Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well is the fourth title on the Danish phenomenon of hygge which I have read to date. I adore the whole concept, and thought that snuggling down with this on a Sunday evening when I felt unwell would be rather comforting; it was.
Wiking works at the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, an independent think-tank ‘focusing on well-being, happiness and quality of life’, which aims to ‘work towards improving the quality of life of citizens across the world’. Essentially, Wiking looks into what makes us happy. In his book, he has written extensively about different happiness surveys, and how hygge contributes to the Danes being consistently voted the happiest nation on earth.
I read one review of The Little Book of Hygge which writes that it adds little to the slew of existing books. I thought that I would challenge this viewpoint, which I found to be false, by formulating a list of all of the things about hygge that Wiking has taught me. Here goes…
- The literal translation of the Danish for candle, levende lys, means ‘living lights’ (which is just delightful).
- 28% of Danes light candles every day.
- Only 47% of Danes believe that hygge can be translated into other languages and societies.
- The Danes believe that autumn is the most hyggelig season.
- Tokka is the word for a large herd of reindeer in Finnish. (Not necessarily a fact about hygge, I know, but linguistically interesting nonetheless; it has no parallels in other languages).
- Sondagshygge is hygge specific to Sundays; it revolves around ‘having a slow day with tea, books, music, blankets and perhaps the occasional walk if things go crazy’. (My favourite kind of day, no less).
- Per head, Danes eat 8.2 kilograms of sweets annually; this is second only to Finland, and twice the European average.
- In Danish fashion, a ‘scarf is a must’.
- Braised pigs’ cheeks, and ‘twisting bread’, for which there are recipes here, sound really tasty.
The Little Book of Hygge is very soothing, and includes many lists of ways in which hygge can be incorporated into any life. The illustrations and photographs are a really nice touch, and the whole has been peppered with interesting charts and facts. The ‘hygge dictionary’ is also lovely, and the structure, which is broken into different chapters following such things as ‘Food and Drink’ and ‘Clothing’, works marvellously. The idea of making a hygge survival kit is absolutely darling. In all, I would say that Wiking does add to the concept of hygge, and the books which already exist about it; it would be a lovely addition to any bookshelf, or an incredibly thoughtful gift for a dear friend.