Book Review: The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets of Happy Living by Meik Wiking (William Morrow, 2017)
The Danish concept of “hygge” found its way across the Atlantic a few years ago, taking wing on social media and popping up in American books and magazines. Hygge, pronounced “hoo-ga,” is one of the things that author Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, credits with making Denmark one of the happiest countries on earth.
Yes, cold, dark, highly taxed Denmark. People love it there because of, well, hygge. According to Wiking, “Hygge is about an atmosphere and an experience, rather than about things. It is about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”
Candles, hot chocolate, wooly sweaters, fireplaces, and fuzzy throws may come into play but what makes a moment hyggeligt (the adjective form of the word) is the presence of friends in this comfortable and cozy atmosphere. This element of sociability elevates hygge from a superficial lifestyle choice to a cultural construct that strengthens the fabric of society. Wiking guides the reader through the Danish experience of community during hyggeligt, while also describing foods (cake, bread, coffee), clothes (sweaters, scarves), and activities (casual dinners, barbecues, family movie nights) that add to those experiences.
Does any of this feel a bit familiar? It might. Since moving to Mentone, I’ve experienced hygge on a regular basis:
Experiences like these are why life here feels so right to me. Mentone is hyggeligt, a saving grace when the sun sets early and the wind is cold. That these experiences take place in an area with extraordinary natural beauty adds to the charm. Because life will always throw down some challenges, some of which will inevitably shake us to our core, hygge allows us to recognize and appreciate the moments that sustain us in good times and bad and to consciously recreate them when we can.
The Little Book of Hygge explains how to enjoy hygge year-round, and Wiking goes into some detail about how to sustain the mood during warmer months, but right now in North Alabama we have a few more weeks of winter to get through. So, channel your inner Dane, throw another log on the fire, and get hyggeligt with friends and family.
The Little Book of Hygge is available for checkout from the Moon Lake Community Library.
– Anne McLeod is the librarian at Moon Lake Elementary School.