Jeremy'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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's review
Jul 16, 2012

it was ok
Read in July, 2012

This book was an interesting read about a woman's quest to discover what makes her happy. The author, Gretchen Rubin, admits that the book is part of a very trendy new genre called, "stunt non-fiction." Her quest is detailed with amusing anecdotes about her toddler children and extraordinarily patient husband and conversations about her book with colleagues at cocktail parties.

Although this book was a bestseller, I found the story to be rather flat and dull. There is no hook that makes the book particularly interesting. The author, undoubtedly intelligent and well-read, seems to have sprinkled in quotes that don't quite fit in the context of the topic at hand. It's as if she read a book right before writing this one that gave her a tip to include quotes from philosophers and classic writers to increase her credibility.

In almost every situation she describes in which she was questioned or contradicted by prominent scholars, Ms. Rubin predictably declares herself the winner of the argument and dismisses legitimate points about her book. The most obvious question brought up to her while she was writing the book was whether her project was a bit self-indulgent. Indeed, the entire book is fraught with pompous name-dropping and pretentious quotes that are enough to make anyone reading it incredibly unhappy. Ms. Rubin couldn't help but divulge her associations with Supreme Court Justices within the first 50 pages or so of her novel -- something that didn't add anything to the book except a sense of self-importance and snobbery.

To help avoid any serious scholarly examination of her work by psychologists or authorities in the self-help field, Ms. Rubin asserts that the book isn't for depressed people, which she accurately identifies as a serious mental illness; however, it is likely that people seeking happiness are feeling depressed. At the end of the book, Ms. Rubin declares that her happiness project worked and was a success -- and then describes another conversation in which she declares herself the victor when she is questioned about how she really could know if the project worked. She didn't take any inventories, didn't survey anyone else (again, why ask anyone else when you're so self absorbed? It simply wouldn't occur to her.) In fact, she asked if her husband was happier after her happiness project to which he responded, "No." Again, declaring herself the victor in even this interaction, she states that her husband really did get happier but that he just wouldn't admit it.

I found this book amusing, but the narcissistic tone of it made it distracting and annoying. Any value that could have been taken from the book was obscured by the author's gigantic ego.

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