I picked this book up on a whim and I am surprised by how much I actually enjoyed it. I've also learned how to properly say "hygge." I've been pronouncing it "higg-ee" which is incorrect, it is actually pronounced "hoo-ga."
Title: The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living
Author: Meik Wiking
Publisher: William Morrow an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers (US) and Penguin Random House UK (UK)
Genre: Nonfiction, self-help
Page Number: 221 hardback
Denmark is often said to be the happiest country in the world. That's down to one thing: hygge.
'Hygge has been translated as everything from the art of creating intimacy to cosiness of the soul to taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. My personal favourite is cocoa by candlelight...'
You know hygge when you feel it. It is when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.
Who better than Meik Wiking to be your guide to all things hygge? Meik is CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. In this beautiful, inspiring book he will help you be more hygge: from picking the right lighting and planning a dinner party through to creating an emergency hygge kit and even how to dress.
Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. He is committed to finding out what makes people happy and has concluded that hygge is the magic ingredient that makes Danes the happiest nation in the world.
The book begins with an introduction to the concept and definition of hygge. Wiking likens the Canadian word of "hominess" (p. 20) which is probably close to what it would be in America as Canada is just the sane neighbor to the north. Hygge is actually from the Norwegian (there's some history between the two countries) word for "well-being" and the first written example can be traced to the early 1880s (page ix). The Danish tourism board even has a page on hygge where you can take a test to see if your hygge levels are low (it was fun).
Wiking also notes his connection to the super real and not made up at all Happiness Research Institute, where he is the CEO. This is a real job. I am so envious. It reminds me of an article I read by a psychologist who talked about positive psychological study, which is a field somewhat new in psychology.
Wiking's book is set up on a "how-to" guide so that you can begin to hygge up your house. This is slightly amusing as Wiking talks about Denmark in a way that evokes a picture, usually of nice woolen socks, hot cocoa and a fire. Very Hallmark Holiday movie. It makes sense actually but it's amusing because it's the height of summer and I'm sweating bullets, but sure, lets talk about woolen socks and heavy jumpers. Wiking calls it "The Hygge Manifesto":
I really appreciated the food and dessert aspect of the book. Wiking drops the name of the oldest confectionery in Denmark, La Glace, established in 1870. As well as names and recipes which I appreciated. I love collecting things like this to try in my own time. Sometimes I enjoy the new dish and other times I call for takeout after attempting it. It's an adventure either way.
I also loved the recipe for gløgg, a spiced wine. It's real. The Danish language is a gift.
I noted that the scene being presented to me was very Christmas like, but Wiking has a yearly hygge guide so you can get hygge with it all year round. There is a lot of nature and outdoorsy stuff, which is fine. I mean, I'm not great at it but it's fun to do. I prefer to camp in a hotel room with a spa, but outdoors is an option.
I was legit down for the suggestion of checking out meteor showers (the Perseid meteor shower happens in August) as that's fun to me and space stuff isn't often mentioned in activity books in general.
There's also a section on financially responsible hygge. I thought this was an important chapter. While millennials in the USA are going broke eating avocado toast (I'm over this headline) I appreciate the point that while hygge might be a lifestyle that can be rich it doesn't have to destroy you with consumerism. I can't speak for the world, but America is top notch in massive consumerism.
Wiking ends with the connection between his work at the Happiness Research Institute and the results he's found that are universal to the human experience. I wanted to look up some of the research the think tank does, as many reputable (and even not reputable) think thanks will host their research on site. I read through the English summary of "How to Improve the Quality of LIfe of Young People", "The World Happiness Report", "Sustainable Happiness" and "The Facebook Experiment." I was most intrigued by The FB experiment, it found that people who quit facebook had a much more positive outlook/life satisfaction. FB has changed a lot since when I first got on it and I can absolutely see the toxicity from the website.
Before I end, I want to say the writing was quick, to the point and smooth. Wiking organized his thoughts around his principles so that connections were obvious. Research and data points were provided with color appropriate graphs (the books is in shades of blue, tan, red, orange, white and black). It was one of the better thematically organized books I've seen. I rated it as a 4* because I found the book enjoyable and well thought out.
I assume many readers pick up this book (or any other of the multiple books on hygge) on a quest for happiness and fulfillment, perhaps with a quick fix or even a lifestyle change. I don't think this book is a quick fix but instead an explanation into the nuance of a sub-set of Danish culture from the author's experience.
I would treat it more like a travel book that might give some ideas that you want to try out. What I mean by that more specifically is that you can get some wooly socks, make a stew, drink tea and watch a Danish television show but still not have health care because the US government is creating a military parade costing millions for a man who didn't even serve. You can't recreate everything, it's just a snapshot.
Meik Wiking has a TedxCophenhagen talk that I'll link below.