A Short Guide to a Happy Life

( 50 )

Overview

From the author of Blessings and Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen’s classic reflection on a meaningful life is the perfect gift for graduation, or any occasion.

“Life is made of moments, small pieces of silver amidst long stretches of tedium. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves now to live, really live . ....

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Overview

From the author of Blessings and Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen’s classic reflection on a meaningful life is the perfect gift for graduation, or any occasion.

“Life is made of moments, small pieces of silver amidst long stretches of tedium. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves now to live, really live . . . to love the journey, not the destination.”

In this treasure of a book, Anna Quindlen, the bestselling novelist and columnist, reflects on what it takes to “get a life”—to live deeply every day and from your own unique self, rather than merely to exist through your days. “Knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God ever gives us,” Quindlen writes, “because unless you know the clock is ticking, it is so easy to waste our days, our lives.” Her mother died when Quindlen was nineteen: “It was the dividing line between seeing the world in black and white, and in Technicolor. The lights came on for the darkest possible reason. . . . I learned something enduring, in a very short period of time, about life. And that was that it was glorious, and that you had no business taking it for granted.” But how to live from that perspective, to fully engage in our days? In A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Quindlen guides us with an understanding that comes from knowing how to see the view, the richness in living.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In this treasure of a book, Anna Quindlen, the bestselling novelist and columnist, reflects on what it takes to "get a life" -- to live deeplyevery day and from your own unique self, rather than merely to exist through your days. "Knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God ever gives us..."
From The Critics
Excellent insight and advice is what columnist and novelist Anna Quindlan offers in this short and inspiring collection of essays. Saddened by her own mortality since the death of her mother, Anna Quindlan writes of love, marriage, parenthood, disappointment, and death. Her purpose is to explore these topics in their complexity and to underscore that life is a gift of God and not a mere existence. For Anna Quindlan, life is a school where everywhere, there is a classroom. Lessons can be found in falling snowdrops; glistening daffodils; small children nestling on a couch; and quiet conversations with the homeless. Written in plainspoken language, Quindlan's work will resonate with adolescents, no matter what their religious or ethnic affiliation. Genre: Inspirational 2000, Random House, 50 pp., $12.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Gilberto Davis; Ponce, Puerto Rico
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375504617
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 33,655
  • Product dimensions: 5.07 (w) x 7.16 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen is the author of three bestselling novels, Object Lessons, One True Thing, and Black and Blue. Her New York Times column "Public and Private" won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992, and a selection of those columns was published as Thinking Out Loud. She is also the author of a collection of her "Life in the 30's" columns, Living Out Loud; a book for the Library of Contemporary Thought, How Reading Changed My Life; and two children's books, The Tree That Came to Stay and Happily Ever After. She is currently a bi-weekly columnist for Newsweek and resides with her husband and children in New York City.

Biography

Anna Quindlen could have settled onto a nice, lofty career plateau in the early 1990s, when she had won a Pulitzer Prize for her New York Times column; but she took an unconventional turn, and achieved a richer result.

Quindlen, the third woman to hold a place among the Times' Op-Ed columnists, had already published two successful collections of her work when she decided to leave the paper in 1995. But it was the two novels she had produced that led her to seek a future beyond her column.

Quindlen had a warm, if not entirely uncritical, reception as a novelist. Her first book, Object Lessons, focused on an Irish American family in suburban New York in the 1960s. It was a bestseller and a Times Notable Book of 1991, but was also criticized for not being as engaging as it could have been. One True Thing, Quindlen's exploration of an ambitious daughter's journey home to take care of her terminally ill mother, was stronger still—a heartbreaker that was made into a movie starring Meryl Streep. But Quindlen's fiction clearly benefited from her decision to leave the Times. Three years after that controversial departure, she earned her best reviews yet with Black and Blue, a chronicle of escape from domestic abuse.

Quindlen's novels are thoughtful explorations centering on women who may not start out strong, but who ultimately find some core within themselves as a result of what happens in the story. Her nonfiction meditations—particularly A Short Guide to a Happy Life and her collection of "Life in the 30s" columns, Living Out Loud—often encourage this same transition, urging others to look within themselves and not get caught up in what society would plan for them. It's an approach Quindlen herself has obviously had success with.

Good To Know

To those who expressed surprise at Quindlen's apparent switch from columnist to novelist, the author points out that her first love was always fiction. She told fans in a Barnes & Noble.com chat, "I really only went into the newspaper business to support my fiction habit, but then discovered, first of all, that I loved reporting for its own sake and, second, that journalism would be invaluable experience for writing novels."

Quindlen joined Newsweek as a columnist in 1999. She began her career at the New York Post in 1974, jumping to the New York Times in 1977.

Quindlen's prowess as a columnist and prescriber of advice has made her a popular pick for commencement addresses, a sideline that ultimately inspired her 2000 title A Short Guide to a Happy Life. Quindlen's message tends to be a combination of stopping to smell the flowers and being true to yourself. Quindlen told students at Mount Holyoke in 1999, "Begin to say no to the Greek chorus that thinks it knows the parameters of a happy life when all it knows is the homogenization of human experience. Listen to that small voice from inside you, that tells you to go another way. George Eliot wrote, 'It is never too late to be what you might have been.' It is never too early, either. And it will make all the difference in the world."

