by Farrukh Dall
The U.N. has declared March 20 as World Happiness Day, recognizing “happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.” Although, all 193 UN member states have adopted the resolution calling for a happiness greater priority but many of them are failed to adopt an inclusive and balanced approach to achieve this fundamental human goal.
Some countries, however, have made happiness a public policy goal. Bhutan, Ecuador and the United Arab Emirates have appointed “Ministers of Happiness” to achieve the said goal. According to “UN World Happiness 2016” report, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway are the world’s top happiest countries.
There are different factors which contribute to be a happy nation. Books, Reading and writing is one of them. Iceland publishes more books per capita and translates more literature than any other nation in the world. Study shows that roughly one in 10 people will publish a book in their life time. There is a phrase in Icelandic, “ad ganga med bok I magnum”, every one gives birth to a book. Literally, everyone has a book in their stomach, writing for BBC, Rose Goldsmith said; “Iceland is experiencing a book boom. This island nation of just over 300, 000 people has more writers, more books published and MORE BOOKS READ, per head, than anywhere else in the world.
Icelanders are avid consumers of literature, with the highest number of bookstores per capita in the world. Iceland also has the highest per capita publication of books and magazines. This nation of readers has a beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. Sigurdsson, a novelist says; “We are a nation of storytellers. After independence from Denmark in 1944, literature helped define our identity”.
Truly amazing, they are in love with books as says Baldur Bjarnason, “Books get attention here”. They are a population of book lovers. Credit also goes to the government for massive support and for running Icelandic Literary Fund.
Denmark, which is a constitutional monarchy and the oldest kingdom in Europe, has 1, 500 publishers. Bookboon is the world’s largest e-book publisher. Stephanie Kurschus in ‘European Book Cultures: Diversity as a challenge’ describes the book culture in both Denmark and Finland as under;
“With regard to the environment for the book culture in both countries, it is important to note that Finland, as well as Denmark, are considered model welfare states. An important aspect of modern state is the education system and access to information for all. Public libraries system is the essential element of the book culture and the welfare state of both countries. The public library system in Denmark has been described the crown jewel of Danish cultural policy. Finland has been called the country of lakes and public libraries.
Similarly, Norway is considered to be one of the most enviable places in the world to be a writer and a publisher.Norway is also a nation of readers. In Norway alone, according to a recent report that found one in four Norwegians pick up a book on a typical day. However, the book culture in these happiest countries has been part and parcel of these societies for centuries. For example, according to Navickiene Ausra, “In Norway, the book culture was well developed among farmers in early 19th century. Already from the late 18th century many libraries and reading societies for the farmers were founded by the clergy or by the farmers themselves, one reason for this is the early high literacy rate among the Norwegian farmers”. (Book: Good book, good library, good reading)
Creation of reading facilities accessible to all to develop a greater emphasis on reading habits in the children coping up with present and future challenges is the key. No nation ever achieved the certain level of happiness and success without adopting book reading culture. It was found, throughout the human history, reading rate of the leading nations was much higher than the nations being ruled. Study reveals that “there was a link between deprivation and not reading” the individuals, who never read books, live in more deprived areas living in darkness”. Another research indicates that frequent readers are more likely to be satisfied with life, happier and more successful in their professional lives. Modern world is the world of ideas, information and Knowledge. The nations having high reading rates have high living quality, more peace, and less crime ratios. Today, the leading nations are the nations of readers. In developed world, today i.e Japan, Korea, USA, UK, the reading rate is above 50%.. In China, it is 75%,. Koreans read 11 books on average in 2011, French 8.4, Japanese 8.4 and US citizens read some 7 books a year.
“We can achieve the goals of inclusive growth, economic development, collective happiness, internal peace and true democracy by encouraging and promoting reading as a national habit”.
The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad. He is the Chairman at Read Pakistan. He is the recipient of the ‘Quaid e Azam Medal’ for promoting reading culture. He tweets @farrukhdall he can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org