Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “And the Pursuit of Happiness” as Want to Read:
And the Pursuit of Happiness
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

And the Pursuit of Happiness

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  5,571 ratings  ·  342 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 tour
Hardcover, 471 pages
Published October 14th 2010 by Penguin Press
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 And the Pursuit of Happiness, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about And the Pursuit of Happiness

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.29  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,571 ratings  ·  342 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of And the Pursuit of Happiness
Lars Guthrie
Aug 06, 2011 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
Dave Schaafsma
Sep 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Maira Kalman, primarily an illustrator, inspired by the 2008 presidential election results, took the road to see how democracy, at its best, works, in her characteristic idiosyncratic style. Not a systematic vision, but inspired by hope and crazy wonderful color and fun. Kooky and smile-inducingly optimistic, sort of makes you feel nostalgic about how positive everyone (many of us, okay) felt after that election.
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Charming, somewhat random mediations on democracy, starting with the artist/author's attendance at Obama's first inauguration. It's a picture book for adults. Her whimsical drawings and completely personal approach make for some poetic insights. ...more
Ann Marie
Oct 18, 2012 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
Oct 17, 2010 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: )

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
Jan 14, 2011 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
Apr 17, 2011 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. Ev
Sep 16, 2010 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 multi ...more
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 --
May 29, 2011 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
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Do you know Maira Kalman?

I like her writing.

This week I only finished one book, but it was a good one. And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman.

I often check out books from the library, read them, and return them. Even when I buy books, I usually give them away.

I buy Maira Kalman books and keep them. I read them and then I read them again.

She writes children's picture books as well as grownup books. Honestly, her books for grownups are really just grownup picture books.

A new genre, maybe.

I h
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
Feb 21, 2011 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
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've had a full page comic from the New Yorker done by Maria Kalman stuck to my fridge for years now. I use it everyday to remind myself to be thankful for my breakfast. It’s lovely to start the day off with gratitude.

This graphic memoir (of sorts) conveyed much of the spirit of that comic — optimism, thankfulness, a fascination with how the small things connect to the large. It was so nice to be sitting for a brief while in the sunny glow of 2009, fresh off of a historic inauguration and feeli
Becki Iverson
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's amazing how things in life coincide when it's right. I've been on a Maira Kalman kick, and this was the next book in line. It just so happened that I saw Hamilton the week before I started this, and it couldn't have been better timing. This book is like a monthly diary, written / illustrated in the first year of Obama's presidency. Each month covers a different facet of patriotism, American history, civics, and generally exploring what it means to be an American. I enjoyed this so much more ...more
Corrie M.
May 21, 2011 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
Bryan Ball
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I remember anxiously reading several of these entires on Maria's blog, and loving what an unusual, simple but profound tribute to America her writings and art were. That was a more hopeful time, at the beginning of Barack Obama's presidency.

Compiled together in a book, this is extremely powerful in its simplicity. Reading the entires now, during a darker and more dangerous time in our country's history when the lives of so many are at risk, this book takes on a whole new level of meaning. The
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I think I’ve fallen in love with Abraham Lincoln, too! What a fun, awesome book! And even if you don't think it's fun, it's a super quick read with hundreds of colorful pictures.

I’ve often wondered how America could be such a great idea, but such a dysfunctional reality. Maira Kalman’s whimsical year-long essay on democracy makes me think that we’re not that bad in reality, nor that unattainable in our ideals. It also makes me think I’d like a nice piece of cherry pie (which George Washington pr
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much. I love all of Kalman's works but this was particularly great b/c of how optimistic and community-minded it is. It was written pre-Trump and it's all about politics, history and our founding fathers--and what democracy is (and is not). It's even more profound to read this book now, two years into a Trump presidency, to see how fragile our democracy is. I wish this book was read to children in elementary school. Several times this book made me misty-eyed about what it me ...more
Dec 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If you haven't read anything by Maira Kalman, don't wait. I love her. This is a brief overlook of the history of the US told in her point of view, with her charming illustrations and graphics. I can't do the book justice- you have to open it to understand. I love her and will pick up anything of hers. ...more
May 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Enjoyable, but not really my cup of tea. It reminded me too much of Eat, Pray, Love, just in the sense that the author was incredibly privileged and spent time roaming around doing whatever moved her and then wrote a book about it. Excessively self-indulgent and not terribly insightful. But the paintings sure are pretty. And I enjoyed some snippets.
Cassandra Freeland
Feb 14, 2014 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. ...more
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
A gorgeous, fun and eclectic graphic tour of significant people and places in early American history, with thoughtful commentary on democracy as well as numerous other random and charming observations. I'm surprised I hadn't encountered Kalman's work previously, as she is quite prolific. I like the insightful way she thinks, and it seems like she'd be fun to hang out with. ...more
Jan 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, loved. You may borrow it but you MUST give it back.
Mar 18, 2012 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. ...more
Mar 26, 2013 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.
Jul 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A lovely meditation on our political roots, anchored by Ms Kalman's wonderful illustrations and quirky sense of humor. ...more
Heidi Burkhart
Mar 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kalman never fails to amaze! She looks at history, politics, and education amidst her general observations of life as she travels in the US.

Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful and inspiring book. More needed now than ever.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • 32 Stories: The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics
  • What It Is
  • Everyday Matters
  • How to Make a Journal of Your Life
  • American Elf: The Collected Sketchbook Diaries, Vol. 1
  • Bottomless Belly Button
  • The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales
  • The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
  • Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
  • The Push Man and Other Stories
  • 1,000 Artist Journal Pages: Personal Pages and Inspirations
  • Imagine: How Creativity Works
  • Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas: The Film, the Art, the Vision
  • City of Glass
  • Little Nemo: 1905-1914
  • 1000 Journals Project
  • How to Be an Explorer of the World: Portable Life Museum
  • The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?
See similar books…
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. She ...more

Related Articles

You may know actress Jenny Slate from her role as Mona-Lisa Saperstein on Parks and Recreation. Or maybe your introduction to her was through one...
40 likes · 14 comments
“Oh, Tocqueville, you're the man.” 0 likes
More quotes…