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Happiness for Beginners

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A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter, thirty-two, lets her annoying, ten years younger brother talk her into signing up for a wilderness survival course. It's supposed to be a chance for her to pull herself together again, but when she discovers that her brother's even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can't imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen's well-behaved life: three weeks in the remotest wilderness of a mountain range in Wyoming where she will survive mosquito infestations, a surprise summer blizzard, and a group of sorority girls.

Yet, despite everything, the vast wilderness has a way of making Helen's own little life seem bigger, too. And, somehow the people who annoy her the most start teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for herself. And how being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes you just have to get really, really lost before you can even have a hope of being found.

320 pages, Paperback

First published March 24, 2015

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About the author

Katherine Center

18 books10.4k followers
BookPage calls Katherine Center “the reigning queen of comfort reads.” She's the New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including How to Walk Away, Things You Save in a Fire, and What You Wish For. Her summer 2022 book is The Bodyguard. The movie adaptation of her novel The Lost Husband (starring Josh Duhamel) hit #1 on Netflix, and her novel Happiness for Beginners is in production as a Netflix original movie (starring Ellie Kemper and Luke Grimes) right now. Katherine writes laugh-and-cry books about how life knocks us down—and how we get back up. She’s been compared to both Jane Austen and Nora Ephron, and the Dallas Morning News calls her stories, “satisfying in the most soul-nourishing way.” Her books have made countless Best-Of lists, including RealSimple’s Best Books of 2020, Amazon's Top 100 Books of 2019, Goodreads' Best Books of the Year, the Indie Next Great Reads List, and many more. Katherine lives in her hometown of Houston, Texas, with her husband, two kids, and their fluffy-but-fierce dog.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,005 reviews
Profile Image for Katherine Center.
Author 18 books10.4k followers
December 29, 2021
Okay--Accidentally clicked on the rating area and wound up giving my own book 2 stars. So then I had to go back and give it FIVE. Of course! But now it looks like I'm going around reviewing my own books. Which I guess I am--but only by accident. I DO give it five stars, though!! :) My favorite of them all.
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,039 reviews462 followers
June 24, 2022
NEWSFLASH: Happiness for Beginners is being made into a movie, starring Ellie Kemper and Luke Grimes! Great casting!! Watch for it, hopefully coming soon, to Netflix!





And now, back to my regularly schedule review...
One of the best reads of this decade for me, featuring an unforgettable, gutsy heroine and an equally endearing, swoon-worthy hero. What more could you ask for? You have to read this book!



I laughed uproariously so many times while reading this book! At first, I was worried: there is an extremely well written steamy scene very close to the beginning of the book (I had to switch my a/c on - in October!) Hmm, I thought, was this going to be yet another predictable genre romance?



Nope! Center's vivid characters became so real to me, and the plot was riveting: I love strong female characters who have to face adversity and who triumph, in their own way - even if they don't achieve exactly what they originally set out to do.



Helen's emotional evolution as she struggled, totally out of her depth, to keep up with a younger, healthier crowd of survivalists out in the wilderness was downright captivating: her often defensive, prickly personality, tempered by her original way of expressing her wicked sense of humour kept me glued to the story well into the early hours of the morning.



Do yourself a favour: Jake is someone you truly need to meet in this very well written novel about one woman's journey to self-acceptance. Highly recommended!!!

P.S. I just listened to the audiobook of this and really enjoyed it! I really missed Jake- what a "Dudester" as Duncan would say!



I'm adding this to every Katherine Center book that I have reviewed, because I truly mean this:

I have always been able to understand and relate to everything Katherine Center writes. Her writing is so "open." There are some authors or novels that I will struggle to connect with because the authors hide behind their words and I can't feel or see them. When I connect with an author's words on this level, it is as if I am having a deep, meaningful and wonderfully long chat with the author, and if you haven't noticed by now, I am definitely an unapologetic Chatty Cathy!
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,367 reviews9,433 followers
August 7, 2017
Omg! I had such a love/hate relationship with this book but I loved it so much more! I'm so glad I read it for one of my book groups or I might have missed it! I did get this through the library Overdrive but I have since put the paperback on my Amazon wishlist.

Sometimes there are just those books that get to you. It might not be the whole book, it might be bits & pieces. It was just that for me. There were parts that got to me that I want to insert into my own life. Just little bits that I can put in a notebook to help with my journey with mental illness.

This book is just a novel that touched my heart in some weird way. And that's all that matters to me.

