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"The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness" by Paula Poundstone


Happiness is a funny thing. If you’re comedienne Paula Poundstone, searching for it is even funnier.

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.”

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