By Jill Lapore
Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95, 320 pages
Jill Lepore’s Mansion of Happiness is a short history of ideas regarding our thoughts about life. Each chapter of the book that arranged chronologically, from pregnancy to old age, addresses and discusses an appearance of different life stages that we’re familiar with, starting from the earliest simple views on infancy, manhood and old age to our modern, more divided ideas about childhood, adolescence, maturity and aging. Although the chapters refer each other, they function largely as stand-alone essays, as well as Lepore’s introductory piece about the evolution of the game that Americans know as “The Game of Life.” Lepore is a contributing writer at The New Yorker, and her essays are smart, funny and tightly written. This book reminds me of other well-beloved contemporary historians Bill Bryson and Sarah Vowell. I personally can’t think of higher praise. Although, as a fairly avid reader of history, I found myself familiar with some of the stories and ideas, they are provided in a relevant and engaging way. If you’re curious about how we think about life, this is the book for you.
Reviewed by Katie Richards