Thursday, May 23, 2013

Book Review - Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life


Gretchen Rubin      


Category: Nonfiction: Memoir: Projects and Adventures

Synopsis: Rubin returns to her happiness project with ideas to make her happier at home.

Date finished: 6 May 2013

Rating: *****

I can’t really explain why I love Rubin’s Happiness books so much. Maybe it’s because I see so much of myself in her. She’s very systematical, hyper-regulated, loves rules and gold stars. She says of herself: “…my idea of living on the edge is to leave the apartment without a sweater” (page 4) and “I’m the kind of person who makes the bed in a hotel room, even on the morning of checkout” (page 45). Yes, that kind of person. I hear ya, sister. Though I don’t make hotel beds (I don’t make home beds either, until I’m ready to get into them), I do rotate spoons for even use, so peas in a pod, yes.

For the first few pages, where she’s setting up the project, my enthusiasm flagged. I’d been saving this book because her last book, The Happiness Project, was one of the only books I’ve ever read that, when I finished it, I wanted to read again. I started to wonder if this book could live up to its predecessor and if it would be rehash. I also wondered if I remembered her personality wrong. But once we got into month one of the project I remembered why I liked her so much. She’s a chronic researcher, but her research obviously energizes her, and in a strange way, energizes me when I read about her project. I was fully on board again.

She’s also a chronic lister. She has lists of Splendid Truths and rules of adulthood. They’re pretty good rules, too. Two of the splendid truths: “To be happy, I need to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.” (Splendid Truth 1) and “I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature.” (Splendid Truth 5). Other maxims: Choose the bigger life. (page 79) Find your own Calcutta.—Mother Teresa (page 228). Be Gretchen.

This is a woman who knows herself—her strengths, weaknesses, and limitations, her likes and dislikes, how to push herself and when. And she seems to know what will make herself happy. I like the level of self-awareness. She’s a serious person, but she doesn’t take things so seriously that she stifles her emotional growth.

I enjoyed the range of happiness projects in this book, everything from abandoning a project to starting a project with her sister. Little things like creating shrines of things she loves and enjoying smells more. (Who thinks of this? But isn’t awareness exactly what heightens happiness?) And I was especially taken with her threshold ritual. I’d like to incorporate this into my life.

All in all, I enjoyed this book as much as her first, and I hope there is at least one more book like this in her.

Would you recommend this to a friend?

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