Book Review: “The Little Book of Lykke” by Meik Wiking

Updated on July 4, 2018
Jamie Cahill-Kear profile image

Jamie is an English graduate who studied at Queen Mary University of London. He is a keen reader and book reviewer.

A bit of Lykke in the garden
A bit of Lykke in the garden

Lykke is the Danish word for 'happiness'

— Meik Wiking, the Little Book Of Hygge

Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute and author of the number one bestselling The Little Book Of Hygge. He has followed this up with The Little Book Of Lykke. In it, he branches out from the themes of cosiness and togetherness exemplified by Hygge to explore something much more broad: happiness itself. Read on to discover how successfully he explores this topic and whether you might benefit from reading this book.

Overview

In order to explore happiness, Wiking focuses on the approach to Lykke pursued in his home country of Denmark, a country which consistently ranks amongst the happiest in the world. As such, this book does not offer a tired, familiar approach to the age old question "How can we be more happy?" Instead, it explores this question through the prism of the Danish lifestyle.

Structure

To accomplish this, Wiking focuses on six main areas:

  • Togetherness
  • Money
  • Health
  • Freedom
  • Trust
  • Kindness

How Effective Is This Approach?

Very. It ensures that the pieces of wisdom and advice that Wiking imparts are all extremely actionable. They are firmly rooted in a specific aspect of life and the details of his recommendations are just as specific, without being prescriptive. He manages to really cover all the bases with these six topics and is sure to also give advice on bringing all the pieces together to help shape a life.This is a very approachable and usable self-help book.

Why Is Denmark a Suitable Source for Inspiration?

Wiking feels Denmark is primarily such a happy place because of its egalitarian principles:

To me, it is unsurprising that a peaceful country, where there is free and universal healthcare, where your kids can go to university no matter how much you earn and where little girls can imagine themselves prime minister should be one of the happiest countries in the world

— Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge

At the same time, Wiking is careful to note that the major statistical differences in happiness lie not between different countries- say, Denmark and the United Kingdom- but within them. This is also true for Denmark. He doesn't claim his home country is a Utopian society, but he does believe there are plenty of aspects of Danish culture that the rest of us could benefit from borrowing, if we want to enhance our Lykke. Stick around for the video at the end of this article to learn more about why Wiking became so interested in the concept of happiness from a Danish perspective.

I originally bought this book for a family member, who went on to subsequently visit Copenhagen. She reported back that broadly speaking, she really felt the values of equality and community praised in the book were evident to an observer and that the same could be said of the more specific tangible norms mentioned within the book. Read on to discover more about these.

Danish key rings contribute to happiness, right?
Danish key rings contribute to happiness, right?

What About the Quality of the Insights Themselves?

Wiking seems to really know what he's talking about, which is hardly surprising, given his profession. His advice is backed up with convincing statistics and first-hand experience of the Danish lifestyle. Case studies are also sprinkled liberally throughout and they show us the tangible benefits of the changes Wiking proposes.

The Danes have certain ways of doing things, just as every country has. Cultural norms in one country can of course vary dramatically from those in another and Wiking seems to argue that where these norms exemplify 'best practise' when it comes to happiness, they should be emulated elsewhere. For Wiking, happiness- Lykke- is therefore very much a doing word and is all about making concrete changes to your life.

For instance, what is your attitude to money? Do you, like most, believe more will make you happier? Wiking notes that this is true up until the point where your needs are met and you can live comfortably. Beyond that- as I'm sure many of us will be aware- Wiking argues we're aiming to be the fastest rat in the rat race for speed's own sake. But he doesn't preach. Wiking is well aware of the need to show his humanity, to avoid appearing as some sort of happiness deity. He tells of his youthful enthusiasm when it came to making money- at eleven, he even had a poster in his bedroom emblazoned with the term "My first million". Unsurprisingly, Wiking does not claim that he created a happy life for himself through the realisation of such a dream. Wiking advocates commitment to a sensible work-life balance.

How do you commute to work? For that matter, how do you get around anywhere? The Danes- or as Wiking refers to them, the 'Two-Wheeled Vikings', are famous for their enthusiastic cycling and it will come as no surprise that this is an area Wiking focuses on. Denmark may be exceptionally flat, and Copenhagen exceptionally well adapted for the use of cyclists (450 kilometers of bike paths) but apparently, there is still no excuse for the rest of us. It's hard to argue when you consider how easy it is to fit exercise in when it constitutes your commute- a commute that may well be quicker than if you drove- not to mention the mood-boosting effects. Clearly, his advice is as robust as a Danish cykle (bike).


Working hard, or hardly working?
Working hard, or hardly working?

Wiking's book makes it clear that the largest driving force behind Denmark's happiness is its unity and the concern neighbours share for one another.

Wiking doesn't stop at the personal. Instead of focusing solely on individualistic ways we can improve our lives, Wiking passionately advocates building roots within our communities and reaching out to others as a way of enhancing our own Lykke. How many communal vegetable gardens do you see in your neighbourhood? How many bus stops in your area have a shelf for neighbours to borrow books? Whilst this sort of scheme is becoming more popular outside of Denmark, I'm sure your answer would still be: not enough. And we're all partly to blame, including myself- Wiking makes it clear that this sort of project should not be considered a 'scheme'. It is something neighbourhoods must come together to do themselves, at a grassroots level. That is how things work in Denmark and to make them work that way elsewhere, a revision of how we see one another is required. Wiking's book makes it clear that the largest driving force behind Denmark's happiness is its unity and the concern neighbours share for one another. This translates into a collective desire to improve the citizen's experience. If there's one overarching message you'll take from Wiking's book, it's this.

Is The Book Well Illustrated?

As you can no doubt ascertain from the cover, this book is very aesthetically pleasing- a quality it maintains throughout. Diagrams are both informative and easy on the eye. Furthermore, given its small size and hardback cover, this book would make a perfect addition to a coffee table or side table.

Final Verdict

What else is there to say? By now it will likely be clear to you that this beautiful book is a treasure trove of useful advice that we know is very actionable- because the Danes have already done it! In this sense, this book will not only give you ideas to enhance your own happiness, but it will also enrich your understanding of another country's fascinating culture.

If you would like to know more about Meik Wiking and his work, go ahead and watch this video:

Time for you to have a say:

Could you use some Lykke magic in your life?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jamie Cahill-Kearns

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