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The Wishing Year: An Experiment in Desire

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  697 Ratings  ·  158 Reviews
One New Year’s Day, Noelle Oxenhandler took stock of her life and found that she was alone after a long marriage, seemingly doomed to perpetual house rental and separated from the spiritual community that once had sustained her. With little left to lose, she launched a year’s experiment in desire, forcing herself to take the plunge and try the path of Putting It Out There. ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by Random House
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Teresa K
Sep 07, 2010 Teresa K rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008, travel
I read this book after receiving it as an early reviewer. The book says that If you loved Eat, Pray, Love then you'll love this. Well I really loved "Eat" but in an entirely different way. "Eat' was a retelling of a spiritual/religious journey, where this book retold a woman's journey in discovering how to want material things and how to wish for them and strive for them. Kind of how to prioritize what’s important in life and that’s it’s ok to want ‘things’.

The author, Noelle Oxenhandler is a di
Julie Ehlers
I first read this book about six years ago, and I remember very little about that reading experience except that I loved it. This time around, I wasn't feeling it at first--the memoir parts seemed corny, and they didn't sit well next to all the research the author kept bringing in. But things improved as the book went on and I think I ended up loving it just as much this time, except possibly for different reasons. There's definitely a lot of wisdom in this book, never more so than when ...more
To be perfectly honest this book was a bit slow going for me.

However, I think the aspect of this book that resonated with me the most is the concept of "practice." To practice gratitude every day, to be willing to take the time to clarify/flesh out your dreams/wishes, to acknowledge the existence of wishes, to actively engage in tangible wishing, and to practice being open to knowing what to do to make it possible, like creating space, for wishes and dreams to manifest. Then there is the idea of
Wendy Jackson
Mar 04, 2016 Wendy Jackson rated it it was amazing
I am a sucker for memoirs of the "year of" variety (e.g., My Year of Meat, The Happiness Project, A Year of Magical Thinking), which was the original reason I randomly plucked it from the library shelf. I was not sure what to expect, but I found it to be one of those books that pretty much guarantees sleep deprivation and anti-social behaviour. What resonated with me was the author's ongoing struggle to reconcile the practice of wishing/desiring with that of detachment/acceptance. Her research ...more
Aug 11, 2008 Robin rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who like to read life changing memoirs
Recommended to Robin by: read a review/saw an ad
This is a book that I borrowed from the library and when it came in, I started reading it at dinner even though I had at least three other books already going at work plus my stacks at home! Why? It was that intriguing to me that this woman used the power of positive wishing to change her life in positive ways. Reading this book gave me some ideas about relationships in my life and how to change things. Her story is similar to mine in certain ways as well, especially having to do with the loss ...more
Madison Mcgraw
Aug 02, 2008 Madison Mcgraw rated it liked it
While Noelle writes lyrically and paints characters with beautiful brush strokes, 3/4 of the way into the book, I wished I had her phone number so I could call her up and tell her to stop whining.
Noelle intended to start the New Year and see if things like "The Secret" and "Law of Attraction" actually work. And though time and time again, she was met with serendipity, she constantly threw all surprise bouquet's of happiness to the ground and stomped all over good fortune.
Still, a worthy read,
Mar 26, 2009 Terry rated it really liked it
One reviewer described Oxenhandler as a "Buddhist Anne Lamott"--perfect description. Really intriguing premise; I learned so much about the philosophy and beliefs behind our "wish" system. Who knew there could be so much to this? Oxenhandler is having a midlife crisis, but this could pertain to quarter-lifers too. Dovetailed nicely with The Florist's Daughter by Patricia Hampl--and this one is happier. Oxenhandler is coming to the Fairfield Library this summer as a speaker.I can't wait!
Mar 27, 2011 Gail rated it it was amazing
The front jacket of this book describes this book as "charming, compelling, and joyful." Indeed, and so much more. I haven't enjoyed a book so much in years. I've written dozens of notes in this book, and am continually drawn back to it because it Noelle Oxenhandler is so pragmatic and hopeful. She learns about "putting it out there" by observing the behaviors of her almost mythic friend, Carole, who, says Noelle, "seems to assume her right to earthly happiness." Noelle's determination to pursue ...more
Jun 04, 2009 Aimee rated it it was amazing
This was also a memoir but this time by a well-published author (nope- haven't read any of her other books or various articles). I thought the subject matter was very interesting though. She concentrates on a year in her life where she wants to make her wishes for the future and to make a conscious effort to make them become reality. Noelle is a practicing buddhist (a familiar vein with me I guess) who explores her own hesitation about wishing for too much and the societal pressures that are ...more
Sep 21, 2008 Happyreader rated it really liked it
A Buddhist decides to explore desire, overcome her natural pessimism, and make three wishes for the new year. While grappling with the strong reactions that come up for her as a result of putting her wishes out there, all of which come true, she actively researches the deeper spiritual meanings attached to wishing. Her skepticism and reluctance rescue the book from becoming too New Agey and simplistic.

