Book Review: The Happiness of Pursuit

Review score: 4/5 

There is something disarming about Chris Guillebeau’s writing. In his book The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, Guillebeau writes about extraordinary quests completed by ordinary individuals, and he makes you believe that you too can complete a quest of your own. By the end of the book you find yourself thrilled at the idea of living the life you’ve always wanted through completing (a) personal quest(s), and questioning your own life’s purpose. It’s non-religous yet reads like a religious self-help, with anecdotes and practical tips on how to successfully pursue something you believe in and deriving happiness in the process. Guillebeau’s idea of a quest has to have the following:

  • prolonged commitment
  • a clear goal and a specific end point
  • cannot be easily completed

He somehow contradicts himself shortly after this definition by calling readers finishing reading his book a ‘quest’, which didn’t seem like a task too difficult to complete. Faulty analogy aside, the rest of his book offers good insight and ways to live a more fulfilling life.

Unhappiness can lead to new beginnings

Guillebeau rides on the YOLO (you only live once) principle and urges readers to do what their heart tells them to instead of blindly following convention. He drills down on the idea that happiness is a choice, and that by doing what you love you will be happy. If you’re unhappy now, it’s not a bad thing. Unhappiness is what motivates people to change. Though cynics may immediately dismiss him as a dreamer, Guillebeau recounts the stories of people, from all walks of life, who have removed themselves from conventional societal frameworks and completed a quest of their own. This is almost always at the expense of time and familial/societal relationships. A quest requires sacrifice and dedication, but it can be done. His examples are credible and uplifting.

Stories of others

One girl sails across the oceans, alone, at the tender age of 16, against the will of the Dutch government. Another man completes over 200 marathons in a year. An young man walks on foot across the United States from east to west, coast to coast, in 8 months. A Tokyo sushi chef perfects his knife skills and cuisine prowess over decades, calling it his first and only passion. An environmental activist climbs and lives atop a tree for over a year to protest against unsustainable logging. All these are quests that seem either impossible or outlandish, but to every quest’s owner they carry deep personal significance, and completion of such always brings maturation and immense satisfaction.

Author’s own quest

He engages readers with his own 193 countries round-the-world in 10 years quest, and discusses the challenges and take-aways throughout. Visa problems, travel annoyances, metal exhaustion, on the verge of giving up. He’s honest about the failures he has encountered, the obstacles along the way, and offers funny recollections while trying to complete the journey. Readers get the sense that it wasn’t easy, nor was it always enjoyable, but they would rejoice with Guillebeau’s victory at the end. Throughout the book, he has become an adviser, encourager, and trusted friend. The cases are abundant and varied. Guillebeau did his research – it was a luxury to be able to read the inspirational stories of people around the world in one single book. At the end of the book Guillebeau provides a short summary of every successful quest he’s described, with an amateur version for those who want to ease their way into beginning their own personal quest.


I recommend this book, especially for those who are longing for a change in life and contemplating doing something different. It’s upbeat and positive. It offers practical advice on time management, budgeting, and quest design, giving you examples of how others completed theirs. At times, Guillebeau could be a bit wordy with his prose, but in all it’s a well-structured and fast read. This book might be the boost you need to stop sitting around and actually putting your thoughts into action – just do it!

Happiness Pursuit

  • Title: The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
  • Author: Chris Guillebeau
  • On racks: 9 September 2014
  • ISBN: 9780385348843, 0385348843
  • Price: $25.00 USD, $29.95 CAD
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Harmony
  • Number of pages: 304

Digital copy courtesy of Edelweiss

For another book review of mine, see The Handmaid’s Tale

11 comments on “Book Review: The Happiness of Pursuit

  1. Pingback: Interstellar: Movie Review | Pixie Dust Beach

  2. This is a great review, pixie. It’s hard to believe English is not your first language. In fact, when reading your comments on my site, before I knew anything about you, I was thinking to myself how articulate you are – clear and to the point. As is this review. It’s very informative and interesting. I’ve never heard of Guillebeau before but you definitely arm me with enough information to make a choice as to whether I would want to pursue finding out more about him…or not. The only thing I would like to see here is how you have applied or how you intend to apply to your life what you have learned from the book. Did it boost you to transform your thoughts into a quest – to just do it?! That is what I would like to know most. For it is that information that would truly tell me whether this is a worthwhile book…or not. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kurt,
      Thanks for being so encouraging when it comes to my writing. There are definitely moments when I’m at a loss when describing something in English. I’ll think of proximate words until I come up with the one that’s appropriate. The thesaurus is my ally. When I find it difficult to translate a concept from Chinese to English, I rack the brains of friends and close ones. Usually, someone will have a way of describing it. Then there are those ideas that just simply aren’t translatable – but we’ll just let those rest quietly.
      As to whether Guillebeau’s book prompted me to take action – half yes. ‘Half’ because I took action of a certain extent before discovering his book. His practical tips and his own experience have encouraged me to do things differently and have less fear. He proved that if you set your mind to a quest, it is possible. It will happen. Action is key. An important take-away was Guillebeau’s emphasis that it doesn’t take too much money to complete a quest. His was to travel to every country. A common discouragement he heard was that it would be ‘too expensive’. Money (or lack of) is a common excuse, but he believes it is an imaginary one.
      In the end, if someone has a quest in mind, I say skip the book and just do it! The book provides sound advice and excellent true stories, but the heart of success is merely to take that first step. Then another. And another.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Book Review: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up | Pixie Dust Beach

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