Mel ❤️
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
770 reviews12.1k followers
April 13, 2020
A much-needed escape!

A year after her divorce, Helen decides to take a risk and go on a three-week life-changing wilderness survival course. What she didn’t count on was that her younger brother’s best friend, Jake, was also going on the same trip. What she REALLY didn’t count on was falling for Jake.

Although this book is a love story, the focus is more on Helen’s growth and coming into her own. I loved Helen’s character; she is likable and relatable. She has substance! Jake was super sweet and I was rooting for the two of them! Jake is best friends with Duncan, one of the main characters in What You Wish For. I liked his character much more in this book. I wish I had read this before reading WYWF, as I think it would have raised my level of enjoyment.

I was gifted with a copy of this book from one of my lovely Goodreads' friends. I was having a terrible day when I received a message from one of GR’s friends letting me know that she had a surprise for me. She didn’t know I was having a bad day. Low and behold, I opened my email to find that I had been gifted with a copy of this book. I don’t have the words to express how this act of kindness moved me.

I have been looking for an uplifting book to transport me out of the darkness, but sadly, every light, fluffy book I have picked up has failed. Until now! Happiness for Beginners did it--for several hours of reading, I was immersed in a hopeful world filled with happiness and possibility. It made me smile. Receiving this book from a friend made it that much more special to read. I highly recommend!
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,155 reviews36.2k followers
April 9, 2020
5 Fanfreakingtastic Stars!!!

“Happiness for Beginners” is the Best Katherine Center Novel Ever!
(If you haven’t read this one yet, trust me - you must get your hands on it!).

“Happiness” has absolutely everything you could ever possibly want in a novel. Heart, soul, emotion (lots and lots of emotion, cue the tears) witty banter (cue the hysterical laughter!) phenomenal writing and characters you can’t help but love.

The characters I’m referring to? They will steal your heart, just like they stole mine.

Thirty-two year old Helen Carpenter has been divorced for a year. You’d think she’d be over it by now, if only it were that easy. Hoping to find a way, and find herself in the process, Helen enrolls in a Wilderness Survival Course.

Jake is best friends with Helen’s younger brother Duncan. For as long as he could remember he’s had a crush on one woman. That woman is Helen. The fact that he’s ten years younger has never bothered him in the least. Needing to prove something to himself, Jake, too has enrolled in the same survival course as Helen.

Let the sparks (laughter and tears) fly! Oh how I love these two characters together! Hello friendship, chemistry, romance, and witty banter! Yes please and thank you!

What more can I tell you? What ensues here is nothing short of magical. A woman who discovers that she can harness her own power, find the strength she needs to survive anything and realize that everyday, she can find something to be grateful for. (The list is endless).

Be Still My Heart.

“Happiness for Beginners” gave me a lot to think about and cherish. Having read all of Katherine Center’s novels (including her latest novel “What You Wish For” - featuring Duncan - Helen’s younger brother), I can now say that this is my favorite Katherine Center novel (and that’s saying something considering that I loved “Things You Save in a Fire” and “How to Walk Away”). There is just something about this storyline, the incredible message and the amazing characters, (whose romance I loved to pieces) that just got me.

If this novel wasn’t on your radar before, I hope it will be now, as this is a MUST-READ. It will make you smile and laugh and will give you reasons to feel thankful, even during the darkest of times.

This was an incredible buddy read with Kaceey. Thank you for sharing this with me Kaceey! I love that we both love Katherine Center’s novels so much!

Posted on Goodreads on 4.5.20.
Excerpt posted on Insta.
Profile Image for Kaceey.
1,005 reviews3,516 followers
March 14, 2020
Katherine Center is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors!
She writes straight from the heart and always manages to touch the soul.


Helen needs a re-boot to her life after a divorce leaves her alone, without an anchor. With the encouragement and a loving kick in the pants from her younger brother, she signs up for a wilderness trek. One with an intriguing claim…you may not make it out alive!

Her younger brother’s best friend Jake is coincidentally signed up for the same adventure. Poor Helen! Can she not get away from everyone, if even just a few weeks!? All she’s searching for right now is some peace and tranquility and time to hit the reset button! Careful what you wish for, dear Helen!

This is a wonderfully crafted story that by the end may just help you view your own life in a better light.

My takeaway...
No matter your darkest day, take a moment to count your blessings and think of 3 positives that you experienced that day. It will change your focus! In fact, since reading this book, this is a practice my husband and I do every night! Who can’t use a little Zen-like peace?!
Thank you Ms. Center.

