Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nonfiction Review: A Short Guide to a Happy Life

I was browsing the nonfiction shelves in the library when I came across two very slim volumes, both written by Anna Quindlen: A Short Guide to Happy Life and Being Perfect. Since I enjoy Quindlen’s novels and her essays, I checked them out. They are both brief philosophical musings about the meaning of life and how to be happy.
I am guessing that both of these were adapted from commencement speeches that Quindlen gave, probably at her alma mater, Barnard College, since she mentions it in both books. Both are illustrated with black and white photographs of a wide variety of people, young and old, all engaged in happy activities or thoughtful pursuits. 
Here is an excerpt from Quindlen’s A Short Guide to Happy Life:
“So I suppose the best piece of advice I could give anyone is pretty simple: get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you developed an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast in the shower?
Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over the dunes, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over a pond and a stand of pines. Get a life in which you pay attention to the baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cheerio with her thumb and first finger.
Turn off your cell phone. Turn off your regular phone, for that matter. Keep still. Be present.”
So you can see here that she not only offers good advice but that it is illustrated with her lovely writing that brings such beautiful images to life. I found many passages that I liked and copied into my Favorite Quotes Journal.
Likewise, Being Perfect offers advice and insights into life but with a focus on the trap of perfectionism, a character flaw near and dear to my heart! She recounts her own struggles with trying to be perfect and advises the reader to focus more on being yourself and less on your image and how others see you.
Quindlen offers some excellent advice for life in these two books in a pleasant package, illustrated by inspiring photographs. I really enjoyed both books, and they echoed much of my own thinking and values about life. Either one (or both) would make a lovely gift for someone you love, especially for a graduation or other significant life event.

50 pages, Random House

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