There's more than one way to be happy

Review: ‘How to Be Happy: People Ages Eleven to Ninety-two Reveal Their Secrets'

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It seems so simple: How to be happy.

But there are many ways to say it and many examples of how people acquire it detailed in the new “How to Be Happy: People Ages Eleven to Ninety-two Reveal Their Secrets” (Penfield Books, 85 pages, $18.95).

Penfield publisher Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret of Iowa City said she discovered the need to strive for a happy life in her mid-30s. She’s filled her life with happy people and avoided people who are cruel to others. In this book, she asked people she considers happy to write about what happiness means to them.

What: Reading and reception with “How to Be Happy: People Ages Eleven to Ninety-two Reveal their Secrets” contributors

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City

The result is 37 essays by people of all ages, many from Iowa, as well as across the country. Most are accompanied by photographs of the people by Bourret, a well-known photographer.

The essays find a common theme — that is, happiness comes from within. One can create his or her own happiness. Possessing happiness is internal. It resides within one’s character.

Some examples are well-written, insightful, even lyrical. A few are amateurish. But the combination can give the reader insight into how to become truly happy.

One of the writers, former Iowa City resident Mary Lea of Glendale, Ariz., writes that doing new things brings her happiness. She has taught tai chi to the University of Iowa football and wrestling teams, and she lived in Kuwait, where she helped design and build a sports complex and found great pleasure in having tea and becoming friends with Arab women.

Happiness can be simple. Sandra Hudson of Iowa City is happy when she is sure there is always a can of anchovies in the pantry; her husband, John, finds happiness selecting the perfect music to accompany dinner.

My favorite essay comes from Pat Martin of Cedar Rapids, who writes, “Possessing happiness is like having great art and music on the walls of one’s head — always there but not owned as property or security.”

Reading this charming book will make you reflect on your own life and what makes you happy. It might even give you the push you need to make yourself happier.

As Maureen Patterson of Iowa City writes, happiness “is not something you strive for. It’s something you choose to be. It is not in the future; it is here and now. It’s yours. Take it.”

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