Thank you to Susanne for gifting me this book and of course buddy reading it with me💖
Profile Image for Christy.
3,708 reviews31.6k followers
October 3, 2022
5 stars!

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“Don’t be a Helen.”

Happiness for Beginners wasn’t just a story, it was a journey. This author will take you on a journey of epic proportions. It’s witty, fun, and fantastic.
I wanted to amaze everybody, including myself. My own personal campaign of shock and awe.

Helen Carpenter has just made the list as one of my favorite heroines ever. This thirty-two-year-old divorcee decides after a year of being alone, she needs an adventure. So she goes on the adventure of a lifetime. Forget the fact that she’s not a hiker, isn’t huge into nature and has never done anything like this before… she decides to take a walk on the wild side. To go on a retreat into the wilderness. For three weeks! She has her reasons, things she wants to accomplish and she’s bound and determined to do it.
• Find a deeper spiritual connection to nature.
• Push myself beyond my physical and emotional limitations.
• Rise up from my own ashes like a phoenix.
• Toughen the hell up.
• Become awesome.
• Kick the wilderness’s ass.
• Earn a damned certificate.(I really, really wanted a Certificate.)

Helen isn’t alone on this three-week long survival course. Nope. Her brothers best friend who happens to be ten years younger than her is going too. When she finds out that Jake will be there, she’s not excited in the least, but she comes around. Jake is in his early twenties and has had the biggest crush on Helen since the moment he met her. Jake is a wonderful hero and even though he can be a little dense at times, I still loved him to pieces. I truly loved the relationship Jake had with Helen’s brother Duncan. How he taught her to see him a different way. It was one of my favorite things about this one.
“You’re going to start seeing him with kinder eyes. I know you are.”
“I am?”

“Yep,” Jake said, nodding. “Once I show you how to see him the way I do, you won’t go back.”

Though there is a great love story incorporated in this book, that is not the focus. Helen and her journey and growth is the focus. These three weeks in the wilderness make up the bulk of the book. It’s a fabulous journey with some fantastically fun characters who have crazy nicknames for one another and have a heck of a lot of fun together on this crazy trip. As I finished the book and was talking to a friend about it, she mentioned how she thought this would make a great movie. I agree wholeheartedly. This would make a fantastic movie. I would love to see this story on the big screen!

Helen achieves most of her goals during her time in the wilderness. I’ve got to tell you, I think she is just an epic character. She was snarky, funny, and completely relatable. I want everyone to read this book if only to meet Helen! She made me laugh and I just adored her. This isn’t the kind of book I normally pick up so I’m glad a friend recommended it and I made time to read it. I really loved it and give it a 5-star rating!

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Profile Image for Christine .
568 reviews1,069 followers
May 28, 2020
4.5 stars rounded to 5 bright, very bright stars

P.P.S. OK, I am back, exactly one year after first posting this review on May 30, 2019 and awarding 4.5 stars. See my P.S. at the bottom of the review. The reason I am back is that after one year, I still think about this book and harbor very fond memories for the characters and the messages of the story. I am now sure it will be making my “ All Time Book Hall-of-Fame“ as I lie on my death bed sometime far in the future. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is nowhere near a 4.5 star book. Nor is is anywhere near a 5-star book. This is a 10-star book (I don’t care what you say, Goodreads—honesty is the best policy). And my epilogue disappointment has been solved as well by Ms. Center who has masterfully addressed that issue in her new book What You Wish For (highly recommended). Thanks Ms. Center! OK, end of P.P.S.

Dang, I looooove this author! I was incredibly happy reading her latest two books, but gosh, this may be the best of the three.

OK, so I’m knocking ½ point off my rating. I’m really trying to be tough this year. So because it took 15% of the book for me to totally fall in love with Jake and Helen, I’m taking a stand and pulling back 0.1 star. I will explain the other 0.4 of that lost section of a star below. It pains me to do this, but I’m trying to be a tougher girl when it comes to my reviews. Anyway, I can still give 5 stars by rounding up. Clever, eh? I’m having my cake (being a tough girl) and eating it too (mushing over this book).

Thirty-two year old Helen’s life is stagnating after a tragic childhood and a recent divorce from a not so great guy. She’s going nowhere fast though she still has the meanest dog in the world that she does love. That’s about it.

Jake has his issues too. Plus he has been harboring some secret desires for quite some time now.

