In the spirit of her blockbuster #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin embarks on a new project to make home a happier place.
One Sunday afternoon, as she unloaded the dishwasher, Gretchen Rubin felt hit by a wave of homesickness. Homesick—why? She was standing right in her own kitchen. She felt homesick, she realized, with love for home itself. “Of all the elements of a happy life,” she thought, “my home is the most important.” In a flash, she decided to undertake a new happiness project, and this time, to focus on home.
And what did she want from her home? A place that calmed her, and energized her. A place that, by making her feel safe, would free her to take risks. Also, while Rubin wanted to be happier at home, she wanted to appreciate how much happiness was there already.
So, starting in September (the new January), Rubin dedicated a school year—September through May—to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love.
In The Happiness Project, she worked out general theories of happiness. Here she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. How can she control the cubicle in her pocket? How might she spotlight her family’s treasured possessions? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.
Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions—and this time, she coaxes her family to try some resolutions, as well.
With her signature blend of memoir, science, philosophy, and experimentation, Rubin’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire readers to find more happiness in their own lives.
Gretchen Rubin is one of today’s most influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness and human nature.
Her previous books include the #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, as well as the bestselling books Better Than Before, Happier at Home, The Four Tendencies, and Outer Order, Inner Calm. Her latest book is Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World.
She’s the host of the popular, award-winning podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin, where she and her co-host (and sister) Elizabeth Craft explore strategies and insights about how to make life happier. As the founder of The Happiness Project, she has helped create imaginative products for people to use in their own happiness projects.
She has been interviewed by Oprah, eaten dinner with Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman, walked arm-in-arm with the Dalai Lama, had her work reported on in a medical journal, been written up in the New Yorker, and been an answer on Jeopardy!
Gretchen Rubin started her career in law, and she realized she wanted to be a writer while she was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Raised in Kansas City, she lives in New York City with her family.
I wanted to like this book. It actually makes me a little sad that I really don't. I found that this book is so close to being a carbon copy of The Happiness Project that I had a "haven't I read this before?" sensation throughout. I haven't read her blog regularly in ages, and I haven't read her other book in quite a while, but still I have the feeling--repeatedly--that I've read this before.
Many of the resolutions the author picked are the same or nearly the same as her previous resolutions. With similar results. Some of the resolutions she spends forever building up to, and then only a paragraph explaining what actually happened.
I hate to say it but the more she writes about her personality, the less likeable I find her. WAY less likeable. She dislikes errands, talking on the phone, traveling, doing anything adventurous. Although I appreciate her frankness in squarely addressing her personality weaknesses, she does come across as a bit of a pill. There is a rather self-righteous martyr-like tone to some parts of the book, like when she celebrates minor holidays even though they mean errands and effort, both of which she dislikes tremendously. (Poor her!) Then other parts of the book are rather obvious, like asking her children to knock on her door...why don't they do that already?
It is obvious that I found the book underwhelming. The overall feeling I have about this book is disappointment. And sadness that I am disappointed, because I really liked The Happiness Project.
I read your book. I almost threw my Kindle up against the wall while reading your story. Reasons? Let me count the ways.
1) You don't like a lot of things, even though you have access to almost any experience ever possible due to your wealth. You hate or fear travel, food, driving, relinquishing control. No wonder you're seeking happiness. You want for nothing, and therefore, you don't really want anything. Except to control everything, of course.
2) You're really good at telling people that their own ways of seeking happiness don't work.
3) Your Type A controlling nature takes the joy out of just about anything, including the reader's experience.
4) You compare yourself to Thoreau. He, you shall never be.
Please don't write a followup. Drop it. You have an easy life. Relish it.
Someone grateful to have finished your second (and unnecessary) book without breaking my e-reader.
P.S. Maybe you could invent time travel and go back and stop yourself from publishing your sequel, which is regurgitated "Happiness Project" anyway. I liked you more before.
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from a Dorothy Parker book review: "Some books are meant to be tossed aside lightly, and others to be hurled violently." I did not have great expectations when my turn came up to read this book from the library reserve list. I was more than mildly irritated by her first book, but since the topic is interesting to me, I decided it would be worthwhile to read the second. As expected, this is a gumbo of over-thinking, statements of the obvious, passive aggressiveness toward her disconnected spouse, and at the center of it all, of it ALL, the author, whose happiness or striving towards trumps everything.
