the room’s somnometer. You eat a refreshing morning meal, calculated to your tastes and nutritional needs. You’re ready for a day of doing things both that you love and that will contribute to the society. You are healthy, rested, secure, and fulfilled. Life is good and you feel good about it. And it’s all due to this wonder-filled civilization you’ve inherited, perfect in every way. You think. I mean,
Zachary F.

Wow, this one really bowled me over.

I had never heard of Eleanor Davis before reading this, but now that I have I know that she can do pretty much anything. This is basically a short story collection in graphic form, but the really mind-blowing part of it is that every comic in here is both so completely different and so completely good. There's sci-fi and surrealism and fairytales and horror and funny little comic strips, and if that weren't enough each story also has its own lovely and unique
Nicola Mansfield
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I liked this. It's a bit weird and different but, yeah, I liked it. A collection of short stories, drawings and sketches that centre on the things people do trying to make themselves happy. I found the main theme to be the difference between ideology and reality. A woman is telling a friend of her deep, dark, black hole of depression and the friend sympathises that she understands, she's been there, that is until she went Gluten-Free. Then in the last frame we see the depressed woman in the supe ...more
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
3.5. The art in this one is to die for but the stories aren't as consistently good. ...more
I just didn't get this. Too out there for me. ...more
Jul 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I didn't dig this art at first - it took an excerpt (Nita Goes Home) showing up in one of those Best American Comics books for me to put it on hold at the library.
But Nita Goes Home was poignant and lovely, and unexpected. It told a story about what it's like to be a normal in a futuristic scenario. And there are definitely pieces in here that I liked more than others.

But the thing I took away the most, was that each story became MORE when you applied the title of the book to it. When you thin
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
BEAUTIFUL!!! Oh my God, some of these pages are just gorgeous. The line art is gorgeous, the details are gorgeous, the emotion is gorgeous. I hate that I only 'got' about half of these stories. I wanted to love this so badly, because her stories about depression and filling voids in ones life are so damn good. She gets it, but some of these stories were too plain weird for me. Beautiful, but weird. Too weird to glean what the point was. Or maybe that was the point? That life is weird and you hav ...more
Feb 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really speaking to me right now. I loved it and I am sad to return it to the library. It felt like someone's graphic novel journal private confusing and an insight into the soul. ...more
Mar 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I liked some of the stories more than others, but the art was beautiful throughout and I felt it was a worthwhile time, what I spent reading through this.
Eleanor Davis's stories in How to Be Happy remind me of those of Lille Carré in her Heads or Tails collection, also from Fantagraphics. Both books feature strong elements of fantasy, magical realism, and even science fiction to comment on modern society, human interactions, humankind’s oft-uneasy relationship with nature, and existential matters. While I really like Carré’s work a lot it sometimes feels more clever than fully felt and she occasionally leans over a bit too much into the twee for ...more
Michael Emond
Nov 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
How to be happy? For me? Avoid reading books like this in my future. Look - this book was loved by a lot of people but it is clearly not meant for me. For someone who likes coherent stories..I don't know if I could call any of these brief cartoons stories because they don't seem to have a start and they definitely have no true end. Or point. They really don't have any point. I don't get how someone can just end the stories the way she does. One that stood out as being insanely pointless was one ...more
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
How to be Happy was an unexpected find I picked up at my library. I devoured it. Eleanor Davis shows a wide range of illustration styles that are all gorgeous and enviable in their own right. To top it off the stories are funny, touching, and everything. Everything! I'm just going to keep flipping through the pages to notice her color choices and then I'll go out and buy a copy for myself. I absolutely love this book and will be on the lookout for more of her work. ...more
Emilia P
Sep 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: comic-books
OOF I am critical. It's just like... dude, it's not such a big deal to be able to make lovely little watercolor pictures. The stories have some nice stuff but there isn't much meat or teeth to them -- I feel like I've read plenty of pretty feelingsy stuff with that bites a lot harder and more lastingly than this. So, lovely, but just fine. ...more
Mar 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Cover of book is beautiful.
Art and stories are not.
The person who made this book[?] doesn't take the art of writing seriously.
And doesn't take the subject of visual art seriously.
Spiritually empty writing [sorry, they're not stories].
Amateurish art [think Jr. High].
Sound good? Only $25.00!
What's not to like?
A real struggle to get through.
Nicole Guerra-Coon
I could rate this 5 stars just based on the beautiful images. I was blown away by the art and the strange stories in this book. A collection of short tales, some so poignant I had to share them immediately. The bright colors and relatively simple figures mask a somewhat dark and stirring book.
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Imaginative watercolors and line-work. Stories that explore depression and self-improvement with grace, humor, and curiosity. Not every story worked for me, but the ones that did will stick with me for a long time.
Mar 24, 2016 rated it liked it
A series of vignettes that leaves the reader to decipher meaning. The artwork is not very sophisticated, but conveys the mood well enough.
I did like some of the stories better than others, though it's place on the N.Y. Times Bestseller List may be the biggest mystery of all.
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One of those rare moments where as I'm reading this incredible collection I realize this is something unique and special that doesn't come along very often. ...more
Zen Cho
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
This book is very sad!
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Here
  • Heads or Tails
  • The Color of Water (Color Trilogy, #2)
  • The Color of Earth (Color Trilogy, #1)
  • The Encyclopedia of Early Earth
  • Dancing After TEN
  • The Color of Heaven (Color Trilogy, #3)
  • The Hospital Suite
  • Portrait of a Drunk
  • Black Is the Color
  • Daytripper
  • Beautiful Darkness
  • Megahex
  • Colored: The Unsung Life of Claudette Colvin
  • Safari Honeymoon
  • The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist
  • A Gift for a Ghost
  • L'intervista
See similar books…
My name is Eleanor Davis. I’m a cartoonist and illustrator. A collection of my short comics for adults, How To Be Happy, is out now from Fantagraphics Books. I have two graphic novels for kids: The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook (2009) which I created with my husband Drew Weing, and the easy-reader Stinky (2008). I live in Athens, Georgia.

Clients include: The New Yorker, The New Yor

News & Interviews

When it comes to the romance genre, second books can be a bit like second dates, can't they? You've had that great initial meet-cute with...
40 likes · 2 comments
“Find the stories that help you comprehend the incomprehensible. Find the stories that make you stronger.” 14 likes
“Inside the bone was a tiny man he didn’t recognize. The man was made of thin flesh, wrapped around translucent bones, wrapped around organs no bigger than grains of sand pumping wildly. A small mortal man he’d carried hidden inside his own good, strong body.” 1 likes
More quotes…