These two obviously mismatched people end up on a Cheryl Strayed type hike (kind of) in an effort to find themselves. Well, that’s Helen’s motivation anyway. In an effort to reboot her life by taking in the wonders of nature she is willing to submit to such torture as no soap, no TP (who knew pinecones work?), plenty of blisters, lots of near death misses, and more (less?). Along the way we meet a motley crew of others who complete a most interesting roster of characters.

This book has it all: laugh out loud humor (MY kind of humor to boot), a cool setting (Wyoming mountains), adventure, angst, clever as hell dialogue, and even a bar mitzvah! But most of all it has fantastic well-drawn memorable characters. And feelings. Plenty of warm, teary, and cheery feelings. Sigh. Just the best…

Oh, it also has an epilogue. Some of you know I love epilogues! The other 0.4 star was lost as this epilogue takes place about 10 minutes after the last chapter ended. That’s cheating in my book as that’s not an epilogue, that’s just another chapter. I wanted an epilogue that takes place at least a year and preferably much farther down the line. Oh well, Ms. Center gives us the faintest glimpse of the future in this pseudo epilogue, but I still feel gypped.

I do want to leave on a high note here and mention that a gem of a sidelight for reading this book is that while you are reading Helen and Jake’s story you just may develop a better grasp of what happiness truly is and real tips about how to go about finding it. For real!

But oh, I’m so sad this book is over. I do not do do-overs. I do not reread books as there are so many I want to get to the first time around. But if I did do do-overs, this would definitely be on the do-over list. But who knows how I’ll feel by the time I hit the nursing home. I might just have to get myself my own copy of this little masterpiece just in case I change my mind and decide do a do-over.

I super highly recommend Happiness for Beginners to anyone who can read.

Many thanks to the Hennepin County Library of Minneapolis and the Libby app for the fab opportunity to read and review this book.

P.S. I reserve the right to come back and give back the ½ star I stole from this book if my toughness dissolves. A distinct possibility…
Profile Image for Jayme.
1,079 reviews1,648 followers
April 7, 2020
4.25

“Happiness is more about appreciation than acquisition”

This is a “sort of” prequel to Katherine Center’s “soon to be released” book-“What You Wish For” as you will meet Duncan Carpenter, who has a starring role in that book, and his sister Helen Carpenter, who has the starring role in this one!

After getting divorced, Helen feels LOST.

Her brother much younger brother Duncan talks her into signing up for a Wilderness Survival Course, in Wyoming, despite the fact that she is NOT very outdoorsy. 🤦🏻‍♀️

She hopes that by completing it, she will come away feeling more empowered!

So how did her brother’s best friend, Jake end up signing up for the same course? And, WHY? 🤔

Katherine Center’s characters are ALWAYS likable...

The characters ALWAYS share some words of wisdom on how to find happiness..

And, of course, they ALWAYS dance! 💃🏻🕺🏻

It is not necessary to read this book prior to the new one.
I actually read “What You Wish For” first.

But, had I known the characters of this one appear in that one, I would have read them in order!

So why not do that while you are waiting...

Another great buddy read with DeAnn! 🤗
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,372 followers
May 9, 2015
I wanted to read this novel because its oft-used plot--a person who's been through a difficult experience decides to go on an Outward-Boundish trip as a form of renewal--has always appealed to me. I knew it was going to be some light reading, and that's what I was in the mood for at the time.

What I didn't quite expect was just how predictable this book was going to be. Everything about it was so obvious--when the main character mentioned that she kept a list of all her goals tucked inside her bra, I knew that was going to become a plot point later, and it did--a very contrived one, at that. When their wilderness guide told the group never to step on fallen logs, because they might be rotted and you could fall and injure yourself, I knew that When the love interest indicated that he had problems with night blindness, and also had some "bad news" that he wasn't going to share just yet, I knew that he was . And that is indeed what the bad news turned out to be.

This was essentially one of those books where everything happens in service of plot, even if it makes no sense at all. So the male love interest declares his long-standing affection for the main character early on, and she rebuffs him even though she likes him too ... but then spends the whole rest of the book wondering, every time his attention seems to be focused elsewhere, if he still likes her. I can't even count the number of times I thought to myself, Omigod! He ALREADY TOLD YOU he likes you! When he gave you that Pablo Neruda poem, that meant he likes you. When he kissed you and told you you were beautiful, that meant he likes you. When he told you he'd basically been obsessed with you for six years, THAT MEANT HE LIKES YOU. Not that difficult. But, of course, without this completely unrealistic fake conflict, there'd be no book at all. That's a problem.