I would be interested to read a book about the same subject written by the husband; I think it would be a far different point of view. At best, he seems irritated that his wife chucked a law career for navel-gazing and relentless self-promotion. At worst, he seems profoundly irritated with her. I genuinely felt sorry for her when one of her resolutions was to arrange an adventure just for the two of them each month, and he not-so-gently turned her down, stating that it would be a hassle and that he was too busy. Yikes.
Anyway, she has a full plate with her constant introspection, rethinking, and crowdsourcing ideas for how to be happy (did she have *any* original thoughts in this book? Most of what she tries is gleaned from 'research' or looking over the shoulders of friends and fans who are just living their lives without analyzing). She has a devoted following on her blog, her Twitter, her Facebook, her Instagram, her Tumblr, and her Pinterest. One hopes she can cultivate at least as devoted a following in her own home, and perhaps then she will achieve the aim of the book.
Honestly, I felt cranky about this book before I started it. I had just finished reading an Amazon review that's largely about how rich Gretchen Rubin is (husband is a partner is a hedge fund, they own a big apartment in upper Manhattan, etc. etc.). The reviewer was annoyed by this, and, weirdly and surprisingly, I was too. Why? She has just as much of a right to write a book about happiness as anyone else does, I know. I think it's because Rubin never, ever acknowledges how more-than-comfortably-off she and her family are. She does write about money (and lots of what she writes seems very astute), but she doesn't ever admit to not having the problem with money that most of the world's population does have, i.e. not having enough of it. She writes about having quit her law job in order to write full-time--and it's not that I don't applaud this, but she never says anything about how much easier this sort of move is when you have a husband with a lucrative job, a husband who can support you and your two children while you make a major career change. And this secretiveness about her family's socio-economic status feels disingenuous to me. Of course it's possible that her editor told her not to include any information about her family's income... but it made me annoyed with Rubin, and made me look back on The Happiness Project, which I loved, in a less trusting, less favorable light.
But then I started to read, and I forgave Gretchen Rubin almost immediately. She really has that sort of voice--she writes like someone I'd love to have coffee with. She's self-deprecating, funny, well-read, and thoughtful. She's quite honest about other not especially attractive aspects of her life/personality; she writes about how often she snaps at her kids and makes "mean faces," how often she criticizes (if only internally) and nags her husband. Her prose is so easy to read, and at the same time it's laced with fascinating ideas culled from science, philosophy, and literature.
This book is a bit repetitive, and feels a bit thin compared to The Happiness Project--hence the four stars. But, to be fair, lots of the info that gets repeated is helpful and important and deserving of repetition. "Be Gretchen," for example, which Rubin repeats over and over, is really the cornerstone of this book: the idea that so much happiness lies in truly being ourselves... and how surprisingly difficult it is to do that. In terms of practical advice, I loved the sections about reading the manual, creating shrines, paying attention to what you love. Rubin's example of the latter is art... she writes about how she always felt she SHOULD love art more, and then finally figured out there is a genre of art she loves naturally, without trying--miniatures. Once she focuses on what she genuinely enjoys, projects and good energy follow with ease. This is great advice. As are her discussions about being a tourist in your own town, enjoying good smells... I could go on and on. I'm happy to be able to write such a happy review of this book, instead of the cranky one I was planning on.
I really didn't like this book. At times it was OK and I liked it, but most of the time (most of what I read) is common sense or something I already knew (i.e. don't hang onto possessions that don't make you happy. Don't roll your eyes. Under react to a problem. etc.) A lot of her realizations, I already knew about and I'm only 22.... She goes into dramatic details on things that don't need that much explaining. There are time in the book where she'll make her point and then tell you a story about a conversation that she had with someone and that conversation is like re-reading the first part of that chapter. She talks about herself a lot in a way that makes her sound high and mighty. I feel like the author, by her details (and lack of details) that she much be rich, or at least well off.... She comes across as being very achievement-obsessed; no insights for those of us who have a more relaxed attitude towards life...She also quotes A LOT of other books in this book. Pages 265 to 273 are books she recommends. Honestly, if you skip to page 263, "The Eight Splendid Truths", that one page, listing eight things, sums up the book. The book was a easy read, I guess, but as I said, she goes into such details on trivial things...the book really could of been half the size (instead of 263 pages, it could of easily of been 130).
