Rubin first popped onto my radar as a happiness blogger at Slate while she was working on her first book. That blog was pretty thorough, and the book...moreRubin first popped onto my radar as a happiness blogger at Slate while she was working on her first book. That blog was pretty thorough, and the book that resulted seemed both to hew closely to the blog and to be more theoretical than anything I was looking for. I continued to sporadically check in with her blog at her own website, though, and went on a big reading binge about a month or so before Happier at Homecame out in paperback. That coincided nicely with some things that were going on in my own life, so I picked it up.
Happier at Home is organized thematically by months in the school year, after Rubin decided to make more of an effort to put into practice the lessons she learned writing The Happiness Project. Even though she often refers back to that book, she makes an effort to clearly elucidate the relevant theory. Happier at Home relies strongly on Rubin's personal experience, which is both a strength and a weakness. It means that all of the actions she takes are grounded in action, and she writes engagingly about seeing them through to their conclusion. At the same time, strategies that don't work for her - and she's very open about the fact that they may very well work for someone else - don't get as much space. There were even some practices that did work out for Rubin, like "Enter into the Interests of Others" from "November: Parenthood" that only received a few pages, but I would have liked to have read about much more. It also seemed to me that the chapters got shorter as the year went on, irrespective of what their contents merited, but I'm not sure if that was due to editing or my perception.
Fundamentally, Rubin makes an effort to ensure that her book is useful, and I appreciate that. There's a section at the back summarizing her "Eight Splendid Truths" and "Secrets to Adulthood" that might be particularly valuable to someone unfamiliar with her work to read first, as an overview of her worldview and priorities. Overall this is a book I'm looking forward to referring back to.
Many aspects of my life contributed to my feeling of hurry. Time might seem to be a very separate issue from possessions, for example, but I'd noticed that after I tackled clutter, not only did our apartment seem more spacious and organized, I also felt less hurried, because I could find and stow things easily. Having more order in my cabinets and closets made me feel as though I had more time in my day.
One last thing I feel compelled to note - Rubin often mentions on her blog that she thinks the ending to Happier at Home is "the best thing she's ever written." It definitely captures the overall feeling of the book, even though it's one of the most abstract chapters.(less)
"Margaret told me that she has heard talk that Sarah was not actually ill on the night of the musicale and was instead trying to spoil the concert." An...more "Margaret told me that she has heard talk that Sarah was not actually ill on the night of the musicale and was instead trying to spoil the concert." Anne did not know who Margaret was, but it could not be denied that the lady was well informed.(less)
Sorry, Richard (can I call you Dick?). Maybe you were going for minimalist poetics, but your language was too simple to keep me interested. I can appr...moreSorry, Richard (can I call you Dick?). Maybe you were going for minimalist poetics, but your language was too simple to keep me interested. I can appreciate understatement, but for me your vague gestures never added up to a compelling whole. Fantastic title, though.(less)
I think this got iffy reviews, but it worked really well for me. The intertwining lives of upwardly mobile - moving - Londoners. Class consciousness,...moreI think this got iffy reviews, but it worked really well for me. The intertwining lives of upwardly mobile - moving - Londoners. Class consciousness, gentrification, and women growing up - check check and check. That's basically my life right now. The author casually throws in some points cultural references that - for some readers - may come off as contrived, but to me felt right in how they were experienced in my own life: for example, the way every car passing by seemed to be playing MJ on the night Michael Jackson died. It helps that Zadie Smith is just a really good writer.
Sometimes bitterness makes a grab for Leah. Pulls her down, holds her. What was the point of it all? Three years of useless study. Out of pocket, out of depth. It was only philosophy in the first place because she was scared of dying and thought it might help and because she could not add or draw or remember lists of facts or speak a language other than her own. In the university prospectus, an italic script over a picture of the Firth of Forth: Philosophy is learning how to die. Philosophy is listening to warbling posh boys, it is being more bored than you have ever been in your life, more bored than you thought it possible to be.(less)
I checked this out expecting a memoir of drunkenness. Instead, it's more about the author's need to find balance through forces outside of herself. Th...moreI checked this out expecting a memoir of drunkenness. Instead, it's more about the author's need to find balance through forces outside of herself. There are certainly episodes of intoxication. But Karr doesn't shy away from examining why she did it, and seeking is a character trait that never really goes away. She's as nakedly honest as a good memoirist should be, and writes beautifully. This made me want to read her poetry.
