My American Unhappiness

By Dean Bakopoulos
(Mariner Books, Paperback, 9780547549101, 277pp.)

Publication Date: July 3, 2012

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"Bakopoulos has invented a man for all rainy seasons--a horny, heartbroken cousin of Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe." --Tom Piazza
"A winning distraction, a smart entertainment." --"New York Times Book Review "
A clairvoyant when it comes to the Starbucks orders, a renegade when it comes to bureaucracy, Zeke asks almost everybody he meets, "Why are you so unhappy?" The answers he receives--a mix of true sadness and absurd complaint--become the core of an obsessive project, "The Inventory of American Unhappiness," a project that becomes all the more personally meaningful as he follows steps outlined in a women's magazine on finding the perfect mate. Incisively tapping the voice of one of the most charming--and deluded--narrators to come along in years, Dean Bakopolous captures our zeitgeist with lacerating wit and a big heart, confirming Jonathan Miles's (author of "Dear American Airlines") claim that "there's no such thing as unhappiness when you're holding a Dean Bakopolous novel."
"Hilarious and heartfelt . . . This funny-sad novel seems to take elements of the author's own life . . . and twists them in a funhouse mirror--with delightful results." --NPR.

About the Author
Dean Bakopoulos is the author of the New York Times Notable Book Please Don't Come Back from the Moon and My American Unhappiness. He holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is the winner of a Guggenheim fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. He is the writer-in-residence at Grinnell College, and lives in Iowa.

Conversation Starters from


  1. Zeke’s story, though universal in its sense of loss and loneliness, is woven tightly into the experience of midwestern Americans during the post-9/11 “Dubya” years. What kinds of cues does the author use to create a sense of time and place in the novel? Do you think it would have worked equally well set in another part of the country, or in another era?

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