To sum up my review, I feel like she didn't give any original thoughts to this book. Most of what she uses, the ideas and quotes, come from other books...Too much recycled material and too much self-promotion...I was never excited to pick up and read this book, though it's written in a way that makes it an easy read, it just wasn't that good...I didn't read the "first book", "The Happiness Project," but she references it, A LOT, and the feeling I get from this book is that they probably are extremely similar.
Having read both of Gretchen Rubin's happiness project books, I get the impression that she's a fragile and snappish person. She means well, but she falls short of some self-appointed ideal pretty often, then punishes herself for it with mantras and rules.
Mostly, I read this with an air of detached fascination, imagining a frazzled, Type A, controlling woman running around Manhattan making elaborate sets of laws for herself to follow. Not a behavior or impulse goes unexamined. Wouldn't it be easier to pursue happiness in a calmer, less rigid way? Rubin would tell me, "Easier for YOU, maybe, but one of my ninety-five Splendid Truths and Secrets of Adulthood tells me it's easier for me to live my life Being Gretchen, and Gretchen finds it freeing and satisfying to live every second within a para-military framework."
Though I was able to glean bits of wisdom from her efforts to make a cozier nest for herself and her family, for the most part this felt like reading someone's blog. Which makes sense, since it's clear she derived a lot of the chapters from experiments she wrote about on the blog, and the reactions bloggers provided to those experiments. The ideas in this book didn't penetrate that deeply and the experiences were not universal -- they were more "memoir light" ("This is how I felt, so this is what I did. And then on to the next thing.") It felt like the fulfillment of a two-book contract.
Mostly, as I read this, I found myself wondering how her particular approach to happiness could resound with as many people as it does. I guess Type A people like to go about life this way, with a ton of structure. My reaction is proof positive that I'm Type B. I have only a few rules for living:
- Do less - Be kind - Get outside - Write daily - Prioritize sleep - Exercise - Get rid of your *&%$ iPad and Candy Crush
Cue the Pharrel Williams soundtrack.
Anyway, thanks to my local neighborhood Little Free Library for this book, which was an ARC. I am happier at home whenever I see a Little Free Library. Long live community spirit!
When I read complaints about Gretchen Rubin's original Happiness Project or her new Happier at Home, they center around her having an ideal or enchanted life. In some ways, this is true. She is not writing about finding happiness amidst financial or marital struggles. She is not trying to be happy in a career or location she hates. She is not trying to overcome major adversities in her life. However, she is not giving advice to people in those situations.
She is writing to those, like her, who know they have good lives, and want to feel it - people who find themselves grumbling about minor inconveniences or find their moods determined by perceived slights and difficulties, and know they should be happier than they currently feel.
Taken for what it is, Happier at Home is an engaging book. I found Rubin much easier to relate to in this book than the last. She is still a determined Type A, but she seems a bit more vulnerable, more real, more likable. Her life is unlike my own, yet I appreciated reading about her efforts at enjoying the here and now, savoring these moments, not rushing to the next or romanticizing the past. Even if her methods do not appeal to me, her goal does.
yeah, just okay. i read the happiness project & found it o be a bit more prescriptive & obsessive than i may have preferred. so my expectations for this follow-up, which is basically a happiness project loosely centered around the home, weren't stratospheric. even so, it was a bit of a disappointment. now that rubin is a bestselling author, some elements of her personal life are available for public consumption, such as the fact that her father-in-law isn't just some kindly old grandfatherly character who lives a comfortable life. motherfucker has his own wikipedia page, check it out. rubin isn't raising her family in the kind of cute little row home featured on the cover of her first book, or even a rehabbed brownstone. she lives in the upper east side of manhattan. my point is that it is a little bit easier to focus on the small joys that bring happiness into your life when you don't have to fret about money, & when in fact you have full-time help with housecleaning & child care. i live in a four-room bungalow in kansas, but you better believe that if i had someone washing my dishes & doing my laundry for me, i would have a lot more time & energy for things like commissioning a tiny sculpture in a cabinet or making a shrine to fragrances. rubin's life is just so far removed from the average person's, it makes her obvious neuroses even more grating.
