Book Review: The Happiness Project
I am probably one of the few people who had not read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It has been on my list for quite some time ( along with 500 or so other titles), but for a number of reasons, I never picked it up. One of the reasons being that after the success of Eat, Pray, Love, I read memoirs/accounts about spending a year doing something to improve quality of life in someway, and a lot of them just felt forced, fake, and made me think we all are a little too narcissistic. I read Rubin’s book now because my Passion Project/awesome gal’s group decided to read it together and discuss on one of our monthly chats.
If you click through to my Goodreads page, you’ll see I gave it four stars. This is sort of a deceiving quick review because the four stars are more for how I reacted to the book, and less about the book content, writing, etc. In general, I didn’t care for the writer, her approach to life, and a lot of the research jargon. Frankly, I thought she was a bit of a nag with selfish tendencies. That might seem harsh, but so much of her quest to be happier felt rather empty to me. More than once I either said aloud or to myself- “what does she have to complain about?” I have no doubt that the reason I took her that way is because I read this book still in a weird state of grief and coming to terms with life without Dad. And to the author’s credit, she does spend some time contemplating whether happiness is something to be examined when things are good, or when things are bad. I appreciated that, especially that the author understood there is a struggle among people– she even included comments from her personal blog on the issue and how her readers saw it.
It would be interesting to see what my perspective on this book might have been had I read it at various earlier points in my life, depending on what I was going through. Would I have loved this more in the dark days of my marriage or been more into doing a happiness project as I was rebuilding my life post-divorce? It’s hard to say for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I don’t know. I think during those times I felt so overwhelmed by feelings I would have held onto the idea of doing a year-long something, but probably actually never committed to it.
So why the four stars if I didn’t quite care for the author or like her take on things? Because it made me think. I took a few pages of notes while reading the book, some for discussion with my gal group, others for my own personal writing prompts and things to ponder. It made me think about how I think about happiness in my life now and how that has changed in the months since Dad died- really how my whole perspective on life changed. It made me think about how in the past four years, I’ve learned so much about myself and what makes me happy without even trying– I did it by living and trying new things, seeing what worked, and what didn’t. The book made me think a lot about the great things I have in life and how I made it happen for myself because I wanted it. I didn’t need a big year-long project with resolutions and goals and monthly reminders because I made the active choice everyday to make my life better and think about what I wanted. Sure, I don’t have it all yet and I struggle sometimes with feeling good about my job, house, or money situation, but it’s a process, and that’s something to be happy about.