My other problem with this book was that, even though it was emphasized over and over again that this was a really difficult wilderness program and that people had died on it, we never really got to see them do anything difficult. The entire program seemed to consist of hiking uphill for about three miles every day. Not that easy if the trail is steep, of course, but hardly death-defying. A few more details would have helped a lot and would have made the plot about more than just the main character obsessing over a guy for three weeks.

Finally, I really, really didn't think it was necessary to , although I should have seen it coming given the lengthy passage where she talked about how he'd been her best friend throughout the past difficult year, and I didn't appreciate the jokey way it was dealt with.

As for what I liked about it, it was quick and entertaining, and there were some funny bits. There was also some interesting information about positive psychology and Buddhism, imparted quite awkwardly through a super-enlightened character who seemed to exist solely for this purpose, but interesting nonetheless. Also, I want to give credit where credit is due--this book was absolutely competently written, and when we're talking about chick lit that isn't always the case. I didn't have a single "How did THIS get published?" moment, and for this type of book that's saying a lot. Thus, I would recommend this for people who like chick lit and don't mind its formulaic nature. If that doesn't describe you, I would suggest staying away.

I received this ARC via a First Reads giveaway here on Goodreads.
Profile Image for Maren’s Reads.
284 reviews568 followers
December 18, 2022
Update: Finished a reread on audio, and while the audio is not my favorite, this book is hands down now an all time favorite of mine. If you have not read it yet, you are missing out on one of the most inspiration, moving, romantic, hopeful and fun reads.

All the ⭐️s.

Newly divorced and struggling to find her internal strength, Helen Carpenter decides to take part in a wilderness challenge in hopes that it might shake her to her very core and help her find a sense of bravery within. When her much younger brother’s best friend, Jake Archer, shares that he too has enrolled in the program and asks for a ride, she begrudgingly offers to carpool. From their strange and exhilarating interchange in a hotel en route to the campgrounds, to the loving and thoughtful way Jake helps her throughout the grueling challenge, Hellen is amazed to discover this 22-year-old is unlike any man she’s ever met, and he might just be the guiding force to help her find her way back to happiness and to a life filled with purpose.

From the moment I read the description of this book online, I knew it was my type of romance. What I didn’t expect is such a beautifully written book about self discovery and finding out how to hold on to happiness and rebuild a life and relationships thought to be irreparable. This book explores the true meaning of happiness and the very real way in which gratitude and finding the joy in even the smallest things on our hardest days, can help us find our way back to being happy.

It was the book I didn’t realize I needed at the exact moment I needed it. I highly, highly recommend it. Now on to the next Katherine Center book I can get my hands on.

Favorite quotes: “Are we going to talk about something real, or are we going to keep making excuses? Because I could be watching The Golden Girls right now.”

“But the things we remember are what we hold on to, and what we hold on to becomes the story of our lives. We only get one story. And I’m determined to make mine a good one.”
Profile Image for Corina.
778 reviews2,090 followers
December 8, 2022
When I picked up the audiobook Happiness for Beginners, I didn’t get far. Not because it was bad, it just wasn’t the right time for the book and me to connect. But then I found out that Happiness for Beginners was actually connected to the author’s new 2020 release, What you Wish For. And that was reason enough to bump it up on my tbr, and give it another try.

And I’m glad I did!

A couple years ago I read Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and really enjoyed the topic. After I was finished with the book I actually wanted to hike the PCT. Which is quite ironic because I hate hiking. But I REALLY enjoyed the hiking and survival part of the story. And while reading Happiness for Beginners I felt the same way again. It was probably my favorite part of the story.

Of course the book is not just about being in the wilderness. It’s about a personal journey, how to believe in oneself, giving the best, but also stepping out of comfort zones, and trying something new and taunting.

Helen goes through it all, and her growth is visible. Every step. Every experience is getting her closer to finding herself.

Helen isn’t alone in her quest. Jake, her brother’s best friend, and someone with his own hurdles to overcome is with her, every step on the way.

As always the author did a wonderful job balancing it all. The emotional, the hilarious, and the touching scenes. For me Happiness for Beginners was a solid performance by the author, maybe not as good as her two latest books (2018 & 2019). Nevertheless I’m very happy that I gave the book a second chance.
Profile Image for Melanie A..
1,029 reviews376 followers
August 23, 2019
4 STARS!

My first Katherine Center read, and it was a winner!

