In François Lelord’s utterly charming Hector and the Search for Happiness, a psychiatrist wants to know what makes people happy. He visits friends and keeps a list of observations—comparing your toys with a friend’s toys can make you unhappy, sun and sand can make anyone happy, happiness is caring for the people you love. Wealth and status seem to hurt some of the psychiatrist’s friends; for example, a businessman works 80 hours a week and becomes dependent on alcohol. Other characters have a gift for happiness: The psychiatrist encounters laughing, impoverished people at a picnic and wonders how they can overlook their own suffering and experience pleasure. Most notably, a very ill friend of the psychiatrist is able to forget that she is dying, enjoy her final days and inspire the people around her.

Hector and the Search for Happiness turns psychological research into a fast-paced, enchanting story. Lelord himself is a psychiatrist, and his interest in the human mind is infectious. He writes as if he were telling a bedtime story—calmly, authoritatively. His story makes you ask: Am I happy? How could I change to make myself happier?

Already an international hit, Hector and the Search for Happiness will be turned into a feature film in 2011. Fans of Eat, Pray, Love and The Elegance of the Hedgehog won’t want to miss this gem of a book.

 

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