I especially appreciated her exploring her attachment to suffering, the importance of being cle
Nov 28, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it
In an effort to be more frugal, I borrowed this book from the library. However, I like it so much I have now ordered it from Amazon while still reading my library copy. (I declind the Kindle version because this one of those books that I really need to be able to flip through while reading.)

It is the true story of a skeptical woman's experiment in wishing for three things in her life: to buy a house, to find a significant other, and to get a deeper spiritual connection. The author discusses man
Jan 01, 2009 Matt rated it it was ok
I didn't have very high expectations for this book but it was ok. Noelle Oxenhandler is a good writer which makes the book compelling to read.

Summary: Ms. Oxenhandler, a self professed skeptic and pessimist, buys a bunch of books about "the power of wishing" (yes, apparently this is its own sub-genera) and reads them so you don't have to.

Although as the book goes along it becomes apparent that her brand of skepticism is somewhat less harsh than mine, or at least less rigidly confined by scien
Aug 22, 2009 Elixxir rated it liked it
I wouldn't have expected a book about wishing would take itself so seriously. No matter how much research you do to provide as many viewpoints as possible it's always going to remain anecdotal not scientific evidence. So why not have more fun with it? She concludes little more than that wishing is focused attention. No!! Really?!! What a shocker, though thankfully not THE shocker.

That said, in the midst of the book I lost my wallet while on a walk and immediately put my hand over my heart and sa
May 30, 2009 Peggy rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book immensely. It is a charming exploration of "wishing/desiring" in the author's life as well as down through the ages. The 12 chapters follow the 12 months of a year that begins with 3 wishes. The author includes quotes on the subject of wishing from dozens of sources from St. Paul, to Emily Dickinson, to Carl Jung. She also references other authors/books which I liked. She explores (both cynically and comically) whether there is any power or magic in wishing: in her personal ...more
May 19, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it
I know, I know ... This Ohioan needs another self-fulfillment book written by a world traveler who lives in the sunny clime of California or Hawaii like a hole in her head. But darned if I didn't sit down, walk around and read Noelle's story over two days. And I would like Noelle know that my reading coincided with a spate of two sunny days. Here, we're liberal with the definition of spate. Ha, ha.

I haven't told you about the book only its impact on me. Read it for yourself.

