Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And the Pursuit of Happiness

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
~Abraham Lincoln

In May of 2009, I reviewed The Principles of Uncertainty and concluded with these words:
"In January of 2009, Maira Kalman started a new illustrated blog for The New York Times; the first entry chronicled her visit to Washington, D.C. for President Barack Obama's inauguration. I won't be disappointed if the author publishes a second graphic book based on the new blog in the near future."
And guess what? She did!

And the Pursuit of Happiness by artist and writer Maira Kalman is based on her blog and will be available as a book to the public on October 14, 2010. This new hardcover, illustrated book begins in January with the inauguration of President Barack Obama, and concludes in December with a chapter about our first president, George Washington. Each chapter features a calendar month and a different subject.

How can I do justice to this book? A traditional review would not work for such a book. And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman is EXUBERANT! Unabashedly exuberant, joyful, and hopeful. It is confident.

It is a celebration of ideas and ideals, places, and people including:

President Barack Obama


The Military
"Everyone is beautiful. Everyone makes you proud. Everyone breaks your heart."
~And the Pursuit of Happiness, Maira Kalman
Abraham Lincoln (You may even develop a crush on this tall man, who loved Mozart's The Magic Flute--my favorite, too--and Shakespeare's Macbeth.)

eorge Washington (Apparently, his false teeth weren't wooden, but were made from hippopotamus ivory! Other myths are shattered as well.)

Thomas Jefferson (He changed the words of The Declaration of Independence from Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of "Property" to the pursuit of "Happiness".)

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
~The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson (primary author)

Benjamin Franklin (He wasn't president, but he signed both The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution, became Ambassador to France, invented and created countless things and organizations, and is featured on the cover of this book! )

Susan B. Anthony (She challenged the law because she believed that women should vote.)

Eleanor Roosevelt (She confidently wore "improbable" hats.)

Washington, D.C. (Called "a mad frenzy of pink", full of energy and promise.)

New York City
(I call it "New York City" for clarity, but a real New Yorker just calls it "New York". I grew up in Manhattan.)


And the Pursuit of Happiness
is also a celebration of the little things that make life sweet. The luscious, lemon layer cake. The fancy hats worn in the Baptist church. Perfect red eyebrows. In this spirit, I took a few photos of some of the little things, small pleasures, I noticed nearby:

A bright orange plate, a ripe avocado, and a nice, sharp knife

A pretty little pitcher from Mexico, a gift from a friend

Lovely glass jars of organic spices, found at Target(!)

Dazzling, sparkly eyeshadow (my favorite summer find from Sephora)

Maira Kalman's art is colorful, expressive, radiant--irresistible! She draws and paints and photographs in a way that is charming, fresh, and quirky. While reading her hand-printed prose I laughed out loud so often that I had to explain why to those within earshot (this book is so funny!). It was a very enjoyable experience to read And the Pursuit of Happiness, and I can’t wait to read it again! Classrooms should have this book on hand because it would be a wonderful way for students to learn about history in a lighthearted yet substantial way. It has the ability to make you fall in love with life again. It left me with a sense of joy and optimism. I LOVED IT!

"A city can be optimistic. Now I need to decide what it is that I will volunteer for. I will have something to do with making the city sparkling and shining."
~And the Pursuit of Happiness, Maira Kalman

Special thanks to Trish from TLC for sending me this remarkable book. For more reviews, please visit the other stops on TLC's And the Pursuit of Happiness book tour. Visit Maira Kalman's NY Times blog or website to view her distinctive art and illustrations.


  1. What a lovely review! Isn't it amazing what a difference a positive attitude can make in your life?

  2. You must be psychic! Or the author must have heard your thoughts. This looks like a brilliant book and it obviously made you feel good. One to look out for I think! I get the impression it left you gobsmacked!

  3. What a wonderful book! I love all the little bits and bobs that you posted from it and I think this would be such a fun book to look through. I also really like your own pictures, and have to say that that eyeshadow looks mighty enticing! Great post, Suko! I am going to be looking for this book. I need a little more optimism in my life!

  4. What a nice review... I may have to put this book on my TRB list.

  5. Amazing review! And I have fallen in love with this book!

  6. I knew that about ER since my writing is set in the Depression era, but I did not know that Lincoln loved The Magic Flute! It's amazing that he even had a chance to see it....

  7. Kathy, thank you!

    Vivienne, you are right--I was definitely gobsmacked! :)

    Zibilee, this book is playful and mood-enhancing and definitely worth getting! Thanks for your great comments.

    Gramma Ann, it's a wonderful book!

    PA, thanks! I love Maira Kalman's work.

    Shelley, thanks for stopping by!

    More comments welcomed. :)

  8. great review Suko! This sounds like a great book.
    lol..I do have a crush on Abraham Lincoln :)
    and I like that quote by Maira Kalman.

  9. Wow, what an impressive post. To begin with the review of a book and to end with those pictures, wonderful.

  10. What a fun and wonderful review for what seems like a fun and wonderful book. You definitely got my interest!

  11. Naida, thank you! I think you'd really enjoy this book.

    Mystica, thanks for stopping by!

    Petty, I appreciate your kind words and your visit.

    Jenners, thanks! Can you tell I really enjoyed this book?!

    More comments welcomed.

  12. Hi Suko, and thanks for hopping by, and introducing me to your blog. And the pursuit of happiness looks fascinating....and, and. :-)

  13. this sounds like a very worthwhile enjoyable book-thanks for sharing it with us

  14. I love what you wrote about this book - sounds like a must read for me. Your photos are awesome as well. Have a great Sunday!

  15. What a great review. It makes me want to make my own list of happy things.

  16. Many thanks for the comments. They brighten my day. More welcomed. :)

  17. This sounds like a spectacular book! I love that you included photos of some beautiful things in your life too - what fun!

    Thanks for being a part of this tour - it sounds like you were the perfect person for this book since you (sort of) predicted it's publication. :)

  18. wow! I LOVE your review! I love such gushing posts about books..they make me so happy.. :)
    Wishlisting this one!

  19. I loved it too! Just posted my review. Especially like how you added your own radiant objects here too. Joy and optimism throughout as you say. Happy just reading it, holding that great quality edition, looking at the beautiful images. A real pleasure.


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