Reviewed by Katie Langston, reader, writer, lover of bad movies
Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project is readable, thorough, thoughtful, practical, and fun. It’s a “stunt” memoir – a category of non-fiction that’s emerged over the past few years, wherein authors undertake a certain adventure or goal for a pre-set period of time, then write about their experiences. (Think Julie & Julia, The Year of Living Biblically, or Eat Pray Love.)
Each month, Rubin picked several resolutions that she felt would improve her happiness. They were far-ranging: “go to sleep earlier,” “take time to be silly,” and “write a novel” are just three of the 47 resolutions she attempted. It was interesting to read about the research and thought processes that went into identifying her resolutions – and enlightening to discover how well they did or did not work for her.
From a philosophical perspective, I thought she tried to do a little too much – my experience is that happiness isn’t so much about doing as it is about being. I wondered if Rubin weren’t a little too scattered in her approach, and as a result touched on several things lightly, but never got all the way into the heart.
Still, this was never supposed to be – nor was it pitched as – a deep, spiritual probe into the nature of happiness; instead, it was exactly as advertised: a fun, accessible overview of lots of different happiness-boosting tips and tricks. There’s a little nugget of wisdom in here for everyone – one of the best popular self-help titles I’ve read in a while.
Market: Non-fiction, self-help, memoir