Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin Book Review

Cover from Goodreads
Title: 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
Author: Gretchen Rubin
Published: December 29, 2009 by Harper

Plot Summary:
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. Gretchen 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.

Funny story: I actually began reading this last summer, just before I went to Philadelphia.My friend Katie recommended it to me, and I really wanted to read it. I got it from the library, I read about half of it, then I went on my trip. When I came back, my mom had returned it without me finishing it. And it took me another year to get the book again and start reading it again.

The concept of a happiness project itself was interesting enough to me, but I really enjoyed the way the author organized it. I realize this is nonfiction and she's not a "character", but I found her easy to relate to. I loved how thorough her research was before she began her project. It wasn't a half-hearted New Year's Resolution.She was committed to doing this project the entire year.

As for the project itself, there were some months I found incredibly interesting and helpful, others not so much. I really liked January, for instance, as I was fascinated on how she increased her energy. The chapters on friendships and books were also really interesting.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Reading nonfiction for a change was definitely fun, and if you are looking to branch out, I would definitely recommend this book as a jumping off point.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? If not, what do you think about the idea of a happiness project? Is it something you would try? Let me know in the comments.

Note: Also, since the school year is starting back up again, this means I'll have less time for blogging again. However, I am hoping to get a post up every Saturday. Sometimes it will be a book review, sometimes it won't be.