add to this the fact that this book seemed like a wan retread of the original released in order to keep rubin's name in lights & capitalize off the strong sales of the first book. one reviewer even observed that entire paragraphs were lifted from the first book & plopped into this one. i'm not going to reread the first one to confirm this, but this book did seem both repetitive & strangely self-promotion-y. i have a fair number of friends who run their own creative businesses, & they are always advertising for themselves on their blogs, on twitter, on facebook. that's kind of what this entire book read like. like one long blog post advertising the gretchen rubin brand. & that brand hinges, of course, on an aspirational lifestyle experience while rubin conveniently leaves out some of the dirty details that enable her to do things like take four family vacations per year or take her older daughter on an adventure out in the city every wednesday afternoon.
because this is a book about home, there seemed to be a lot of emphasis on rubin's husband & daughters. & she didn't make them look too great. she complained repeatedly about her husband ignoring her in favor of his phone or computer when she tries to ask him about his day or talk about her own. she introduces a new rule for her daughters: they have to knock before they come into her home office to talk to her. were these people raised in a barn? i would never stand for my partner actually ignoring me to fiddle with his phone. granted, we have only been together for five or six years--maybe things will be different once we've been together for as long as rubin & her husband. but i have found that it's not that difficult to get his attention if i just touch his arm or say, "can i talk to you for a minute?"
but my main criticism of the book is something i never really would have expected from myself. it was actually too obsessive for me! me! i love lists & checklists & projects & goals & all that stuff. you'd think that rubin's ridiculously laborious toolbox approach to happiness would be right up my alley, but instead, it made me feel sad. different strokes for different folks--maybe her approach really works for her. but it all struck me as a way to suck all the spontaneity & real joy out of following your heart & doing nice things for the people you love. & seriously, if i am saying this, you know it's bad.
it was a pleasant enough read, i guess, but anyone who is really interested in what rubin & her happiness projects are all about would be better off sticking with the first book.
Everyone in my profession loved Gretchen Rubin's first book, The Happiness Project, so I felt a little cowed by the enthusiasm and never reviewed it for fear of stepping on any toes. The first book was well-written, exceptionally well-researched, charming after a fashion, and so self-indulgent that I found myself talking back to the book as if I were talking to the characters in a TV show. The book made me feel, in the vernacular, very "Grrrarrr!"
So, maybe Rubin's become a better writer, but more likely, I'm in a better place than I was in 2009 (my own personal annus horribilis). Back then, with health troubles, I found Rubin's complaints to be petty. Likely, I was also envious of her success -- professional, personal and in achieving an ineffable sense of being in a "good place." It's not a pretty thing to admit, but I'm not sure anyone's reading these reviews. :-) But, for whatever reason, I now find Rubin, her husband, her children, her little projects and even her foibles to be more endearing and less precious. I read the book straight through, without skipping and without adding snarky editorial comments. I read a library copy; I can see buying my own and rereading this again and again. I imagine starting similar projects with my own take on things.
The thing about Happier at Home, like The Happiness Project, is that while you can read it as a self-help book, you need not do so. It's also a bit of light memoir, philosophy, psychology and skilled reportage. If you have no desire for self-improvement but generally enjoy non-fiction, there's something here for you. The cheery (but not Pollyanna-ish) tone is uplifting, the peppering of famous (and not so famous) quotes is instructive, and I found myself Googling to learn more about a plethora of fascinating topics Rubin raised. (And now, I want to read her books about JFK and Churchill!)
I've already resolved to reread the first book, as I think being in a better, healthier frame of mind may give me a new perspective on Rubin and her writing. I somehow feel like I should buy her a mini-cupcake or Tasti D-Lite as an apology for having not appreciated her before.
I really liked this. I don't agree with everything covered, but there is definitely some great stuff discussed. I appreciated the practical tips and tidbits, the use of quotes (I love quotes), and the succinct and memorable one-liners she uses to summarize a key idea ("choose the bigger life," "act the way I want to feel," "make the positive argument," etc.). I often find these ideas running through my head. Many of these things almost seem obvious once they are pointed out, but I probably would not have identified them otherwise.
