Book Review: The Happiness Project

19 Jan

Babysitting Monday night, was searching through Facebook on my phone. I noticed that Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project was doing some book signings at the Bay and Bloor Chapters (man, that place is hopping lately).

Didn’t think much of it, other than it would have been nice to go.

When I got home that night, turns out He had also seen that she was doing signings as he read T.O. Night on his way home. He came home, grabbed my copy, booted it back, and got it signed for me! Yup, all that and he does laundry too.

I was really pleased – I enjoyed Rubin’s book and for a little while tried to keep up with some of her suggestions to find ways to increase my own happiness. They didn’t stick, but I like the book nonetheless. Therefore, we thought it would make for a timely review.

Title: The Happiness Project
Author: Gretchen Rubin

Things I Liked:

Rubin kind of makes her own rules. She does a lot of research for her book and talks about different strategies other people have for being happy, but ultimately, she does her own thing. One example of this I liked is when she’s talking about book clubs. She likes the idea of them, but ultimately doesn’t want to discuss those lofty topics that in my mind, always occur in book clubs (totally paraphrasing all over here, since it’s been a couple months since I’ve read this). So what does she do? She starts her own book club – on kid lit. She gets a group of friends together and they talk about fun kids books. I love this. In university I took a course on children’s literature and it was one of the most interesting courses I took in my four years there. We discussed good vs. evil, typically story guidelines for kids books, and made some fairly complex analysis of these books. I have no idea if that’s what Rubin did in her book club, but I think it’s awesome that she created something she wanted to do.

In Chapter 9, Rubin talks about taking notes. I don’t mean research notes, or lecture notes, or any of that boring shiz, I mean a literal note – just something that popped into your head that you don’t want to forget. She talks about how she used to discourage this in herself, since it takes a lot of time and energy – and I mean really, how often do you actually use them?

I liked this because (surprise surprise) I do this all the time. In highschool I actually carried around a notebook with me that I would  jot future baby names, really funny jokes, or complex theories about why my friends were probably becoming aliens (hey, I was totally cool, but seriously, I was pretty convinced my friends were turning into aliens and were acting all weird. It also made for an acceptable reason why my first boyfriend broke up with me). I still keep notes like this all around the house, at work and in my phone. Lists of clothes I want to buy, the words to a song I want to download (but never will), presents I think would be great for people and just general things I hear that I think are really funny.

These notes are hilarious to look back on and remind me of a lot of really funny times that I’m glad I can remember.  Rubin talks about how her notes eventually were huge helps when she started writing a few notes, and okay, maybe mine won’t be that useful someday. But at least mine are damn funny.

Things I Didn’t Like:

The book can be a little preachy. It’s easy to be talking about what makes you happy when you’re writing a book on it. But overall, I found myself thinking some of the time that how can she not be happy… and why does she need to go on this massive quest to become so? I mean, I have my bad days sure, but rarely do I ever think to myself, “I’m totally not happy.” In fact, I’d say it’s the opposite. At least once a day something totally awesome will happen that I’ll be extremely thankful for, and I’m able to recognize how wicked it is – even if it’s only that my work bought my favorite kind of cookie and I didn’t even have to request it.

I guess it doesn’t matter whether I thought it was preachy anyway – I definitely made my own half-assed happiness plan afterwards, that I completely forgot about soon after.

Update: Just noticed that She Does The City posted their take on the book after being invited to a breakfast with Gretchen – this makes me wish I had been able to go to the signing even more! I liked their look at the book though – they’re trying to make changes to make themselves happier, but they realize it ain’t gonna happen overnight.

Result:

I’d buy this book again. Though not in hardcover, like I did, impatient book-fiend that I am. I like consciously thinking about happiness and I think the more you think about it, the easier you’re able to recognize those little happy moments in your day. Plus – signed copy! Maybe it’ll be worth something some day?

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