Smart. Simple. Direct. Witty. This is the schmaltz-free Karen Salmansohn style for serving up easy-to-digest spiritual inspiration in the first book in her Happiness series, How to Be Happy, Dammit: A Cynic’s Guide to Spiritual Happiness.
Salmansohn left her successful advertising career to pursue her passion for writing. She is now a bestselling author and book packager known for “self-help for people who would never be caught dead reading self help.” Journalists call her “Deepak Chopra Meets Carrie Bradshaw.”
Starting with a vivid orange and green jacket emblazoned with the word HAPPY, the punchy graphic design of this book (by the cool, creative Don Zinzell) is key to its appeal. The pop kaleidoscope of quirky typefaces, photos, illustrations, Day-Glo colors, and recurring logos is invigorating and inviting, the perfect backdrop for Salmonsohn’s deftly presented compendium of practical suggestions for a happier life. She aims to “perk up even the most cynical spirit.” She succeeds.
This is a basic primer—experienced readers in the spirituality field will already know the material. But How to Be Happy, Dammit, is a positive choice for anyone who is feeling a bit let down by life and especially for young people who are queasy about the future.
And so the path to everyday equilibrium unfolds in all its conundrums, with fables (the intrepid eagle raised with cautious chickens who one day learns to soar—Lesson #14: Declare Your Own Independence Day), quotes, exhortations (“listen to your heart, listen to your belly, listen to NPR!”), analogies, puns (“your grapes of wrath—your raisons d’être”—Life Lesson #16: Rationalize, Rationalize, Rationalize!), edgy humor, and visual jokes to point the way.
Among others, we hear from:
- (Arty) Schopenhauer with a wonderful little gem about an examined life being like the back of a piece of embroidery—not as pretty as the front, but more interesting because you can see how the threads have been formed to make the pattern. Voilà, Lesson #4: Happiness Is Not About What Happens to You, But How You Choose to Respond to What Happens.
- Groucho Marx with the ripe old joke about marrying an unattractive mate, because a beautiful one could leave you. The ugly one could leave you, too: yeah, but if they do, who cares? Lesson #32: Never Compromise Your Dreams.
- The karmic guy who painted the author’s living room: “You can’t paint over a wet coat. You got to wait for it to dry, or you’re painting over and over again and get nowhere.” Lesson #36: Respect the Process.
The author also highlights the valuable spiritual insights to be found in such scientific fields as quantum physics, harmonic resonance, chaos theory, and what she calls The Great Primordial Soup (Evolutionary Biology).
Over the course of the journey, Salmansohn snappily elucidates the concepts of mindfulness, “unlearning,” the art of living in the present, nonjudgmental thinking, letting go of fear and false expectations, synchronicity, Knowing vs. Doing, and more. She also provides one of the best capsule introductions to the practice of meditation you will find.
This is a basic primer—experienced readers in the spirituality field will already know the material. But How to Be Happy, Dammit, is a positive choice for anyone who is feeling a bit let down by life and especially for young people who are queasy about the future. (Hint: need a neat graduation gift?)