Though I would classify it as more chick-lit than romance, I devoured this story. The author's writing flowed so effortlessly, and she created a wonderfully memorable character in Helen.
I didn't belong here, which would have been okay if I'd been able to tell myself there was somewhere else - anywhere else - that I did belong.
I loved that Helen's search for herself didn't come across as cheesy or contrived. Because it easily could have. If ever there was a cliché, it’s a divorcee looking for the meaning of life on a grueling wilderness hike while crushing on a much younger man . . .

But somehow the author made it work.

I do have one point to groan about though. If the theme of the book revolved around the unfairness of life, Ms. Center sure stuck to her guns. I swear, poor Helen was not thrown a single bone over the course of the story . . . I guess in the interests of ‘keeping it real’. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this didn’t make the story better, it just sapped a good portion of the satisfaction that a story like this should be dishing out in spades.

Overall, definitely a worth-while read if you’re into this kind of premise. Thanks, Jenny, for bringing this book to my attention! <3
Profile Image for Sheyla ✎.
1,796 reviews453 followers
April 25, 2019


I love E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G about Happiness for Beginners! I love the growth of the characters, the theme of the book and the wilderness trip. In my opinion, there was not a single scene that didn’t have a reason to be there.

I can’t express how in love I’m with Helen and Jake. Their banter was magnificent. Jake was ultra McDreamy in so many ways. From his sense of humor to his nerdiness. From his accomplishments to his fake insecurities. From his confidence to his personal suffering. I LOVE him.

Helen was such an original character. It was easy to identify with her. If she was embarrassed, I felt embarrassed for her. When she was feeling down, I was feeling down. When she learned to look for happiness on a daily basis, it made me think of all the things that made me happy every day. When her heart broke, my heart broke for her.

What's Happiness for Beginners about?

Helen Carpenter is a 32-year-old teacher. She's had a tough time in the last year since her divorce. As a challenge to improve herself, she has signed up to do a survival trip in the Wyoming mountains. The night before she has to leave, she stops by her brother Duncan's house. He's supposed to petsit for her. She wasn't expecting to find a party going on, her brother nowhere to be found and her brother's best friend, Jake thanking her for driving him to the same survival camp. Here is where I stop telling you more. I would rather you experience this story. I thoroughly enjoy it. I hope this is not the last time we see these characters. Duncan is worthy of getting his own book.

Having read 3 books by Katherine Center in the less than three weeks, I can assure you that I've become a huge fan.

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs

MrsLeif's Two Fangs About It | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
Profile Image for Inge.
377 reviews883 followers
May 12, 2016
This was such an excellent and inspiring story and everything I was looking for in the previous travel books I’d bought but ended up not liking. This story was about overcoming your fears, being content with the person you are today, and finding happiness in little things. Add to that a stupidly cute romance with plenty of humour and a survival story in the middle of the mountains, and you’ve completely got me hooked.

Helen was an extremely likeable protagonist. She wasn’t perfect in the slightest – she was pretty negative, for one, and managed to blame her little brother for everything – but the fact that she never stopped trying to better herself made her all the more awesome.

On top of that, there was a subplot in which she and another girl, Windy, had feelings for the same guy. But instead of turning that into an excuse to hate on the girl, Windy actually became a true friend and Helen even defended her on several occasions. I found that to be so refreshing from all this girl-on-girl competition we see everywhere else. Windy wasn’t just “the girl competition”, but she was an actually adorable character who studied the science of happiness. That’s where Helen learns the technique of Three Good Things: you can teach yourself to become a more positive person by focussing on the good things each day. This is what I’ve been doing myself for about a year now, as well as keeping a gratitude journal to jot it all down, so I really connected to this girl.

I loved this book from start to finish, and will definitely be looking out for more of the author’s work. Lovely!
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,394 reviews7,259 followers
July 29, 2020
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

I actually have an unread ARC of Katherine Center’s newest release, but it seems like that was a big turd for most of my friends so I’ve been terrified to read it. And despite my heart telling me . . . .



My brain thankfully has been pretty persistent in reminding me that I’m kind of a Grade A Asshole and I need to lower my expectations before diving into that one.

Unfortunately Happiness for Beginners didn’t help minimize my fangirling despite it being a “finding yourself” story combined with a May/December romance which generally aren’t my ideas of a good time. Maybe I should pull the trigger on the new one – at this point it’s pretty apparent that this is an author who might do no wrong for me.
Profile Image for Mia.Mi.Jou.
259 reviews69 followers
August 23, 2021
2.5 STARS
When I’ve read in the blurb, the heroine is going after her divorce on a wilderness survival course in Wyoming, I thought it would be a story where she overcomes the mental challenges of hiking and sets out on a journey of self-discovery… and even though the course was in the book described as “famously hard-core, invariably grueling, and occasionally life-threatening”, it didn’t live up to my expectations of a survival book. What I’ve got was a fluffy chick-lit about a 32-year-old woman and her 22-year-old brother’s best friend who was in love with her for a very long time, since his teenage-years.