Jul 09, 2009 Robin rated it it was ok
If I wanted to hear someone ramble, I could just tape myself. While some of the references were interesting, and Noelle has obviously done her homework on the topic of wishing, I found the tone to be whiney (like someone else said) and there was a lot of rambling on from topic to topic. I prefer to espouse to positive psychology, which she refers to negatively at one point, instead of making shrines and using rituals to make your wishes come true....a little hokey for my taste...
Mar 09, 2009 Amanda rated it it was amazing
This book was really entertaining, eye opening and just pleasant to read. I have not read many memoirs before but this one got my thinking that I might enjoy this genre more than expected. I have already recommended this book to my mother. Reading this book was like sitting down with a girlfriend and listening to her personal journey. It was a well written and relevant book for anyone who is wishing for just little bit more out of life.
Kasey Jueds
Jul 30, 2009 Kasey Jueds rated it it was amazing
I picked this up at our local library, knowing nothing about it, and was so, so glad I had. Noelle Oxenhandler is wise and funny and thoughtful, and she writes about wishing (a subject that so easily could become ridiculously new age-y and about 3 inches deep) with heart, intelligence, and a healthy dose of cynicism. I loved this book so much I felt sad to return it to the library, and had to buy myself a copy.
Mar 23, 2009 paula rated it it was amazing
A rational, level-headed woman near 50 decides to take an eccentric friend's advise and put her desires "out there." They include: a home, a man, and the deepening of her spirituality. All happen while she scientifically researches the nature of wishing. This true story is interesting and inspiring.
Sep 19, 2010 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes, it's a book about wishing for what you want. But, some digressions aside, the author focuses on examples of how the process works, including some cases where it's worked, though not necessarily in the way expected. Recommended (for those with an open mind).
Oct 03, 2016 Katie rated it it was ok
The author came off as flaky and self-absorbed. It grew tiresome after awhile.
Apr 20, 2013 Carrie rated it really liked it
I came across this book in my Mondo Beyondo 'Dreaming' class, Noelle Oxenhandler had an interview about this book in the class. I would probably rate this book at 4.5 stars if Goodreads allowed half stars. Noelle has a beautiful writing style and she has done a lot of research on dreaming and tells a lot of stories in this book of other peoples (including her own) wishes coming true. She does do a little quoting of some books she has read, but the quote she took from Paul Pearsall's Wishing Well ...more
Jan 28, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
I think that wishing makes a lot of logical sense. Consciously expressing your desires, reserving that space in your brain, forcing a wish to the forefront of your mind is very likely to inspire you to take action. You wish you could sing more and because you are thinking about singing, suddenly you start noticing signs for singing lessons and flyers for choirs seeking new members. You wish your kitchen was cleaner and more organized so you decide to check out some organization books from the ...more
Maria Menozzi
May 25, 2015 Maria Menozzi rated it really liked it
I found this book in the library and not on the memoir shelf. It was in the personal essay collection. It was a surprise find and one reason I LOVE MY LIBRARY! This book is good precisely because it reads more like a lengthy essay than a memoir. It is part memoir and part essay. The author has a particular focus and takes us on the journey with her to see if "wishes" come true and what is it about the act or art of wishing that allows us to manifest what we believe is our heart's desire. The ...more
Sep 07, 2010 Vicky rated it liked it
"The wising year" is an interesting book with the same idea as "The Secret", "What the Bleep do we know" and the "Law of attraction", "Eat, pray, love". I mean the idea that if you wish for something with clear image, precision and with strong intention, you'll attract the result. I only started this book and already have some plans to experiment with the suggested steps of attracting the outcomes of my wishes into my life. I like the description of the difference between the 'desire' and the 'w ...more
Carolyn Hill
Apr 18, 2016 Carolyn Hill rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this memoir from writer Noelle Oxenhandler on a year in which she decided to examine and then put into practice the concept of wishing. A natural skeptic, with a 'tilt toward a certain pessimistic melancholy,' she is not a rah-rah proponent of positivity, wishful thinking, or 'putting it out there.' She is a Buddhist by choice, of Catholic and Jewish parents, so brings an understanding of these different religious perspectives. Her initial reaction to the idea of wishing is that it ...more
Feb 16, 2015 Ruth rated it liked it

This book was just fine. It is about expressing your wishes and how they can come true. The author submits to a process, and despite skepticism, things start to happen. She describes, with great humor and humility her quest for three things. One of them is for a man, and it does come true, he fits the list of what she wanted. But, she forgot to wish for a man who was financially solvent, so she had to learn how to date a poor school teacher who lived in a boarding house. That was amusing.

She is
Dec 07, 2008 Kelli rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who liked Under the Tuscan Sun
Despite a few pages that I skimmed through, I found this book intriguing, honest, and down to earth. For anyone woman who has found themselves in a life that wasn't what they had imagined for themselves, this book is a good look at how small steps can make bigger changes. It also explores the question of how can you be both spiritual and have money.

It's the writers voice that makes this book so satisfying. I have to mention in this review that I did like Under a Tuscan Sun, a book a couple frie
Victoria Olsen
Aug 25, 2009 Victoria Olsen rated it really liked it
Just finished this is in a torrent of reading on trains and planes and beaches.... I hesitated to buy it because I thought the idea was the whole thing. That is, I assumed the author's idea to spend a year focusing on three deep wishes (for a man in her life, spiritual health, and a house of her own) was interesting and useful enough as a concept that I didn't need to read the actual book.
But I'm glad I did. Oxenhandler is more nuanced and philosophical than Elizabeth Gilbert, whose book is othe
Jul 16, 2011 Siegrist rated it really liked it
Noelle Oxenhandler is a Buddhist whose life has been characterised by an approach to the material world she calls "spiritual poverty" and in this year of wishing she explores the relationship of the spiritual to the material, to abundance. Noelle's three wishes are for a love, a home and a reconnection with her spiritual community. Really this book is beautiful and challenging. Beautiful because her writing is beautiful, especially her sense of place. Challenging because it relates to a midlife ...more
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“Wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which one fills up faster.” 13 likes
“There is something so absurd about time and how it has simultaneously preserved and demolished our faces.” 1 likes
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