You could say I needed God then, which notion would've gagged me like a maggot. But if you're a nonbeliever, replace the word God with truth or mercy. To kill truth to defend my fear was--in one way--to kill God. ...Without truth, I was blind, worshipping my own fear-driven thoughts, and the ground beneath me never stopped heaving.(less)
I think I will be thinking about this book for a long time. It is an arrestingly well-written "autobiography" of the shamelessly megalomaniacal medica...moreI think I will be thinking about this book for a long time. It is an arrestingly well-written "autobiography" of the shamelessly megalomaniacal medical doctor who discovers a long-lost tribe in the South Pacific, bringing them to the world's attention and himself to fame and fortune. The author did a stunning job of creating a character who's blind to his own flaws, and inadvertently alerts us to them through his judgements of others. It's ultimately a novel about trade-offs: How much are we willing to give up in pursuit of scientific knowledge? How many peculiarities are we willing to overlook in the name of genius? The author's refusal to offer up easy answers means this book will stick with me for a long, long time.(less)
I really wanted to like this book, because it's such a great concept... but honestly, I found it to be kind of boring. I gave it to my dad for his bir...moreI really wanted to like this book, because it's such a great concept... but honestly, I found it to be kind of boring. I gave it to my dad for his birthday, which was a great choice for him, but probably I should've just left it at that.
May 13 1997 Dreaming of a more civilized place to raise my children, I swerve to avoid a cab that stops short, . . . whereupon a bicyclist calls me a cock and accuses me of trying to kill him. Meaning to explain that I had narrowly averted an accident and to inquire after his welfare, I say instead, "F-ck you, *sshole, I wish I had killed you." Rachel finds my behavior disturbing and wonders if I see too many violent movies. I am convinced it is the sugar from all those wedding cakes, or possibly the Tab. - David Edelstein
July 4 1837 Well, the Americans may have great reason to be proud of this day, and of the deeds of their forefathers, but why do they get so confoundedly drunk? Why on this day of independence, should they become so dependent upon posts and rails for support? - Capt. Frederick Marryat
July 24 1910 Walked out for the Press and stopped a while in Madison Square where I surreptitiously left three copies of "The Appeal to Reason" Socialist Weekly (very rabid) on the benches in the fond hope of spoiling someone's peace of mind. - John Sloan
October 9 1869 Application from three infatuated young women for admission to Law School. No woman shall degrade herself by practicing law, in N[ew] Y[ork] especially, if I can save her. - George Templeton Strong
Okay, now I probably made this book sound awesome, but bear in mind the previous quotes were cherry-picked just for you out of 400+ pages! But then, you'll probably like it a lot if you're into this sort of thing.(less)
I enjoyed reading this, because it's beautifully written, but it doesn't give the reader any answers. I guess because the desert doesn't give its own...moreI enjoyed reading this, because it's beautifully written, but it doesn't give the reader any answers. I guess because the desert doesn't give its own answers, even though some of the characters find them there. It's a little cosmic, there are lots of jumps in time and narration - I think a patient reader will be rewarded.
There was applause. The host hugged, patted, performed the holding of the wrists. She smelled of some powerful lilac deoderant. She smelled like an office bathroom. They sat down on the couch. We're so glad. Our harts. Such a difficult. Tell me.(less)
I've watched and enjoyed quite a few of Smith's movies, and after hearing him on NPR, I was very interested in this book. And while it's fun to read a...moreI've watched and enjoyed quite a few of Smith's movies, and after hearing him on NPR, I was very interested in this book. And while it's fun to read about his early days, I did get tired of the gee-whiz-I'm-so-independent! shtick that predominates the latter half of the book. I get it: He has rabid fans, he can do better financially and enjoy his life more by being self-distributing. That is awesome for him. But he shouldn't be pretending that a book about how successful he is can give regular people helpful life advice. It all got a little too humblebraggy for my taste. I would recommend it for superfans, but Smith assures me you'll have already read it (and listened to the podcast, paid to see it live, etc).(less)
Okay, I would have liked this one a lot better if they had been faster to realize that they really, really dug each other. The heroine got up to some...moreOkay, I would have liked this one a lot better if they had been faster to realize that they really, really dug each other. The heroine got up to some pretty fun shenanigans in order to demonstrate how independent she is, that she's not going to marry anyone she doesn't want to marry, blah blah blah. But it's obvious from the get-go that they're extremely interested in each other. Like, a lot. The arbitrary obstacles she threw up got old a bit quick for me.(less)
So, I liked this one. The heroine's deep, dark secret was pretty good as far as those things go, and I appreciated how spirited and independent she wa...moreSo, I liked this one. The heroine's deep, dark secret was pretty good as far as those things go, and I appreciated how spirited and independent she was. It gets decently racy for a historical, too, if I recall correctly.(less)
So this book is literally half non-fiction and half "based on a true story," which irked me when I started, but to which I eventually acquiesced. It t...moreSo this book is literally half non-fiction and half "based on a true story," which irked me when I started, but to which I eventually acquiesced. It takes some time to find its rhythm, but by the end I must admit I enjoyed it. Silverstein's plan to kick around Texas and northern Mexico until he turns himself into a journalist seems like a relic of another time; when I checked his photo on the back cover flap halfway through, I was surprised by how young he is. It's not terrible to read. I do believe him to be a writer; I still find it difficult, however, to picture him as a journalist.
