Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Book Jacket

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places:  a city bus.  "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized.  "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter."  In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account of that year, Rubin carves out her place alongside the authors of bestselling memoirs such as Julie and Julia, The Year of Living Biblically, and Eat, Pray, Love.  With humor and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.

Rubin didn't have the option to uproot herself, nor did she really want to; instead she focused on improving her life as it was.  Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results.  She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her--and what didn't.

Her conclusions are sometimes surprising--she finds that money can buy happiness, when spent wisely; that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that "treating" yourself can make you feel worse; that venting bad feelings doesn't relieve them; that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference--and they range from the practical to the profound.

Written with charm and wit, The Happiness Project is illuminating yet entertaining, thought-provoking yet compulsively readable.  Grethen Rubin's passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire you to start your own happiness project.


This book is everything--funny, thought-provoking, and inspirational.  The last line of the book jacket is totally true.  A couple pages into the first chapter, I had already started a list of things I wanted to do, mostly centered on cleaning clutter from my house or starting artistic projects.  Rubin's experiences are invigorating!  Because she writes so honestly and simply, she makes her readers believe we can affect our happiness as well.

The wisdom that stuck out to me the most was the idea of happiness as a duty.  It's true that happiness seems a bit self-centered.  Why should I put so much effort into making myself feel better?  But Rubin shows, time after time, that our happiness directly affects others.  Emotional transference occurs, definitely, but happy people are also more likely to be charitable and kind.  It's hokey, but being happy really can change the world.

It also resonated with me that Rubin wasn't looking to change her life.  She wanted to appreciate what she had.  It is so easy to get bogged down in stress that we fail to see the little bits of beauty and joy that are a part of every day.  Taking the time to slow down and enjoy life is a lesson I know I could learn.

I loved this book, and I anticipate it will be a book I reread multiple times over the years so I can re-learn her words of wisdom.

Five out of five bluebirds.

Release Date:  December 2008
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection:  Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

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