This is written from a secular perspective, and emphasis on certain points felt a bit shallow to me. Since I'm a religious person, I also felt like faith was a huge cornerstone of happiness that was missing. That said, the author is never condescending toward religion, and she does cite the influence of figures such as Mother Teresa and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
This is both a memoir and self-help book, and I found it to be easy and enjoyable to read, while still giving me lots of ideas to ruminate on. I can relate to the author on many aspects (I share her fear of driving, for example) but on other things it was a little harder for me (e.g., I can't relate much to being an upper class New Yorker). She's also abstemious and rigorous with herself in a way that I sometimes envied.
Even though I'm critical of a few things, my overall impression of this book was one of appreciation, knowledge, and growth. I do feel like I’ve gleaned a lot of great stuff from Rubin’s work, and I always enjoy how it prompts me to think more deeply about things and engage in the world around me on a different level. Her tips are practical and profound, and many of them are very useful to my daily life.
Gosh. I spent the last 30% of the book rolling my eyes at least once every five minutes. Now my eyeballs hurt. I'm a pretty whimsical person, but this was too much even for me.
I spent the first half of the book expecting each sweet anecdote to lead somewhere, but eventually accepted that they simply DON'T. Most of the stories tail off without a point, and several tail off without any resolution - she has an idea, spends 20 paragraphs explaining it, then her husband shuts her down in four words, and we never hear another word about it.
The book is largely without substance - it's a self-indulgent examination of one person's common-or-garden-variety neuroses and personality traits, her fairly ordinary insights about family and relationships, and her basic and not-at-all-earth-shattering ideas for improving her life. In short, it looks a lot like my diary. I really expected more.
Should I talk about the book or the fact that I just looked online at pictures of Gretchen Rubin’s apartment ( she has employed an interior decorator) and the feeling that “she is one of us” totally disappeared...I am sorry that I looked. I still love her writing and her ideas and the feeling of adventure I get every time I read something she has written but will the idea that she “struggles with the same issues that I do” remain or will the reality ruin future readings? This book saw some repeated happiness advice and research but I was glad for the review. I really got super excited reading about Charles Simone’s Dwellings and could hardly stay in my chair. I am on a mission to create my own mini village in a secret place.
Does everyone have a shelf dedicated to books that were picked up for a few pennies because the title or author sounded vaguely familiar? I’ve started to feel annoyed by how long this category has been taking up precious shelf space so I’m going to tackle it - I don’t think it’ll take too long if I skim and speed read through them. This book first. More to come
I expected this to be a guide for moms. Maybe tips for doing housework efficiently or teaching siblings to get along or slowing down to smell the roses. Boy was I wrong. It’s more of a memoir - a month by month journey of seemingly random mini-experiments in an attempt to banish grouchiness 🥴
I don’t rethink the author seems happy at all - and this is apparently her SECOND book on happiness!! But I did enjoy the easy conversational tone. She’s a stick-in-the-mud, task-list oriented, person - which is great because that is my natural inclination as well. It was nice that she didn’t try to make herself seem more easy-going, sunny, or adventurous. It certainly took a lot of vulnerability and it was fun to get a really different personality, yay for representing home-bodies and all that! Plus, some of her struggles are mine too so it was interesting to see how she tried to work through them.
However, she’s convinced me of the truth in what she was trying to disprove the entire book - that happiness in itself isn’t the right thing to pursue. She even comes close to realizing it herself, she says she felt “haunted” by happiness, by pressuring herself to pursue and feel happiness as a journey and destination, it eludes her. At the very end she quotes Thomas Merton, “Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am.” It made me feel very sad for her, she’s starting from the wrong place.
In spite of that, I did highlight quite a bit. She has a lot of fun ideas, good quotes, or interesting studies that I marked to come back to. It’s enjoyable and idea-sparking, but I won’t keep it on my shelves after I’ve copied down the quotes.
I wish Misty Winkler would write a book with this title! Her content on mom attitude is on point 👌
Fortunately I ended up enjoying this just as much as "The Happiness Project". I had wondered how much new stuff there would be to write on the subject, but I actually thought she managed quite nicely, and there were even some things I preferred about this book compared to THP (of course there were also some things I preferred about THP, but I had expected nothing else).
As the title indicates, this book focused on being happy at home. It wasn't about changing your life, it was about making your home a happy place to be. With a move coming up, this meant even more to me than it probably would have otherwise. Many of Gretchen Rubin's resolutions here were more of a 'one time deal' thing than actual resolutions. Also, they were a LOT more Gretchen-specific than those in THP. Not that that's a bad thing, it just meant there were some things I had a harder time relating to.
