The Happiness Project

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Overview

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account of that year, Rubin carves out her place alongside the authors of bestselling memoirs such as Julie and Julia, The Year of Living ...

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The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

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Overview

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account of that year, Rubin carves out her place alongside the authors of bestselling memoirs such as Julie and Julia, The Year of Living Biblically, and Eat, Pray, Love. With humor and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.

Rubin didn't have the option to uproot herself, nor did she really want to; instead she focused on improving her life as it was. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results. She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her—and what didn't.

Her conclusions are sometimes surprising—she finds that money can buy happiness, when spent wisely; that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that "treating" yourself can make you feel worse; that venting bad feelings doesn't relieve them; that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference—and they range from the practical to the profound.

Written with charm and wit, The Happiness Project is illuminating yet entertaining, thought-provoking yet compulsively readable. Gretchen Rubin's passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire you to start your own happiness project.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Rubin is not an unhappy woman: she has a loving husband, two great kids and a writing career in New York City. Still, she could-and, arguably, should-be happier. Thus, her methodical (and bizarre) happiness project: spend one year achieving careful, measurable goals in different areas of life (marriage, work, parenting, self-fulfillment) and build on them cumulatively, using concrete steps (such as, in January, going to bed earlier, exercising better, getting organized, and "acting more energetic"). By December, she's striving bemusedly to keep increasing happiness in every aspect of her life. The outcome is good, not perfect (in accordance with one of her "Secrets of Adulthood": "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good"), but Rubin's funny, perceptive account is both inspirational and forgiving, and sprinkled with just enough wise tips, concrete advice and timely research (including all those other recent books on happiness) to qualify as self-help. Defying self-help expectations, however, Rubin writes with keen senses of self and narrative, balancing the personal and the universal with a light touch. Rubin's project makes curiously compulsive reading, which is enough to make any reader happy.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal
For this chatty and intriguing little book, Rubin, a lawyer-turned-writer (Forty Ways To Look at Winston Churchill), undertook a yearlong quest for happiness. A "Resolution Chart" with specific activities for each month (e.g., "Ask for help") helped her define happiness and become happier with her very good life, as did interesting facts from her scholarly research (though there are no footnotes or formal bibliography). Peppering the text are quotes from a vast array of people who have considered happiness, including Aristotle, St. Thérèse, and Viktor Frankl. VERDICT This whole process might have come off as frivolously self-centered but for the excellent points Rubin highlights. Although the excerpts from her blog (www.happinessprojecttoolbox.com) begin to feel like filler, librarians will particularly like how she loves her local library, and self-helpers will be fascinated by her process.—Margaret Cardwell, Memphis, TN
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611735390
  • Publisher: Center Point Large Print
  • Publication date: 10/1/2012
  • Series: Platinum Nonfiction Series
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Pages: 500
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 8.69 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the bestselling Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill and Forty Ways to Look at JFK. Rubin began her career in law, and she was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realized that she really wanted to be a writer. Raised in Kansas City, she lives in New York City with her husband and two young daughters.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 494 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(170)

4 Star

(107)

3 Star

(99)

2 Star

(65)

1 Star

(53)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 495 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2010

    Perfect book for the new year!

    What a wonderful book to start the new year with, especially after a year like 2009, and no surprise that it's been chosen by Oprah's book club. Rubin's project can easily become your own as it's filled with practical tips, without being preachy, that anyone could do. This is much more than self-help; it's a compulsively readable narrative, thanks to Gretchen's funny and insightful anecdotes (which also examine her shortcomings and failures alongside the happier successes) and thoughtful research ranging from Aristotle and Tolstoy to Ben Franklin and Samuel Johnson. I highly recommend checking out the happiness toolbox on Rubin's blog at happinessprojecttoolbox.com

    30 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2009

    Wonderfully Uplifting!

    Anyone who knows me well knows that I love a great self-help book. There are a plethora of these titles in any bookstore, and unfortunately, many of them are just too abstract for the everyday person. What makes "The Happiness Project" so wonderful is that anyone can relate. Who doesn't want to be happy?

    One year, Gretchen Rubin decides to forego the specific New Year's resolutions that so many of us break by January 3rd. Eat right, exercise more, watch less TV, blah, blah, blah. Instead, she decides that she wants to become happier. To accomplish this, she decides on 12 specific areas where she would like to become happier in her life, and then sets mini-goals for herself each month. For example, the area to be happier in May is "Leisure". Rubin's goals in May are find more fun, take time to be silly, go off the path, and start a collection.

    I found myself laughing, nodding my head with understanding, and "Ah-hah-ing" at almost every page. I found the month about contemplating the heavens to be most profound. To be happier, read memoirs of catastrophe?? Yes, if you want to be happy with and appreciate what you have, read the diaries of people who have just been diagnosed with cancer or survived a plane crash. Maybe the little things in life (Why isn't he going the speed limit?) won't bother you as much.

