haimshapiraHappiness and Other Small Things of Absolute Importance does not resemble a self help book as much as it does a long, meandering lecture by your favorite professor. Shapira talks about happiness, the passage of time, love, death, money, and so much more by tying it to classic literature and his own musings. I loved it. There is little that Shapira doesn’t cover in these pages and, when you’re done, you feel as if you’ve just had a long discussion with a very dear friend.

“This little book is meant to change your perspective on almost everything in your life- and primarily the concept of happiness. … As serious and life-changing as the voyage to the land of the Things That Matter may be, it’s no less important to enjoy the ride. Having realized in my own life that serious is not the opposite of amusing, I’ve made a serious effort to present you with an amusing book that deeply and profoundly discusses all the Things That Matter.” loc 27, ebook. Shapira succeeds with flying colors.

His humor shines through his words. There aren’t any laugh-out-loud moments, but I found myself grinning throughout: “There’s empirical proof that How-To-Be-Happy Books are useless. If just a shred of the promises made in many of those books came true, the world would be knee-deep in incomprehensible quantities of bliss. We all know that this is not the case.” loc 73, ebook. True story.

My favorite parts were about the importance of a positive mind-set and love. This passage is about being positive: “Anyone who has lived on this planet long enough knows that pessimism is the natural way to think. It requires no effort, like a rock rolling downhill. It’s much harder to push the rock up the hill, to think positively. Just see the effort it takes to think like (Winnie the) Pooh, to find a bit of magic and grace in everything. That is a mission worthy of the wise.” loc 387 I agree.

I also found the sections on anger and forgiveness to be very meaningful. Here, Shapira is talking about the futility of being angry and how we can learn to control our tempers, rather than have them control us: “My wife, a chemical engineer by profession, has reached an important understanding. In nature, she told me, each substance has a typical, unique and fixed boiling point. We can artificially change it, however, by using other substances that act as inhibitors, thereby raising the boiling point. For example, anyone who cooks knows that salted water takes longer to boil than water alone. The same applies to people. Their boiling points can be raised. Wisdom can be salt for our water…” loc 610, ebook.

Recommended for spiritual seekers, happiness chasers, and anyone who wants to learn more about themselves. This book is a gem. Some similar reading, if you liked this: How to Talk About Places You’ve Never Been: On the Importance of Armchair Travel, The End of Self-Help: Discovering Peace and Happiness Right at the Heart of Your Messy, Scary, Brilliant Life, or The Power of the Heart: Finding Your True Purpose in Life.

Thank you to NetGalley and Watkins Publishing for a free digital copy of this book.  And, thank you for reading!


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