The Happiness Project: Book by Gretchen Rubin

Dear Reader:

I was able to get#145) The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin from my library and I read it over the past couple of weeks, about one chapter a day.

Gretchen is a professional writer who has published, among other books, biographies of JFK and Churchill.  You can see a list of her books here (and by the way, though I sometimes link to sites where you can acquire books or otherwise spend money, I don’t benefit if you click through and/or buy something – I’ve chosen not to pursue this as I think it clutters the purpose of this blog and feels a little tainted, although I think it is a fine thing for people to do and some of my fave bloggers – like ILMK’s Bufo Calvin do this).  She was the mildly depressive, slightly dissatisfied, overly critical and cranky, but generally doing quite well, wife of Jamie and mother of two young girls, living in New York City.

Gretchen got inspired to try to work on some of the aspects of herself that she liked less.  And so she started on her goal of spending a year getting happier.  But I think a title for her book that would have been more accurate and appealed more to a certain segment of readings is something like this: The Year I Set Out to Make My Life Richer.  Somehow “Happiness Project” sounds a bit trite, although the book is doing extremely well and her blog Happiness Project is also very successful.

Being an organizer and researcher, she approached her “year of” task (and I’m sure you’ve all encountered this popular “year of” type book, but did you know it has its own genre?  “stunt nonfiction”) by reading heavily and laying out resolutions for each month with underlying activities and goals for each.  Her chapters are divided into segments that discuss her experience pursuing each one.  For instance, September’s theme was “Pursue a Passion” and she chose, not surprisingly, books (one of her adult wisdom rules is “Be Gretchen” – although she may have wished to have other passions, she realized that books: reading, writing, discussing them, is her primary passion) and resolved to 1) Write a novel, 2) Make time (to read), 3) Forget about the Results, and 4) Master a new Technology  – all revolving around books.

Having already created her blog in an earlier month, she sets out to learn how to have a “real” book made out of the blank books that she loves to fill with ephemera by herself and with her daughters.  She does this through the Lulu.com site.  You may have heard about the NaNoWriMo November write a novel project.  People around the world spend November writing heavily every day and end up with a novel (not necessarily a good one!) at the end.  And Gretchen follows their guidelines to create her own 50,000 word book.  She has a lot of fun and is pleased with the result even if it may be fairly unreadable.

Throughout the book, she describes her challenges, successes, and experiences – some fantastic, some unsuccessful, but in total, all worth it.  She isn’t dogmatic – if something isn’t working, she’ll stop in the middle.  By the end, she’s learned a lot, got amazing new connections (through her blog, through her new children’s literature book group), knows herself better, treats her family and friends better, and is, yes, happier.

I very much enjoyed this book.  I liked how Gretchen treated the subject in a very pragmatic way – not in a saccharine, new agey manner, but rather through sucking up lots of wisdom from many sources, learning a lot, and putting a lot of energy into enriching her life.  She is an engaging writer and a very logical thinker and is unafraid to be self-critical, in fact, she’s often brutally honest about herself.  I found her lessons and projects quite interesting – we share a lot of interests and a lot of what she discusses is practical, not necessarily earth-shattering, but definitely true.

It is a great time to take up the goal of enriching our lives as we approach 2012.  If this is a goal for you, this book and her blog would be valuable tools in your pursuit and I think that you would enjoy both.

Any New Year’s resolutions for you?

Happy Reading, Ruby

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