Category: Self Help 
Our ancestors came to this country to escape intolerance. Two and a half centuries later, we --- well, many of us --- have become the kind of people our ancestors fled.
Fun? Oh, we' re against it. In every form. Because fun leads to self-indulgence, which leads to....well, the old right answer is "pleasure" and the new one is "ruin."
Smoke? Don't be crazy. Drink? Sure, if you want to die young. Eat? At your peril. Do nothing? Poverty awaits.
As a result, we have --- well, many of us --- dull lives that only Calvinists would admire. In the pursuit of black-and-white certainty or eternal life or whatever it is we're seeking, we've not only banished gray, we've sent color packing. We may die miserable, but we'll be perfect corpses.
Barbara Holland is having none of this. Like Martin Luther, she has tacked her 67 theses --- okay, one-to-three page essays --- onto the church door of our culture. "Free yourself," she cries, in the spirit of Zorba the Greek. "Take off your belt and live."
This is a dangerous woman. I think I'm in love.
Here, for example, are some activities, sensations and experiences --- oh, let's just call then "thrills" --- that Barbara Holland endorses: "The cold and limey rattle of a vodka-tonic being walked across the lawn. Finishing our tax returns. The smells of the morning paper, cut grass, and old leather jackets. Finding a taxi in a downpour; clean sheets; singing to ourselves in the car."
Nice. But make no mistake. "Endangered Pleasures" is not just a collection of lists. Barbara Holland writes beautifully --- whereas pleasure-haters can't write at all --- on every subject she embraces. She's wry. Sly. And, on occasion, downright funny.
The first essay, "Waking Up," sets the tone. It begins: "Obviously the best possible time to wake up is in the June of our tenth year, on the first day of summer vacation." What kills me in that sentence? "Obviously." Said with the assurance of that ten-year-old.
Barbara Holland's ideal breakfast: "A glass of cold champagne and a perfectly ripe pear, perhaps with a spoonful of caviar eaten straight from the jar." Clothes for men, she feels, would be improved by the return of "lace cuffs and velvet breeches." Cigarettes after sex say "I am here" and "So am I." How can you justify a nap? "A perfectly healthy cat can nap through the entire month of February and wake up feeling better for it." Don't drink only at home: "A good bar is a great joy in life and a fine place to be after the day's work." Restaurants? "Expensive and worth every penny." One of the "great unsung pleasures" is...Sunday-morning sex. Sports rule --- because they're fair.
Along the way, Holland offers good advice: When visiting, bring coffee that's ground from beans, lest your host believe that "instant" and "coffee" belong in the same sentence and leave you slurping Nescafe. Bare feet, whenever possible. Fight your inner lemming.
"Certain things were put upon this earth for our enjoyment," she writes, "and it's wasteful and wicked to condemn them." Certain people too. I would consider it an honor to lick the memory of vodka from Ms. Holland's lips. But curling up with her book on a sunny afternoon when I ought to be doing something useful will do just as well.
To buy "Endangered Pleasures" from Amazon.com, click here.