I was grateful to her for pointing me towards Demeter Fragrance Library though. They have a perfume called "New Zealand"!!!!
I'm afraid Gretchen Rubin has become that unemployed or underemployed "friend" on Facebook who posts on a sleeting Monday "I think I'll stay in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and a stack of Cary Grant DVDs today!" And you or, okay, I, want to respond that you are delighted they will be warm and cozy while you are shivering waiting for a bus that is 20 minutes late so that you can pay your mortgage, save for retirement, and hopefully keep the public safe from exploding pipelines.
This book is about 50% "myopic privileged person who would be well-suited for a NYT Sunday Styles profile," 40% things that you could try at home which might make your life better, but do you need to pay $25 for advice that your kids should knock before coming into your study, and 10% actually useful information that could make you saner.
Written in an engaging and easy to read style, I still felt that much of this was just plain ol' common sense. How to be happier at home by sections, show more affection to those you live with, spend some time each day doing something you love, show interest in others personal interests, etc. See common sense, but a good read for those who need reminding or those who are at a lost. May find something in it that will help those who are looking for answers and those who are questioning if what they are doing is going to work.
Fans of the show Ally McBeal will know what I'm talking about when I say "smile therapy": this is when John's therapist recommended that he smile more, and it would result in a general sense of well-being. What it actually resulted in was him walking around with a crazed grin and dead eyes as he braved his day's horrors as an attorney. I bring this up because a) Gretchen Rubin is a Yale-educated attorney who almost certainly once watched Ally McBeal and b) a lot of her advice boils down to this: act happy, be happy. There is a nugget of truth to that, but only insofar as you are in Rubin's camp--that is, relatively happy to begin with.
I am in her camp, so enjoyed the book since I can take her little first-world-problems pieces of wisdom and apply them to my own life--like, Jeez, what do I do with all those Shutterfly pictures that are totally wrecking my buzz? If you are on ANY LEVEL seriously unhappy, this is not the book for you. Rubin is a Happiness Junkie. I read her first book somewhat mandatorily for my book club, and liked it enough to pick up this one. But seriously, how happy can one woman get? Half of her book is talking about how "grateful" she is, and how amazing her life is, and how she wants to appreciate that. Then she goes on to devote entire chapters to how to spend more time with her children. Here's an idea: stop writing about happiness all the frickin time! I keep picturing her kids in a psychiatrist's office in twenty years, like, "My mom was obsessed with happiness and I never got enough attention! Now I'm a stripper!"
Anyway, this is all an ad hominem argument, where I have issue with the somewhat irritating author and not her content. The content I actually find helpful, and I do appreciate that this self-helpy book is quite literary and well-researched; she quotes from Voltaire and Samuel Johnson and Thoreau, which makes me feel less guilty about reading her book instead of one of theirs.
Also, she recommends making resolutions--PLURAL--to help stay on track with your own happiness attainment. Cripes, I can't keep ONE resolution through January 3rd. But overall, I like her perspective, and that it gives me perspective. She's a good writer, and even if her ideas don't resonate with you, a lot of her sociology/psychology examples are fun knowledge to have at parties--you know, those things that happy people go to.
A couple of years ago, I read Gretchen Rubin's memoir and first offering on happiness, The Happiness Project. I was keenly interested in the topic of happiness, but I felt that her whole project was a little forced and contrived at first. I know that part of the problem is that I've read WAY too many books wherein the author takes on something really really hard for a year in hopes of self-improvement and then writes about it. I'm actually a sucker for these memoirs, but the stunt journalism aspect here diminished the impact for me, but, then again, maybe it didn't after all.
I suppose I did let her ideas simmer for a couple of years because I found myself much more receptive to her second book on happiness, Happier at Home. Now much of her own discoveries on happiness are recycled in her new book (both books look remarkably similar and I'm sure it would be easy to mix them up), but that really didn't bother me much at all. I actually needed to see how those earlier changes from The Happiness Project had transformed her life for the happier. Some might conclude that Rubin is self-indulgent, but I really didn't see her that way. I really see a woman living more deliberately and discovering who she really is. Somehow, it's making all the difference in how she approaches life.