"Ze rear end was broken," de Thoisy said when I asked him what the trouble had been, "and it broke ze pipe of brake liquid. So we didont have any more brake. In a speed section. Imagine! No brake at all. So ah drive with ze engine brake, shifting ze gear down. It makes zis sound--awwwwwww. Ah was driving with ze shiftair! It was very uncomfortabool." He stood behind his car in a padded white fire suit, surveying the tumultuous scene through small, intense eyes. "It twill be difficult to catch him," de Thoisy said, gesturing at Mockett with his nose.
I do have to give Silverstein this much: I've never read anyone else transcribe a French accent so well.(less)
Based on the soft-focus cover and prominent positioning on front-of-bookstore tables, I wasn't expecting much from this book. Or, rather, I was expect...moreBased on the soft-focus cover and prominent positioning on front-of-bookstore tables, I wasn't expecting much from this book. Or, rather, I was expecting it to be quasi-literary soft-pedaling, more junky romance than substance. Boy, was I surprised, and am I ever happy about that. There is some tough post-World-War-II stuff going on in here, fantastically detailed and well-researched. I also learned a ton about the Channel Islands, such that I really want to go visit (it doesn't hurt that they're apparently a tax haven). There is a love story, and I did see it coming, so I was pleased the authors were so delayed-gratification about it - it is literally the least-important thing in the book. The most-important thing about the book? It's funny. And it's also truly beautiful to read how much the characters obviously care about each other. This book alone is a perfectly encapsulated illustration of how awesome people can be during difficult times, while that famous English restraint keeps things from ever getting too cheesy.
Now about Markham V. Reynolds (Junior). Your questions regarding that gentleman are very delicate, very subtle, very much like being smacked in the head with a mallet. ...It's a tuba among the flutes, and I expect better of you.(less)
Oh, there's something in something, somewhere. Apparently Jong picked the title after Google told her how many other books were already called "Best S...moreOh, there's something in something, somewhere. Apparently Jong picked the title after Google told her how many other books were already called "Best Sex Ever," which is fine. But the contributors all wrote about their best sex ever, or more specifically, the fact that most of them haven't had it yet. While this may have been an attempt at optimism ("that best sex ever is just around the corner, I know it!"), the combined effect is somewhat depressing. There is not much sex actually happening in the book - I wasn't sure what to expect, but this would be a bad choice for someone who wants to be titillated. Add to that the fact that most of the ladies aren't particularly good at writing about sex when they do try, and that most of the authors are white and all of the encounters described are hetero, and the book is overall disappointing. There are some bright spots, but they are few and far between. Feel free to skip stories - I sure did.
...in 1949, sex was a private and secret activity, and not the focused rush to orgasm by all possible means that it is today. Anything but the missionary position was considered indecent and unnecessary--and some indeed were actually illegal--and no nice girl supposed it to be anything else. ...As a result sex was a dangerous thing, far more interesting and erotic than it is now.(less)
Having read all* of the other Pink Carnation books, I was super-excited when I saw this one at the library. However, I think Willig may be losing her...moreHaving read all* of the other Pink Carnation books, I was super-excited when I saw this one at the library. However, I think Willig may be losing her mojo. I always preferred the historical plotlines to the contemporary ones, but I thought this latest installment got off to a particularly clunky start. There was an overabundance of backstory for the sake of newcomers to the series, which mostly served to remind me how little of the books are devoted to the contemporary plotlines, as not very much had happened. Surely I can't be the only one who thinks the contemporary protagonist can be annoying. The historical plotline for this book was comparatively weak on spies and intrigue, perhaps because it focuses on fewer characters than some of the other books. It was a fun but not particularly engaging read.
"One flirts with poets," barked Miss Gwen. "One doesn't fall in love with them. And one certainly doesn't marry them." She made it sound like an inalterable law. Somewhere in the Napoleonic Code was buried a provision banning matrimony for all purveyors of verse, to be defined under subsection 62(a)(iii), not to be confused with subsection 62(a)(iv)--minstrels, traveling.
