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Guten Tag meine Freunde, I hope you're well. This week I'm writing while Von Trapping my way across Austria. Take it away, Julie:
HAPPINESS is, according to Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, a field of grain lifting its face to the falling rain. I think he may have been thinking of cell expansion by osmosis, but it's an easy mistake to make: us mere humans are not great at either. I'm interested in happiness—we all are—but I'm also interested in its pursuit: you might think, if we all want to be happy, that we'd be better at it by now.

While the desire for happiness may feel visceral, the means of achieving can seem far from second nature. We could all do with understanding happiness better, if not for ourselves then so that we might be there for those around us. Bookshops are full to bursting with books on the subject, but where to start? At the risk of aggravating your tsundoku 🧐, here are the best I've found:

The Buddha in Me, The Buddha in You by life-coach David Hare ploughs straight in and drops two B-bombs in its title: if that's off-putting, I urge you to focus instead on its subtitle: A Handbook for Happiness. Neither preachy nor overly mystical, Hare uses individual growth as the vehicle for a happier existence.

10% Happier by TV journalist Dan Harris is the author's own story of discovering mindfulness as a means of managing his own neuroticism. The book's popularity is buoyed by Harris's professional notoriety, but that shouldn't detract from its sensible self-help approach to stress reduction that's accessible to many people.

Happy by mentalist Derren Brown is a sizeable tome; the first half mainly explores how stoic philosophy can be applied to ease modern life's burdens. Had it stopped there you'd be left wondering why the author bothered, but then he steps up to explore happiness in death as a source of happiness in life. In this, Brown has something of a qualification: he's a celebrity frequently approached by his public, for some of whom their end is near. From this perspective he has drawn numerous insights.

Drowning in books? Austin Kleon has tips for how to read more. 😁
🏘 Take Care is an independent magazine that collects a range of creative responses to the UK housing crisis, exploring how the issue impacts our everyday lives. Put together over the course of a year, it's an attempt to understand the crisis and its causes.

🔫 The Oral History of the Super Soaker: up until 1990, water pistols were rubbish. Then a NASA scientist came up with an outlandish-looking alternative, and summer changed forever.

✏️ Have we all underrated the humble pencil? Tim Harford argues that the pencil is ubiquitous to the point of invisibility. I've recently gotten back into writing with pencils. My current favourites, depending on the task, are the Penco Prime Timber and the Rhodia Mechanical.

🧠 Virtual reality mental health project to offer new option for Hongkongers seeking help: in what's claimed to be the first use of VR for mental therapy, people seeking help for a range of issues can be given environments in which to confront and safely engage in practical situations without consequence.

🚗 People in Japan are renting cars but not driving them: introduced for convenient travel, it turns out car-share rentals are being used for all sorts of stationary activities too, such as taking a nap, getting some work done in relative peace, or charge phones.

🛩 Hedge Funds Are Tracking Private Jets to Find the Next Megadeal: aeroplanes leave trails of data behind, and it's enough to figure out who's negotiating with whom. Note to self: remember to negotiate lucrative takeovers via Skype.

💞 What to Know About Love Island Before Its U.S. Debut. The firmly-rooted UK show already has a lacklustre spin-off in Australia and is now heading to the USA: a highly-congested market. Is America ready for the zany antics and curious humour of a reality-soap-opera?
Starting within: There's no one-size-fits-all approach to happiness, so what if the answer for you isn't in a book? Good news: there's many other places from which to draw counsel and inspiration for straightforward steps towards a happier existence.

For starters, there's centuries-old Japan's centuries-old idology from Japan or cutting-edge research from Iceland. Then there's running regularly or spending time amongst trees (maybe running amongst trees?), or a conscientious drive towards optimism.

It may go without saying, but Instagram makes people miserable. Unobtainable pseudorealities and sterilised interaction erode our happiness, so it's worth putting each of the big social networks under your close personal scrutiny.

What causes happiness is well understood: our health, our relationships, our sense of purpose, stability and so on. Having more money, beyond the point of meeting our basic needs, rarely makes us that much happier.

Yet wellbeing in the macro—our concern for the economy, or the opportunities for future generations—does contribute. To the extent that we have a hand in the circumstances of our lives, happiness may be a choice. Perhaps even our moral obligation.

Then again, cognitive psychologist Daniel Kahneman argues most people don't want to be happy, but rather satisfied or fulfilled by some other measure. An interesting stance, but rather like being 'fit' or 'healthy', aiming for one probably gains you both.
Finally: Uber Is Recruiting Grannies to Deliver Ramen in Japan, which reassured me about my future once my current career is ultimately automated away. Superficially the 'gig economy' might suit retirees rather well, but what do I know? 👟

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