She drafts twelve personal commandments and Eight Splendid Truths (Check out her website for these) that guide her in living her life happily. Except for a few of her commandments, most of these aren't original, but she distills centuries of happiness writing to make it more accessible to the modern mind. She does approach happiness from a more secular avenue, but doesn't leave out faith in her happiness research. St. Therese of Lisieux, for example, became one of her biggest influences in happiness. There are a couple of these truths and commandments that are going to change my life in ways that make me both more deliberate and mindful so that I am happier too. I think happiness deserves some deep thought. Rubin definitely has done her homework and her insight on happiness is something worth considering.
I absolutely adored Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. I couldn't wait for this to become available, because I am all about HOME ... I am a true home-body, much like Gretchen. That said, this book is a major disappointment. Happier at Home covers so little new ground that I am puzzled as to why it exists at all; why not just put out a new expanded edition of the original The Happiness Project Book? MUCH of this is simply a reiteration of her original rules and resolutions. And I realize that everyone is going to have their own idea of what constitutes being happier at home, but I found that the few new ideas she did bring to this book were rather annoying or even silly. (Shrines all over the place? She loathes clutter but assembles shrines? Really?)
Happier at Home almost feels like an effort to cash in on the original. I feel mean-spirited to think this way, but I can't help it. I am so disappointed that, if it wasn't for the April chapter, Neighborhood, I would have only given it one star.
Really it's a tiny death to preface a review with "it's not terrible". How can you not be wary of a book that embarks on a quest to be happier at home? It could have easily been a tired sort of humble brag novella like Eat, Pray, Love so I'm grateful for small ideas presented as small ideas. Nothing earth shattering, but it's ok to point out the little things, that in hindsight are painfully obvious, that can make people happier.
It just felt a bit formulaic to help the medicine go down. Reveal small idea like "go on adventures". Back with several pithy quotes from appropriate authors and poets. Insert coincidental conversation with friend/party guest/hairdresser that teases out opposing viewpoints. Admit to fumbling but making progress and finish with a "just be you" pat on the head.
Nothing wrong with that but I'd no sooner closed the book than I had completely forgotten everything within.
I read "The Happiness Project" when it first came out several years ago, so it's hard for me to recall the details enough to make a solid comparison. What is obvious though, as many other reviewers have noted, is this follow up is completely unnecessary. The entire thing would make a decent blog post or Buzzfeed list, but there are 200+ pages of superfluous anecdotes. I did feel a certain kinship with Rubin though, as we do share many of the same likes and dislikes. I also feel that the criticisms she receives for having "fortunate" life circumstances are unfair. Everyone has a right to seek out ways to improve their happiness, even those living at the tippy top of Maslow's pyramid.
I enjoyed Rubin's first book, The Happiness Project. I thought it was interesting to approach happiness as something you could chart out on a spreadsheet, write reports about, measure and therefore, eventually attain. Of course happiness isn't like that, but a lot of us wish it were, thus the popularity of the first book. And I did start buying and storing more paper towels and toilet paper after reading the first book, as I realized that I was an underbuyer, and that underbuying could create stress and unhappiness. I also went out and bought more plain t-shirts based on her advice in the first book, as I realized I was constantly reaching for one, or saving one for later in the week when I would need it for a certain outfit. That was good advice.
However, after reading Happier at Home, I realize that I can no longer take advice from Gretchen Rubin. In her first book, I thought she came across as refreshingly honest about her life. In this book, I thought she came across as someone who was difficult to live with, snaps at her daughters regularly and who doesn't seem to know how to have fun. I realized that I actually am happier at home than she comes across. For instance, right now I am sitting in my cozy living room with my peppermint candle burning, with one dog licking her paw and the other dog jealously guarding her new Christmas squeaky toy. My daughter is sitting here on the floor in front of me singing songs from Les Miserable off of her IPhone, and I have a bag of chocolate candy that I'm dipping into. There is a light dusting of snow outside, but only on the trees and grass and not on the roads, so it's pretty but not hazardous, plus I'm chilling and writing book reviews for Goodreads. To me, this is a happy evening at home and easy to create.