* I know I haven't read the Christmas book, but I'm pretty sure I've read all of the other Pink Carnation books - and I'd argue it doesn't bode well for the quality of the series if I'm not quite sure.(less)
I think this is one of the most intense books I've ever read. It blew me away. I would literally get stressed out reading it, and at the same time I n...moreI think this is one of the most intense books I've ever read. It blew me away. I would literally get stressed out reading it, and at the same time I never wanted to stop. It's about North Korea, and freedom, and there are a couple of things that really set it apart. Johnson makes a point of finding poetry even in the most terrible details (and in a country where it's estimated that over 10% of the population starved to death, there are a LOT of gruesome details). Because the protagonist first serves in the army and then mans the radio on a fishing vessel, he and the people around him do encounter the world outside of the DPRK, which provide some of the best opportunities for Johnson to underline what "normal" means to North Koreans, in ways both humorous and poignant.
The Second Mate wasn't quite listening. "And what if you do make it around the world--how do you wait in line for your dormitory toilet again, knowing that you've been to America? Maybe the millet tasted better in some other country and the loudspeakers weren't so tinny. Suddenly it's your tap water that smells not so good--then what do you do?"
The second half of the book relies heavily on those aforementioned loudspeakers as a plot device, one that I could have taken or left, although it works well to underscore how malleable the truth can be. And I won't say the plot couldn't be far-fetched - at times it reminded me of certain episodes of Seinfeld, how so much happens in some of them that my memory divides it into two episodes, and when watching the episode again I'm shocked by how many plot entanglements there are, and it all seems so far-fetched, except somehow it works. So much happens to the protagonist that this book could easily be the most depressing Seinfeld episode ever, or perhaps a warped, downer Forrest Gump.
It was hard to believe an interrogator from Pyongyang had never seen nice athletic shoes. Still, Jun Do said, "They're for exercise, I think." "I've heard that," the old man said. "That Americans do pointless labor for fun."
I liked this book a LOT better than the other Julia Quinn book I just read. Again with the country-mouse heroine, who, following the death of her pare...moreI liked this book a LOT better than the other Julia Quinn book I just read. Again with the country-mouse heroine, who, following the death of her parents, was saved from marriage to her boorish cousin (double ew) by becoming companion to the dowager Duchess of Wyndham. One night their carriage is held up by a highwayman who happens to be the dowager's long-lost, unknown grandson. Naturally, consort and grandson end up falling in love, but until then there's some really well-drawn emotional intrigue. I also thought this book was notable for the depth of female friendships it portrayed - while it would have been absolutely feasible for the ladies to be competing amongst themselves for the possible duke, it never happened, which I really liked.
He looked about him, and it occurred to her that he did not seem cowed by the grandeur of his surroundings, just . . . amused. No, not amused. It was more of a wry disbelief, as if he were still wondering if he could trade this all in and get himself kidnapped by a different dowager duchess. Perhaps one with a smaller castle.(less)
Sweet and fun, if not particularly memorable. Spirited if poor country-mouse lady is about to be married off by her London relations to a truly abomin...moreSweet and fun, if not particularly memorable. Spirited if poor country-mouse lady is about to be married off by her London relations to a truly abominable old man when she (literally) stumbles across his hated nephew, who is, of course, perfect for her, if a notorious rake. I did get a little sick of the "Ten things I..." meme that, to my surprise, appears throughout the book (which also led to my surprise that this came out in 2010 rather than 1999).
"Your dog is a very good liar. ... "He'd be quite good at cards," Annabel said absently. "If he could speak. Or had thumbs."(less)
I had read Submarine and really, really enjoyed it (even if I can't quite understand why anyone would want to turn it into a movie). Even before I rea...moreI had read Submarine and really, really enjoyed it (even if I can't quite understand why anyone would want to turn it into a movie). Even before I realized they share an author, I was interested in Wild Abandon for the plot alone.
So: What happens to communes now that the '60s are long over? Wisely, Dunthorne focuses mainly on the kids in the community, particularly a teenage girl who goes to public high school (and is well aware of how different she is) and her much-younger brother (who is still a home-schooled believer). This book is incredibly well-written, and funny while still being suspenseful for the right reasons. I devoured it before meeting a friend for brunch one morning when I woke up insanely early.
For six days [after his failed first attempt to slaughter a goat for food], Don walked slowly up and down steps and made elongated sighing noises when getting in and out of chairs. He also took any opportunity to mythologize his wife's role: her calm manner, perfect aim, but underlying humanity. As a result, it was suggested that Freya be the first person in the community to apply for a firearms license, and once she had that, he fate was sealed. ...Don was never asked to help again, but still, he ate bacon with an air of moral immunity.(less)