Okay, I wouldn’t mind me some nice romance, I said to myself, when it became obvious, my initial thoughts on the book were wrong… but the story lacked absolutely any relationship build up for the entirety of the book besides maybe a few mild encounters, and the MCs got together in the last chapter and the epilogue! The epilogue took place five minutes after the last chapter and was totally insufficient, we didn’t see the MCs as a couple, like at all. And I'm not sure they had their HEA either considering the way the epilogue was written...

The story started out strong, I liked the writing and the heroine too, but it took a nosedive from that. The heroine, Helen, became more and more juvenile and whiny. Like, she goes in the remotest wilderness in the mountains and is surprised and panicked when she discovers that there will be no possibility to use shower or toilet? It wasn’t even funny. And the other characters – the whole course turned out to be a frat party, I didn’t care for any of them. The only character I liked, was the hero, Jake, whose POV we didn’t get…

I get it, the whole course wasn't about survival. It was about Helen learning to find joy in her life again... there were really nice monologues in this regard. But unfortunately, overall the story annoyed me with ridiculous moments and characters and underdeveloped romance.

One thing I liked, the writing flowed so effortlessly... This was my first read by this author, and despite the fact that I didn't like the story, I'm sure I'll try some other book by her in the future, just for the writing itself.
Profile Image for DeAnn.
1,266 reviews
January 1, 2021
4.25 challenge yourself stars

I really like how Katherine Center creates realistic and relatable characters. In this book, we have Helen Carpenter, she’s been divorced for a year and she wants to tackle and accomplish something new! She signs up for a hard-core hiking/camping wilderness experience that she thinks will do the trick and she’s determined to earn a certificate as one of the top 3 students.

Somehow her younger brother’s best friend has also signed up for the camp, so they end up sharing a ride to Wyoming together. It’s a good thing that Jake is along because this trek is much more than she bargained for at the outset. The two bond along the way and Helen’s life changes more than she expected as she overcomes physical and mental obstacles to make it through the 3-week journey. She learns to look for the joy and positive in each day – a good lesson for all of us!

Katherine Center has become a “go to” author for me and this one is no exception. It was time to read one from her backlist! Thanks to Kaceey and Susanne for the suggestion to buddy read this one. Jayme and I enjoyed reading this one together. And one more suggestion, read this one before "What You Wish For."
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,645 reviews433 followers
November 12, 2018
Helen was emotionally recovering from a miscarriage and a divorce. She felt like she needed to do something new and challenging, and joined a wilderness-survival course in the mountains of Wyoming. Along the way she learns to appreciate the good points of a diverse group of people, and connect spiritually to nature. She also starts noting three good things that happened every day. The more you remember good things, the happier and more positive you will feel.

I have to admit that carrying a 70 pound pack up a mountain trail is not my idea of happiness, but it seemed to work for Helen. Working together as a group, the satisfaction of meeting a challenge, and the beauty of the mountains put Helen in a better place emotionally. The banter between Helen and her brother's best friend was witty. Relationships in a non-traditional family were also part of the story. "Happiness for Beginners" was an entertaining light read.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,053 reviews30k followers
December 13, 2015
Personal growth, happiness, healing, humor, and love, with a wilderness adventure thrown in; this book was all that and more. I highly recommend this brilliant novel to women's fiction fans. Now I'm off to read all of Katherine Center's other books!
Profile Image for Sarina Bowen.
Author 101 books14.6k followers
Read
January 25, 2022
Katherine Center is one of my favorite authors, but I hadn't read this one. IT'S SO GOOD. I don't know why I waited. Jake is such an unusual hero, and appealing as hell. The humor is just fantastic. But the reason to read Ms. Center is the way she portrays her character arcs through personal challenges. The narrative is always so exciting. Enjoy!
All my recent recs: https://shor.by/sarina-recommends
Profile Image for JanB .
1,113 reviews2,150 followers
August 31, 2015
An enjoyable read, perfect for a day on the beach, which is exactly where I read it. Yes, it's a tad predictable but the humor and heart that the author gives her characters elevates it over a typical chick lit book. It's light, yet with some profound life lessons. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Sabine.
593 reviews76 followers
February 17, 2018
5 glowing, laughing,crying, wonderful, all-time-favourite stars
I loved, LOVED, loved this book so much! I had to create a new Goodreads shelf for it: all-time-favourite!