I don't have a problem with Gretchen being uber rich and not mentioning it, as money can't buy happiness. But after reading the book, I realized that she doesn't participate in a lot of the things that most people enjoy, such as traveling, trying new foods, shopping, eating dessert, having a drink now and then, having a pet. Well those are very basic things that add richness, variety and dare I say happiness to most people's lives. Why would I take advice on how to find happiness from someone who shuns most of the tried and true methods that we've already established add joy to everyday lives? I thought the example of her trying to get her husband to agree to go on a monthly adventure kind of a sad story...he just wouldn't go along with it and she just gave up on it, saying they were probably too busy. And then the admission that they never took their daughters to the carousel in Central Park, and how they thought they should do it, but then she writes that they still never actually got around to it. That's when I realized that Gretchen and her hubby just march to the beat of a different drummer and I cannot relate to their inability to get themselves out of the same old same old and have some fun.
In the last month, I read both The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. Consider me a convert. In Happiness Project, Rubin explores the theories of happiness and focuses on a different aspect each month. She creates resolutions tailored to her life and I learned a lot about myself in reading where her monthly goals took her. In Happier at Home, Rubin focuses on exactly that: happiness in the home.
In showing her desire to be happier at home, Rubin also appreciates how much happiness is there already, from relationships to possessions. She also defines happiness leeches, which is a resonating concept. She shows how some of the things which make us happy require a little unhappiness in the process, such as completing menial tasks. I get this: I know I'm happier once I've cleaned my house but I hate cleaning.
I love Rubin's mix of research, memoir, experiment, and information. While there's much about her happiness projects that simply don't apply to me now, I tucked many tidbits away for future reference. Rubin's story, as well as her commitment to telling readers the ups and downs of her resolutions, empowered me to see where I could seek happiness in my home. And she also enabled me to see areas needing improvement.
The book inspired me. I've probably brought it up in most of the conversations I've had the past couple of weeks. (I'm sorry, friends. And: you're welcome.) I hope Rubin will keep writing about the subject of happiness. We could all stand to be more mindful of how we impact our own happiness and that of others. And the home is a great place to start.
I have mixed feelings about this book. I really liked certain aspects and disliked others. But first of all let me explain that... •As a Christian, I understand that true joy comes from the Lord. Happiness is an emotion that comes primarily from good circumstances. However, I don't think there is anything wrong with doing little things to boost our emotional happiness... as long as we keep things in the proper perspective. After all... we are supposed be joyful people in the Lord!
Now about the book... •I did not care for some of the resolutions Gretchin Rubin pursued. She definitely takes an interest in false religions, mysticism, and other worldy philosophies and ways of thinking. •Some of her Splendid Truths and Personal Commandments are borderline, if not already, humanistic. •She basis a lot of her resolurions, research, and examples on Science, emotions and experiences... not on the Bible or Biblical principles. •The times she did reference the Bible, it was taken out of context.
However... •I would love to apply some of her happiness tips to my own life, as I see nothing wrong with some resolutions that make complete sense as happiness boosters such as... being more energetic, making more time for family, pursuing interests and passions you truly love (God given passions!), creating family traditions, and much more!
Overall, this book is an interesting read. I would like to rememeber and apply some things, and I will completely disregard others.
The subtitle should’ve been something like “lessons from the Happiness Project applied at home.” Although she’s also always at home in that one... I hate her attitude toward her marriage which is basically be demure, be better, don’t ask anything of the husband, don’t expect basic communication from him... gross. Her husband is the worst. And honestly she’s kinda the worst too (so self-centered & neurotic & fearful & un-self-aware of her privilege), but at least she sort of realizes some of it. I just think this was repetitive & ironically, a downer. She just complains about doing things she knows will make her happy, and says she does “research” which is really just her reading other peoples’ research, and then only chooses which research she already agrees with, and refuses to try things the research proves will improve her life/happiness (like meditation, but there are others. Why doesn’t she see a therapist for her fear & neuroticism?). Couldn’t she have devoted one of he nine things to helping ppl in her community who are disadvantaged? None of her ideas seemed grounded in research or well explained or anything... Also, this book is def only meant for ppl who are already happy.
Nothing new from the last book, and I'm not sure that anyone wants advice on happiness from a woman who lives in a Manhattan triplex and is a stay at home writer with a babysitter and a housekeeper (unmentioned in the book) to give them advice on how to be happier in their free time.