Reader’s Guide: Happiness Economics
1. “Nobody, Will Thorne thought with a mixture of sadness and disgust, takes a failed poet seriously, even though poets—arguably even failed ones—ought to be taken more seriously than anyone.” Should poets be taken seriously? Discuss.
2. Will feels that society—which has such a great, unrecognized need to listen to its poets—instead hangs on the every word of people like his economic forecaster wife, whose books are bestsellers. Do you think we ignore our poets, and if so why? And is it to our peril? When do we turn to our poets?
3. Have you ever heard of the Happiness Economics movement? Do you think governments should start to use broader indicators of national happiness to gauge our well-being and make policy, or should they stick to using purely economic indicators like GDP?
4. What do you think about the role of the muse? How has the perception of the muse changed over time? How do you think the creative process works?
5. Is this a love story? Is Will in love with Lily? Discuss.
6. In what ways is Zoe like her mother? How does Alex take after his dad?
7. The novel contains many comic moments. Which scenes stand out for you as the most amusing?
8. Who is your favourite poet? If you could splatter some favourite lines of poetry somewhere—what would they be and where would you put them?
9. Happiness Economics is a comic novel. Does this affect the book’s status as a literary novel? Does serious fiction have an obligation to be serious and lofty, or should we applaud the author for attempting to capture important themes in a lighthearted work? Can serious ideas be successfully related through humour, or does humour in and of itself undercut the seriousness of any debate? Do you think Canada has a greater tendency to prefer its literary fiction to be “serious” compared to other countries?
10. If Happiness Economics were to be made into a film, who would you cast as the main characters?