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The Atlas of Happiness

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  902 ratings  ·  123 reviews
From the bestselling author of The Year of Living Danishly , an illustrated, full-colour round-the-world discovery of the global secrets of happiness.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 1st 2018 by Hodder and Stoughton
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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Natalie Carbery
This book gets a star for having a diverse collection of countries and philosophies.

This book loses a bunch of stars because Helen Russell is often trying to be #hip and funny and falls painfully short. She has rude opinions that she interjects in the text. I also don’t believe that she has the qualifications to write a book such as this.

As a journalist I think it would have served her better to focus on one culture. Instead we get disappointing and short snapshots of other cultures with her i
Kaitlyn Golden
Jun 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I started the book with high hopes but was a bit disappointed midway through. I felt it was kind of juvenile and the journalistic style intermixed with personal comments but without ANY sources made me feel doubtful of everything she was writing. So I emailed the author and she kindly replied. She said that was a choice that she and her editor had made, and she chose to base the chapters on people she actually knew.

I really liked that she responded, and I liked her Year of Living Danishly. I wi
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I love Helen Russell. I think this is just a fact of my life now. I've read three of her books this year, and none of them have disappointed me. Whether she's exploring the reason for the Danes being the happiest people in the world or writing fiction about two estranged sisters going on a Viking adventure, there is always something wonderfully comforting about her books. 'The Atlas of Happiness' is no exception.

Examining some of the happiest countries in the world, Russell explores these count
High Plains Library District
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A heartwarming read for the season that reduced my stress just perusing it. The book covers a variety of approaches to happiness from across the globe and is very browsable – you can pick and choose amongst the countries. The author displays a dry British wit that made me chuckle.

The premise for the book is that there is a lot of good news out there, but that – because we are hard-wired for ‘negativity bias’ – we notice the bad events and need to consciously focus more on the good (such as “the
Marjorie Elwood
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: inspiration
A heartwarming read for the season that reduced my stress just perusing it. The book covers a variety of approaches to happiness from across the globe and is very browsable – you can pick and choose amongst the countries. The author displays a dry British wit that made me chuckle.

The premise for the book is that there is a lot of good news out there, but that – because we are hard-wired for ‘negativity bias’ – we notice the bad events and need to consciously focus more on the good (such as “the
Kris Springer
Cool concept--author Russell takes key concepts from several different countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Wales, etc.) and illustrates how they work for people there. There's a lot to learn and admire about other cultures. I enjoyed this one and it's given me a lot to think about. Common elements for success that can be applied to anyone's life and come from several of the countries: Don't work all the time; spend time recharging in nature (big in Scandinavian co ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
really interesting that despite different cultures and habits, the way to happiness is nearly the same
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A week ago, I came to be acquainted with The Atlas of Happiness that promised to share beliefs and practices from all over the world and so naturally, in my pursuit of happiness, I needed to read it.

This book is a mix of practical advice and cultural commentary. I found Bhutan's Gross National Happiness policies so very intriguing and also am feeling swayed by plenty of tempting suggestions to slow down and do less or do nothing at all! But there was also some suggestion to work faster! And hen
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
A bit of a disappointment. There are so many chapters that are a bit of stretch - Russia, Syria, heck even England which is more known for whinging poms complaining about the weather than being jolly. I have no idea how good the author's pronunciation of all those foreign words is but judging by the pronunciation of the New Zealand words, probably terrible. It took me a while to figure out that she was saying haka and the discussion of the haka seemed like baloney to me too. I loved A Year of Li ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
You've heard of hygge, but have you heard the terms that define happiness, contentedness, or ease of living in other countries throughout the world? The Nordic don't have a corner on that market, and Russell's book explores the feelings and experiences throughout the world that (roughly) translate into happiness. It's a surprisingly wide array of countries, from Japan to Turkey, The Netherlands to Hawaii (which isn't a country, but gets its own space in the book). I found the Danish mindset abou ...more
(read in Polish)
Cute and colorful book describing terms coined in different countries associated with happiness or the path to happiness.
Helen Russell was trying to show how various nations are reaching "their state of bliss" and by that she proved to me that humans all around the world are not so different, after all.
I found the suggestions in the final/ practical section of each chapter interesting and useful, however some chapters felt like "nothing new" or "I've already read that in another
Karlie Rose
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
The book was a cute, nice read.

Outlining different ideals for happiness people have culturally over the world.

For Canada, where I am from, unlike most other pages it was quite political.
It's obvious as she states the author loves Trudeau, and that's a risk you run when writing a book is putting your political beliefs on every, single, page of a relevant place to other people. I was annoyed reading the "source" for happiness being relating around Trudeau as I feel differently than this author.
Skye (Skye's Scribblings)
A fun and interesting way to learn more about the customs and cultures of countries and regions around the world (and not just their happiness secrets). Took me a few months (okay, five) to get through, but I'm very glad I stuck with it and read the entire thing. ...more
May 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, non-fiction
A lovely collection of practices and customs from around the world, which help the citizens to feel happy and content.
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Boring! A few interesting facts about some nations, but really subjective work. Expected some hygge equivalent. Lovely illustrations though.
The book takes a little uplifing tidbit from various countries and tells about how that country uses a word, a phrase, or an idea on how to live your life.