Studying fiction at Barnard with the literary critic Elizabeth Hardwick, Quindlen's senior thesis was a collection of stories, one of which she sold to Seventeen magazine.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 8, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A., Barnard College, 1974
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

I'm not particularly qualified by profession or education to give advice and counsel. It's widely known in a small circle that I make a mean tomato sauce, and I know many inventive ways to hold a baby while nursing, although I haven't had the opportunity to use any of them in years. I have a good eye for a nice swatch and a surprising paint chip, and I have had a checkered but occasionally successful sideline in matchmaking.

But I've never earned a doctorate, or even a master's degree. I'm not an ethicist, or a philosopher, or an expert in any particular field. Each time I give a commencement speech I feel like a bit of a fraud. Yogi Berra's advice seems as good as any: When you come to a fork in the road, take it!
I can't talk about the economy, or the universe, or academe, as academicians like to call where they work when they're feeling kind of grand. I'm a novelist. My work is human nature. Real life is really all I know.

Don't ever confuse the two, your life and your work. That's what I have to say. The second is only a part of the first. Don't ever forget what a friend once wrote to Senator Paul Tsongas when the senator had decided not to run for reelection because he'd been diagnosed with cancer: "No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time at the office."

Don't ever forget the words on a postcard that my father sent me last year: "If you win the rat race, you're still a rat."

Or what John Lennon wrote before he was gunned down in the driveway of the Dakota: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

That's the only advice I can give. After all, when you look at the faces of a class of graduating seniors, you realize that each student has only one thing that no one else has. When you leave college, there are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living.

But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 50 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(27)

4 Star

(12)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 50 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2001

    Dissapointing

    I like Anna Quindlen, but this book was dissapointing. I can't imagine why it's been successful other than brilliant marketing and the author's good name. Perhaps I just expected too much, but there is not much more to this little book than 'you should get a life, and appreciate it.' Over half the pages are taken up by unoriginal stock photos. If you want a little book filled with truly thought-provoking advice on living a happy life, I highly recommend 'Open Your Mind, Open Your Life' by Taro Gold.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 8, 2010

    This is the book that changed my life!

    I read this book when going through a tough time in my life. I had lots of questions about how my life was going and I was the only person who could answer those questions. A Short Guide to a Happy Life helped me sort through lots of debris in my life and find a path to happiness. I have given this book to many friends at tough times in their lives as well and I hope it has helped them as much as it helped me.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2006

    two gift books

    Two great gift books for young adults: 1) this one is pretty good because Anna Quindlen has a knack for getting to the core of what matters in life. She writes simple but profound truth. and 2) Words to Live By (Emily and Kate Marshall) is great because we've got to tell young people what WE think is important. It's a guided journal you write in for someone. Quote Quindlen and others in it if you want, but add your own two cents. Very well laid out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    Yicb

    Ivm

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    It's a quick read but contain many thought provoking statements. Reminds us to be grateful for what we have. It could be gone tomorrow.

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  • Posted July 31, 2013

    Recommend

    Easy and quick read. Worth reading again. Enjoyed it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2012

    Loved the sentiments- but wish i knew it was only a few pages long!

    This collection of advice and sentiments I enjoyed, however I wish I knew it was only a few pages long BEFORE I purchased it for $12 on my Nook! I realize the title says, "A Short Guide", but really this is no more than a thoughtful excerpt, and that should have been more clear, so "buyer beware"! Took a few minutes to read the entire guide!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    Get a life

    We've all heard the saying life is what you make of it. This little gem of a book is pretty much just an expansion on that simple phrase but it's really nice to see it spelled out so well.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    A must read for everyone!

    This is a short, easy to read book but has such awesome reminders about how precious is life and the people we share it with.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Nice

    inspirational

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2007

    Brilliant

    Every word of this book is true - her clarity on life and our mortality makes this a must read!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2007

    A reviewer

    I gave this book 4 stars because I have read others that I enjoyed more, such as Victoria Tunnermann's ESAMUEL. However, I would still recommend this one. I needed to make time for myself and take a breather, so to speak. This book helped me do just that, and reminded me of certain things I should have known.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2006

    I loved this little book!

    It's a page turner, and an easy book to read in one sitting. I felt very content after this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2005

    Gotta learn to be happy

    This book reminds us that happiness is a state of mind and something we have some control over. I also enjoyed reading 'The Emotional Intelligence Quickbook' for some hands on strategies I could use to build happiness in my own life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2005

    A Short Guide to a Happy Life

    Like a simple proverb, this book is straight to the point, and gets to the matter, not wasting any words.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2005

    A Short Guide to a Happy Life

    I'm happy to have read this book because it made me feel happy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2004

    Predictable Pap

    Nothing original or even, alas, arresting. Spend your time and money elsewhere - perhaps enjoying your own life.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2004

    Gratitude and life skills

    This is a charming book. I felt happy as I read this book, so it works.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2004

    Charming Quick Read with Lasting Impact

    This is a beautiful little book that touches the heart. It is written in a very warm up-close and cozy style. This book makes a great coffee- or end-table book because it is enjoyable and useful to read more than once. Also makes a great gift. A feel good book in every way--style, content, appearance....

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2004

    Small, Wise, Honest Book

    Brief, well-written essay about what's is most important in life, told with Quindlen's novelistic eye for detail. I'm also in love with 'I Sleep At Red Lights: A True Story of Life After Triplets,' by Bruce Stockler, an amazing story of how a man finds the meaning of life in the day-to-day chaos of losing his job, becoming a stay-at-home Dad for four kids and arguing with his wife.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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