The Geography of Bliss by Eric Wiener
This is more than your average travel book. It's an exhilarating romp through the cultures of 10 countries fused with a philosophical study of what makes the people of those cultures happy or unhappy. The combination makes for highly entertaining reading.
He begins his research in The Netherlands, where the "World Database of Happiness" - and there really is such a thing - is located on a college campus, then he travels to Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and the U.S. He looks at how our happiness level is affected by money, climate, relationships, attitude and government. He asks people in every country where they would place themselves on a happiness scale of 1 to 10 and why. The answers he gets make for fascinating reading. He admits it's only the tip of the iceberg, that he visits only small areas of each country and talks to only a very small number of people relatively speaking, but still, it's an intensely interesting look at how people live around the world and how happy they are with their lives.
The travel aspect of the book is equally as interesting. The author is a long time journalist so he meets and talks to people easily. He's able to put people at ease and that gives him access to places and events that are culturally significant. His experiences in the bars and cafes of each visited country are hilarious, and eye-opening.
As a travel book alone the pace is somewhat frantic, but as a travel/philosophy book, I think it's terrific. I definitely recommend this one.