This "review" doesn't really describe the book accurately, but it's a fun, positive, uplifting book.
Alina Elena
Nov 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An easy read with an optimistic tone! I'd come back to re-read some pages just to remind myself some of the's impossible to remind them all :) ...more
I was slightly disappointed with The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to Be Happy. Some chapters were interesting, but others were not.

The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to Be Happyis a collection of chapters dealing with various countries (plus Hawaii) and the secrets of "happiness" in each. It seemed to me that in many cases, the case made for the secret was pretty slim (is the reason for Canada's happiness really "joie de vivre"?) and the sources the author turns
Oct 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
I tolerated this book up until the New Zealand chapter, when it became apparent that it was a crock of shit. If you don’t want to do proper research and use the haka (?????) as an example of NZ happiness, just don’t write the chapter. Easy as.

Book is basically pointless and sums up to: do x (listen to music, cook, wear clogs, do a haka, get high, go for a walk) and you’ll be happy.
Maureen Forys
The drawings, maps, and color scheme of this book are so cute! The facts are fun and it moves fast. It isn’t at all academic. Everything is fairly anecdotal. I didn’t love the author’s personal asides and wished there was a little more substance.
Jenni Clark
May 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
The snapshot glimpses into other cultures were fairly stereotypical. It felt like a pep rally for different countries written from an inherently limited perspective. It was just ok but not my favorite.
Jun 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was ok, read rather like a collection of blog entries. Some concepts were curious, some repetitive.
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-my-reading
This book was an armchair traveler’s delight. The individual chapters between diverse countries made it the perfect format for relaxed reading. I found it fascinating how back-to-back cultural comparisons were vastly different (Spain vs. Sweden, for example) given the alphabetized order. The author provided thorough though abbreviated commentary on many different aspects of life in each country, and I appreciated that she called out both the good and the bad. The light humorous tone of the text ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had such potential to be an iconic, shelf-worthy bestseller; the secrets of happiness in countries around the globe? Fabulous! The packaging is adorable also. Unfortunately that promise is spoiled almost entirely by a combination of the omission (no Israel, France, Scotland, Mexico?)/inclusion (EVERY Nordic country, all of the British isles—except Scotland—and Syria?!?) of countries based entirely on the author’s familiarity with them or having friends (or friends of friends) from them ...more
Russell has a wonderful eye for the absurd, and though the structure of this book doesn’t allow her much free rein, there are still a few good moments. As a bonus, you’re nearly guaranteed to learn at least one new word you didn’t know. :)

Adding a few of my favorite quotes here, since I can’t find where Goodreads has hidden the highlights feature:

On the Chinese concept of xingfu:

“The character for xing represents torture, or some kind of penalty — a device that would be placed on the head, or yo
Charlotte Stevenson
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it
In these difficult times, it has been so helpful to read about different cultures from around the world and to learn the best tips and tricks the planet has to offer about happiness; especially about happiness when things are hard. In this non-fictional collection of maps/essays/interviews/instructions there is a cornucopia of endless steps towards living the best life we can live.

One of my favourite elements of this book was that Russell always incorporated elements of language, discussing tran
Jan 03, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As a collection of what 'happiness' is to different people around the world, and snippets of what it entails or how to experience the sense of it- this is great.
The author's tone at times, and the amount of stories to lead into each section that could really be edited down, were a dud for me. Many times the author makes comments about younger generations that - I guess was supposed to come off as funny or maybe just making commentary- but comes off as really rude and insulting, especially when t
Dasha Slepenkina
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book came into my life at a time when I badly needed a boost in terms of my own happiness. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it useful.

Russell takes the reader on a mini-vacation across the globe, presenting concepts which loosely relate to happiness and wellbeing. I appreciated that the tour was not one of forced happiness - she did a good job of capturing not only the state of being jolly or dolce far niente, but also the more complex saudade, wabi-sabi, and tarab. As someone who was bor
Johannes Sælsen
Jan 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
A surprising read which was not quite what I expected.
The book is a collection of individual national traits associated with providing happiness.
You are taken from country to country by a humorous Helen, taking in her own surprise and givings about the subjects presented.

Taking this book as a guide to how to be happy would be a mistake. It is more a summary of how different cultures approach life and cope with what life throws at you. And this is a subject that is interesting in itself, and give
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Helen Russell is a British journalist and bestselling author.

Formerly the editor of, she now lives in Denmark and works as a Scandinavia correspondent for the Guardian, as well as writing a column on Denmark for the Telegraph and features for The Times, The Observer, Stylist, Metro, Grazia, The Wall Street Journal and The Independent.

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