In the The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, Poundstone cleans out the junk drawer; learns how to email and taekwondoes herself down a dress size. She picks up a nifty nickname—“Sugar Push”—by taking swing dancing lessons, hugs every audience member after a live taping of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”; talks to lizards while backpacking with her oldest daughter in the Angeles National Forest; spends a day petting her 16 cats and another watching mostly horrible movies with her three kids.
In the “get positive” experiment, Poundstone sticks motivational sayings in eye-catching places, but only the ones she can’t argue. Fear of scraping off the underside of the Lamborghini she rents for a day puts a damper on its happiness-effect. Volunteering at a senior’s home is “balou-ful”, but bittersweet.
In the meantime, her kids grow, laugh and talk back on their way into adulthood; and the cats keep peeing on the carpet. “If I added up all of the quick head pats, the chin strokes with the top of my pen, the toss of the ball with the bell in it, the times I wished I’d had my camera, and the snuggles in bed, it would probably come to a sizeable slice of my happiness pie," writes Poundstone. "Maybe happiness doesn’t come in bulk. Maybe it’s sprinkled in.”