musings about food, travel, creativity and life

Good Books, Good Friends

A sign over-the-door saying “Joy” welcomed me to our book club meeting this week–how perfect! First, it was a glorious clear blue valley day. Second, the women in my book club always read thought-provoking  books.  And third, the book I was going to share was Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee. A friend in Wisconsin had heard Lee speak a month ago and said, “You have to read this book!” She was right.

Lee is a designer with a website/blog called Aesthetics of Joy ( She looks at “how the physical world influences our emotions and why certain things spark a feeling of joy.” As she says, “Joy isn’t just something we find. It’s also something we can make, for ourselves, and for those around us.”

The author identifies 10 design aesthetics–“the properties that define the way an object looks and feels”– that are avenues to joyful surroundings. They include energy, freedom, harmony, surprise, play, and five more. She devotes a chapter to exploring each of the aesthetics.

In the “Play” chapter, for example, Lee talks about the cuteness of little babies and puppies that make us smile and want to play. Similarly, she offers a possible reason why many people are so enamored with the Mini Cooper and Fiat 500: their enlarged “eye-like” headlight design appeals to that “cute” baby-face factor. Then there are those playful polka dot fabrics that I’m always drawn to; as Lee explains, “small things repeated many times create a burst of joy much bigger than each individual piece could.” And on the book delightfully goes.

Lee supports her findings with research, and interviews with scientists, designers, architects and others. She visits the Icelandic Elf School to find out about the magic of elves; she interviews a woman who has over 600 plants in her apartment, creating an oasis of both comfort and stimulation. Lee talks with quilters about the “perfectly imperfect” Gee’s Bend quilts; she interviews a British cloud enthusiast and hot air balloonists; she describes the exuberant cherry blossom time in Japan; and she lauds all flowers, saying they “signify a kind of uncontainable verve, a life force that can’t help but finds its way out.” 

She concludes by offering a Joyful Toolkit to help readers define those places, people, things and activities that bring joy to their lives. I’m in! I think I’ll start with winners I already know work for me– lighting my Joy candle, petting our cute doggie, watching the sweet birds at our bird bath and giving thanks.



4 thoughts on “Good Books, Good Friends”

  • I am half way through reading “Joyful” and it has changed the way I see my living environment. Thanks Lynn for your post.

    • I am so glad you’re liking it, Caroline. I can’t wait to talk with you “live” about it. I think it is a book
      I/we can go back to over and over for inspiration and learning. Thanks, friend, for leading me to it!

    • So glad you liked it! And I do think you’ll like the book. I learned a lot and smiled a lot. I
      wish the same for you!

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