Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book Review: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

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 

When my neighbor and friend Paula Bloom raved about the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and offered to lend it to me (she'd recently moderated a webinar with Rubin for This Emotional Life/PBS), I admit I was a bit apprehensive. It wasn't that I didn't trust Paula's suggestion, it was that I wasn't sure what to expect from this book (and I had - and still have - a pile a mile high of books I need to get to already). Paula's copy was wonderfully tabbed and highlighted - so much so that I couldn't resist the lure of the whole sparkly package, so I dove in. And I found that I loved the book and can't stop talking about it.

It's another "I took a year and did something and wrote about it" book - but really, I love these kinds of books, and Rubin herself notes that she didn't know she was being trendy when she started her project. I had wondered if it was going to be a self-help/foofy/I-am-your-guru type book, but far from it, it was a regular woman - a mom, a writer - dealing with her own personal situation. It's a simple idea, actually; Rubin took a year and devoted it to figuring out the idea of happiness and how to make her own life happier. Each month she tackled an angle of her life and focused on just that - family, friendship, spirituality, hobbies - and analyzed what she could do, how she could do it, how well she did it, and whether it actually helped her be happier. She doesn't shy away from admitting when she doesn't quite do something perfectly, or when she struggles with her goals - and that was what made me warm up to the book.

She's also all about lists - great truths, secrets of adulthood, personal commandments, people who inspire her - and seriously, by now if you've read a few of my blog posts you may know that I love lists. I make them on the backs of envelopes and in TextEdit and...just everywhere. On my hand sometimes! And in the spirit of this book, I give you my little list of...

Marla's True Rules (A Work in Progress)

- Never argue online with a friend of a friend.
- Sometimes it is better to just walk away.
- If you've put someone in your past on purpose, it's probably best to keep him or her there.
- Anything worth having is worth researching first.

And because I'm "Being Marla" (as Rubin keeps saying she tries to "Be Gretchen), I can also say that I don't always follow my rules. But I try!

Rubin has a blog and an online toolbox and a bunch of other resources for those wanting to start their own projects. I don't know if I'll go that far, but then again, it is almost 2011 - a great time for starting a project like this. (Yeah, this would be a great holiday gift-y book or a January 1 get inspired-y book.) Check it. Read it. Buy it at a local indie bookstore. (sidenote: I saw another indie bookstore going out of business - this one in Chattanooga, TN - and it hurt my heart, so protect your local indie!) Be happy.

PS Hey there, Gretchen Rubin, if you happen to find your way here via Google Alerts or back links or just randomness, I have to tell you that my favorite bit was when you noted you've kept your copies of Cricket magazine. I kept all of mine for years, and then my mother made me throw away many of them (which broke my heart) - but somewhere, somewhere in a box at her house or mine, I kept the first issue (bought at a used bookstore when I was around ten or so), the 100th issue, the 10th anniversary issue, and a few other special ones. And I have the Cricket cassette. I just wanted you to know that.

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