Thirty-eight illuminating essays, reviews, and lectures by a legendary teacher in the Great Books program at St. John’s College
The essays of Pursuits of Happiness are articulations of Eva Brann’s "vocational" happiness of thinking things through. To Ms. Brann our inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness is the right not to an “endless chase,” but rather the right to the actual practice of happiness, as in the “pursuit of a vocation.” With essays like “Tips on Reading Homer” and “The Greatness of Great Books” she keeps at her calling: to understand the world around us, and between us, to listen to our inner self-talk, and to consider what comes, perhaps, from beyond us.
"“[Brann] is a person of many strong interests. The central chapter of this book, 'On Being Interested,' offers a road map to staying happy: cultivate real interests . . . For John Locke and his disciple Thomas Jefferson, happiness is not pleasure. Like those precursors, Brann teaches Americans to free themselves from attachment to superficial gratifications and to pursue a higher-quality contentment with life. She locates this contentment in our ‘interestedness.’ . . . As an American, my encounter with Brann’s work calls me back to a sense of my own good fortune. Against a keening background noise of lament—over the economy, the climate, the pandemic, the predations of technology, crime—Eva Brann’s bright witness lifts me up and out.”—Peggy Ellsberg, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Brann holds us steady in a world that sometimes seems chaotic . . . At this time, the loudest voices among us are dystopian, and spoken language is losing all civility. If you want a change from this, Pursuits of Happiness is a good place to start. Here’s a fascinating, independent-minded writer whose words connect us to living more fully toward a more beneficial life — thought-forms as catalysts."—Washington Independent Review of Books
“Eva Brann leads us into the imaginations and the perplexities of Milton, Socrates, and Mann, and gets us to delight with her in so many things: from Jane Austen’s scorpion-like sentences to Lincoln’s appreciation of Macbeth, to her musings about her engagement with ancient Greek pots when she was a young archeologist in Athens. Reading her thrilling thoughts about Hypothesis, Being, and the Good is more than the pursuit of happiness: it is sheer happiness.”—Barry Mazur, author of Imagining Numbers: (particularly the square root of minus fifteen)
“Eva Brann’s Pursuits of Happiness is engrossing—appropriate for the topic at hand. I couldn’t help but be completely captivated. The essays are serious and playful at the same time. I often laughed from sheer joy in the middle of thinking through and reading about the interests we hold and that hold us. Brann’s reflections on interest elicit that pleasure which is inevitable when we authentically explore the things we love with someone else. She provides here that exciting opportunity to thoughtfully engage with our humanity through the particulars of a soul looking closely at itself in the middle of things.”—Amritpal Singh, PhD student at Cornell University and St. John’s College Graduate, 2015
Eva Brann is a recipient of the National Humanities Medal. Her other books include How to Constitute a World, Doublethink / Doubletalk, Then & Now, Un-Willing, The Logos of Heraclitus, Feeling Our Feelings, Homage to Americans, Open Secrets / Inward Prospects, The Music of the Republic, and Homeric Moments (all published by Paul Dry Books).