Humorist Barry (You Can Date Boys When You're Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About, 2014, etc.) departs from the collections of his now-defunct syndicated newspaper column and his goofy full-length novels to write a dozen original essays gathered loosely around a theme: happiness and its discontents.
In a semiserious introduction, the author notes that the topics of the essays might seem random at first but that they all touch on happiness in some way, however oblique. He carries out his quasi-theme as promised, providing laugh-out-loud moments throughout the book. In one essay, Barry discusses homeownership. Though it may constitute a significant part of the American dream, it is often not a good way to achieve happiness. In the longest essay, about the author’s travel to Brazil, where supposedly friendly citizenry rob tourists regularly, Barry shifts into an exploration of the Brazilian mania for soccer. This then leads into an extended discussion about his daughter, a high school soccer player, and ends with a critique of recent World Cup matches and how futile it was to hate the Belgian team even as its members were defeating the U.S. national team. Additional essays cover Barry's travels to Russia with fellow writer Ridley Pearson, Barry's experiment wearing Google Glass, the mindlessness of 24/7 TV news, why Barry's own generation (he was born in 1947) seems less content than the generation that came before it, advice to his daughter as she reaches the age she can obtain a driver's license and a letter to his infant grandson centering on the ritual of circumcision.
Needless to say, effective humor is extremely personal. For those who have found Barry funny in a good way, these latest essays will cause outright, prolonged laughter.