    Journal writing is way too overwhelming for me to do each day. Rubin suggests a one-sentence journal, where you write one thing that happened that day that you never want to forget. It's the little things like these that make this book joyous to read and makes you think about starting your own happiness project. Don't worry, be _____.

    MY RATING - 5/5

    To see my rating scale and other book reviews, please check out my blog:
    www.1776books.blogspot.com.

    28 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2010

    The Happiness Project makes it look too hard to be happy!

    I read this book for a book club I recently joined. It was really hard to get into because I felt like the author made it seem way too hard to be happy. The amount of research she did (and mentioned constantly) made me feel like I was reading a textbook at times. Near the middle of book, I began to like the author for being candid and honest. I realized that her happiness project worked for her and I saw how others could be inspired by her. Personally, I wrote down 3 things I wanted to do in the next year to make myself happier-organize my house, be nicer to my husband, and enjoy the time I do get to myself. So overall, I got her message. I did not love the book, but I can see why others who need a little inspiration would.

    22 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2009

    Not worth your money

    This book is a Pollyanna interlude in the life of someone who thinks happiness is being cutesy and making your bed. She has no idea what she is talking about and needs to live in the real world. It is not worth your hard-earned money.

    21 out of 67 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 21, 2009

    What's not to be happy about?

    While it might be easy to dismiss Gretchen as someone who already has it all, "what's she got to be unhappy about?" I've learned from her that happiness isn't in what you have or don't have, it's all in the approach.

    During a miserable 12 months where a number of stressful, bad things happened to me and my family, advice and information from The Happiness Project blog lifted me up. I actually feel happier now than I did before my misfortunes began. I am NOT a fan of self-help programs, never done one, but The Happiness Project has seeped its way into my attitude and my behaviors everyday.

    I can't wait to read this book and I know a number of people I'm going to share it with.

    15 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    Somewhat thought provoking but not really original

    Ms. Rubin's account of how her Happiness Project is interesting but I found most of it not really original. She tends to reiterate everything she has read on the subject and how she attempts to try these methods to her own life which already seems pretty happy. Has she ever really experienced any difficulties in her life? Any tragedies? This is not to say one has to - to understand happiness but it gives some perspective to it. Whereas to understand tragedy - she had to read about it. From what she describes she has a rather "perfect" life so it is hard to take her to seriously. If she didn't feel "happy" with her life then I think she perhaps needs to look more at her psyche. She seems to have no real struggles like most of us - money issues, family issues, work issues etc. Ms. Rubin is obviously an extremely intelligent person with a wonderful family, a great job, great education, wonderful parents and in-laws - I think Ms. Rubin is probably inspiring many of her readers - so I guess that is a good thing!

    13 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A must read

    Why do we only think about our own happiness when we are in the face of some traumatic event or some overwhelming depression? Regardless of how happy you might be, there is always the possibility of finding more happiness and this book is about one woman's attempt at finding simple ways of creating more. Without making major changes, like moving or changing jobs, she instead makes simple resolutions, such as singing in the morning and walking more. This is a book which is almost guaranteed to bring more joy and appreciation into your life.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2011

    Unrelatable

    I find it very hard to relate to Rubin when she tells the reader right in the beginning she's already happy and that she and her family live in New York's Upper East Side.

    11 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2009

    was not a reader of the blog but i really loved this book!

    I picked this up in my local bookstore and was really delighted by something on almost every page. it's filled with helpful information, great stories of someone who made a commitment to happiness in their life and chronicles how they kept it. if you have really serious issues, then achieving happiness might require more than singing in the morning and cleaning closets but even so this will put you in the right mindset to tackle whatever those larger problems are. i'm not a fan of self help generally and picked this up because i loved the cover but i was hugely impressive with the lightness of touch and the quality of her research. i highly recommend.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2010

    Simple Isn't Necessarily Easy: Happiness is a Choice.

    The fundamental premise of this book is your basic: "you can't choose what happens, you can only choose how you react." Happiness is a choice. A simple but very profound principle and one that is much easier to "believe" than it is to "employ".

    Rubin lists a series of philosophers and other thinkers and researchers who have studied "happiness" from a variety of perspectives and historical periods, and she references some of their discoveries/conclusions, but her researches are background, not foreground. Instead of attempting some kind of summary or new perspective on existing "knowledge" she undertakes something equally if not more interesting, which is to systematically apply what she has learned and evaluate results in real life, her life.

    The fact that she uses her own life as the test case seems to infuriate some people. I think they're missing a couple of points. First, happiness is clearly relative and contextual. To engage in "my unhappiness is legitimate but yours isn't" is a kind of chauvinism. It also illustrates the sort of mindset that Rubin has the courage to actually explore and face, rather than rationalize and hide from.

    Second, ourselves is all we have to work with - while we can influence others, in the end, they have the power to do, be, feel whatever they choose. The only person we have the power to change is our self.

