Describe your latest book/project/work.
My latest book, The Happiness Project, is an account of the year I spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. I explain what I tried, why, and what worked for me.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I was a load-management operator for a construction company. Trucks would pull up to my station and I'd push the buttons to fill them with asphalt for road-building. Strangely satisfying.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language. This book blew my mind.
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
I just finished Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which was the book selected by my book group.
What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Reading in bed, in my pajamas, while drinking Diet Coke and eating apples.
On a clear and cold day, do you typically get outside into the sunshine or stay inside where it's warm?
I live in New York City, and walk a lot each day, so I'm out there, rain or shine. Which is one of my favorite things about living in New York City.
Who are your favorite characters in history? Have any of them influenced your writing?
My favorite characters in history are Winston Churchill and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. I wrote a biography of Winston Churchill, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, and St. Thérèse was a big influence on my most recent book, The Happiness Project.
Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
I'm enthralled with Joseph Cornell. His boxes, decorated with objects, seem to suggest so much — each one fascinates me.
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five of my favorite novels about the nature of happiness:
Happy All the Time, Laurie Colwin
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
A Landing on the Sun, Michael Frayn 9780312421908