Erika RS's Reviews > 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

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
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Jun 01, 2012

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Read in March, 2011

Rubin wanted to spend a year applying happiness advice. She consulted philosophers and scientists, fiction and non-fiction, and worlds modern and ancient. From these readings, she came up with resolutions to try in 11 areas of her life (vitality/energy, marriage, work, parenthood, leisure, friendship, money, eternity, books, mindfulness, attitude). Each month, she focused on one set of resolutions, and the twelfth month was an attempt to apply them all.

I like the premise, and the execution has much going for it. Each chapter reads something like an overview of techniques for living a happier life. Much of it overlaps with current popular works on happiness, but if you aren't familiar with those works, Rubin's book contains great pointers. I enjoyed Rubin's honesty. Both in the book and on the companion blog, she revealed her successes and her failures. She was forthright with sharing the practices which did not work for her and let us know when going against common wisdom worked for her.

Perhaps because she was trying to describe too much in too little space, the book ended up primarily descriptive rather than reflective. She described what she was trying, why she tried it, and the results, but the moments of reflection on how things were going or why certain things worked and others did not were perfunctory.

The other thing that bugged me about the book was the way that Rubin would integrate comments from her blog. Since the blog was being written during the project, the comments do provide useful alternate perspectives. However, her way of integrating blog comments was simply to drop a bunch of comments into the related part of the text. There was no synthesis, no analysis.

Thus, in the end, I found this to be a good book, but not a great one. It was a fun read, but I don't feel that it had any lasting impact on my ideas about happiness or how to make my life happier. Those less familiar with the literature she referenced might get a lot more out of it.
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