    So Rubin evaluates her life and hones in on attitudes, beliefs and behaviors OF HER OWN that contribute to a lack of happiness in her life.
    She realizes that when her mood is bad it affects her husband and children as well as herself. She realizes that simply exercising restraint, thoughtfulness, patience, etc. makes her happier AND makes her loved ones happier.

    On the surface most of her realizations seem obvious enough, but that's like saying you can lose weight by exercising more and eating less. Simple, but very hard to put into practice.

    Rubin makes the point that "happiness" is subjective and that each of us needs to decide what it means to us. Having done that, her message is that we can engage in concrete activities and behaviors that will increase the happiness in our lives. She moves happiness from the passive state to the active - we can go after it rather than sitting around waiting for it to hopefully arrive.

    The unstated corollary to "taking responsibility for your own happiness" is that unhappiness is your responsibility as well. This is the other sore spot that many people are sensitive to. If happiness is a choice, then so is unhappiness. If unhappiness is a choice, well, what are the implications of that? That's where the hard work really starts.

    How people feel about their lives is typically the result of a network of surface and unexplored beliefs, developed and inherited (ie. again, unexplored) attitudes, experiences, etc. The notion that you can actually take a close look at what makes up your worldview and, perhaps, change it for the better, is alien to most, and resisted by many. This book serves as a starting point for the explorers who are willing to step up and take a stab at living purposefully and with their eyes open to their own contribution to their experience of life.

    Meanwhile, those who respond with hostility should really ask themselves what beliefs are being threatened. It would be illuminating and might just start them down an interesting path.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    Boring

    If you are self centered, young and stupid then this book is for you. The author is in a world of her own and, I think and hope, figures out life is not about "her, her, her." I only read this because it was a book club pick. No one in our group of 10 liked it and everyone found it boring.

    6 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2012

    Incredibly boring!

    Extremely boring and overly technical, this book is overloaded with statistical data. I give up trying to stay awake!

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2011

    One Of Last Year's Best!

    This book is wonderful. I brought several copies for Christmas gifts. I also want to thank whoever recommended "When God Stopped Keeping Score." That book has changed my life for the better. I suggest you buy a copy of that too. It is a welcomed companion to the Happiness Project.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2010

    self promoting

    slate writer, shameless self promoting

    4 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2012

    I am struggling to find interest in reading this book. It moves

    I am struggling to find interest in reading this book. It moves slowly. I haven't find any useful information in the chapter's I've read, and am thinking it is time to give up.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Just okay.

    I have a love/hate affair with this book. At times I enjoyed it, at times I skipped pages. Honestly, I enjoyed the comments by random people that were pulled from her blog better than the book itself!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2010

    Not really anything here

    I really wanted to like this book but it just didn't grab me.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    Great, Insightful Read

    Having recently read Eat, pray, Love, I was primed for another book about improving one's life. Having become used to Elizabeth Gilbert's often playful, self-deprecating tongue-in-cheek style, I found the terse and to-the-point tone of this narrative hard to get into at first. But I was quickly won over by Rubin's brilliance and the sheer simplicity of the project. There is no trekking through Indonesia or any other grandiose schemes that are likely not possible for a lot of us given our obligations with work and family. Nor is there any specific catastrophe like illness or divorce to prompt her: she resolves one day to try to be happier person, realizing that life is passing by quickly, and that her appreciation for it is not always where it should be. She chooses a mini project per month to focus on- small and practical little things we can all do to improve our attitude, change destructive behaviors, etc. Each month's topic is subdivided into different aspects of the monthly topic. Laugh more, be grateful, "spend out" (my favorite) are some of the mini-resolutions. The impressively detailed analysis of how to go about achieving them, why each approach worked or didn't work and what to do about it keep this book from becoming preachy and alienating. What makes this book a must-read is how thoroughly Rubin examines her own flaws and neuroses that sometimes contribute to her dissatisfaction; tendencies that many of us ambitious, work-stressed, perfectionist souls can relate to. She also draws on a vast array of ideas from great philosophers in each analysis to support her observations. Rubin keeps her progress and failures charted, siting increased accountability, and blogs about her project. Further, she discloses excerpts from bloggers commenting on the monthly topic at hand, and then reflects on patterns that clearly demonstrate what tendencies are inherent in modern American culture. Again, no grandiosity here- no chanting Buddhist prayers in a Indian shrine while fasting. If this book does not inspire you to start changing your life, you will at the very least feel comforted by the kindred spirit in Rubin.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2010

    Good for someone trying to improve or change their life.

    I read this for my book club; it wasn't great for conversation, however everyone enjoyed reading it and thinking about how to apply some of her principles to their life. I was especially interested in the book for my daughter who has been going through a difficult time. Would recommend to someone who needs help in finding new direction.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2012

    STUFF YOU ALREADY KNOW

    Now I remember why I long ago quit reading self-help books.
    LLL

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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