I laughed A LOT...then I cryed a bit and then I laughed while I was crying. I learned to look at things a different, better way. And while I did I had the greatest time ever.

In the beginning I thought, this book is kinda funny, then I thought it is really good, then I thought it is amazing and when I thought it can't get any better it did.

Did I mention that I don't like books that make me cry because I want books to make me happy and not sad. This was different. I enjoyed every minute of it and I know I will come back at some point and read it again (which I normally don't do).

I don't know why there is not much talk about this book - it so deserves it. Please, go get yourself a copy and read it!
Profile Image for [~Ami~]♥Sexy Dexy♥ .
501 reviews454 followers
March 19, 2016
4 stars

I really liked this. I thought there was quite a few 5 star worthy face grinning moments. I felt like the adventure could have been more dangerous or life threatening than hiking. A few things at the end I was a bit let down by and maybe in another book I would have been annoyed by one or two things. But in the end I really wanted them together. Helen was awesome in a funny but bitchy kind of way. I really enjoyed it and it's one of those books I'll be happy to read again.
Profile Image for Amelia Strydom.
Author 11 books53 followers
June 9, 2019
I didn't read this book, I inhaled it! It certainly brought me lots of happiness - and more than a few tears. Katherine Center is a phenomenal author who writes lovable and real characters. The romance between Helen and Jake, her younger brother's friend, had me swooning! I read my first book by this author about 6 months ago and it's taking all my self-control to not read all her titles in one go.
Profile Image for Brenna.
577 reviews449 followers
March 15, 2016
This book completely owned me. I picked it up to read one chapter before bed to see if I was into it and it's less than 24 hours later and I cannot wipe the grin off my face. This is definitely a new top favorite!

Helen is 32, has been divorced for a year, and decides it's time to get her life back. The night before leaving for a three week wilderness adventure she runs into her brother's best friend, Jake. She finds out he is also going on the same trip and he ends up weasling a ride with her. Helen thought Jake was her little brother's annoying, immature friend. But it doesn't take long for her to see she had him all wrong. That's where the story begins.

Everything about this book was perfect. I am in awe of how much I loved this. It completely took me by surprise. The characters, the banter, the dialogue, the writing. It was so witty and real. I felt every emotion while reading and was hooked the entire time. I fell head over heels for Jake. I seriously could not love him more. I could read about Helen and Jake for many more books and never tire of them. I am definitely going to check out Katherine Center's other work now.
Profile Image for Ali.
419 reviews
January 9, 2020
Ah, what a wonderful read it was!... I started reading early this morning thinking to go through couple pages to start the day and... I just put the book down a few minutes ago... Nothing done around the house, nothing done - full stop, but I don't care, it was such fun to read!

I should note, this is my second book by this author and it was picked purely to make sure that I'm not a fan of Katherine Center. Well, turned out, I am!..

Helen is divorced, not particularly sure where in life she is heading or where her life is heading.
She is estranged from her parents, she has her lovely grandma GiGi, and a very immature and very annoying brother Duncan, who can't even manage his dog-sitting duties...

What do they say? When you have a crisis, go into the wilderness. That's exactly what Helen does. Only the outside obstacles don't seem too bad when you have a fire burning inside you and sometimes feel like crying a river...

Loved Helen! She is ordinary, yet special and quite brave in her own ways.
The book made me laugh and made my eyes teary a few times.
So, yes, off to the next Katherine Center book.
Profile Image for Malene.
1,170 reviews498 followers
July 20, 2020
Happiness for Beginners is my first book by Katherine Center and it will not be my last. Her way of storytelling just works for me. I immediately connected with Helen and was invested in her journey towards a new life and a new and improved Helen after her divorce.
I loved the overall theme of the story. Self discovery. Besides Helen I adored grandma Gigi, Helen’s baby brother Duncan and his best friend Jake.
The romance takes a backseat. This is Helen’s journey and I liked that. Her relationship with her brother and Jake was wonderfully explored. I’ll will be reading more from this author and Duncan’s book is the next in line. Such a feel good book with strong characters.

4 Believe in Yourself Stars
Profile Image for Kathryn in FL.
716 reviews
January 7, 2020
I read this quite a while ago. I don't remember much about it except that the story was cute and the writing above average. It would make a nice winter vacation read, since some will escape the February blues with a cruise!
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