Book review : The Happiness Project

I finished reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin last night. It was well written, and often quite inspirational, especially in the first chapters. Rubin kept linking back to  the motto “ The days are long but the years are short” which is very true of life and underpins the need and the reasons for trying to achieve quality long lasting happiness in our daily life.

Sadly though by the end of the book I was also applying the motto to the book. Well my take on it – “The book is long, but the chapters are often shallow”. More to the point, I developed a really strong dislike of Rubin. To me, she became a  ever complaining, self-centred, egotistical bore. Maybe it was me, but I don’t think I would like the Gretchen as constructed in the book.

I am always enforcing the rule with my students that they should never attribute an author’s writing with the author, but in this type of  twelve months to complete a project text writing is very personalised and so one comes to live with, and through the writer.  Perhaps it is the difference in age – I mean I would be 15 years older than Rubin and in a completely different place in my life – by to me she became a nagging, obnoxious egocentric person, whom I sensed, despite her best intentions, remained honestly indifferent to the real needs of her husband and family.

Maybe it was just the style of writing. It was obvious that Rubin set out to write both a book and a blog to attract publicity, a publisher and financial gain from the project, and no doubt she had to flesh out the activities to make the word length of a book. However, after awhile I started skimming paragraphs to try and lift the information from the complaints.

That said, it was a good book to read as a first read in any self-improvement project. There are many helpful suggestions. I found the comments from readers of her blog particularly interesting and underpinned, for me, how happiness is different for everyone.

I suspect that this is really a book for the twenty-thirty something woman. Someone without small children, a secure economic foundation, or a little older might not relate so well. This is one issue that I have with many of the books in this area – they do not address the newly empty nesters. Not the empty nesters who one day look at their husbands and decide that they no longer need them, and so resign their jobs, pack up their art books and move to France, or Italy or wherever the other like minded women have gone. Also, not the type of empty nester looking to reconnect spiritually.

My point is that Rubin’s book doesn’t address the Flamingo Dancers of the world; mature women who want to remain happy by recreating their life within their existing paradigm with the wisdom already learned through a life well lived. Women who want to flesh out what they already have. Women who don’t need to purchase something to reward themselves; and women who are setting up the next 40 years of their life. The women who want to hail that great big yellow taxi to the kerb and keep the meter running a little longer.

7 thoughts on “Book review : The Happiness Project

  1. I often come away from books that are “supposed to be good for me” feeling this way. It’s maybe a genre problem, and not so much an author problem.
    People tend to write from a relatively narrow point of view, which is their own experience, and then try to extrapolate to cover everyone. Doesn’t really work.
    So we should read three chapters and call it a day, eh?


    • I think you are right – first half of the book is worthy of reading, after that very trivial. How she dragged it out to a year is beyond me. It is a silly genre the “project in a year”. Fifteen minutes of fame in a new form I guess.


  2. Terrific review! I am sure not going to read that book. Your last paragraph summed it all up, really. That is what we want. I am not an empty nester yet, but I have had one son go to college and another one will be going. They are growing up and I can see what it will be like, when I have no more needs to fill and I cannot imagine it. It seems lonely to me.

    I think I will copy and paste your paragraph, and of course, attribute it to you, so I can reread it when I am feeling down. Thank you, Flamingo Dancer! You are inspiring to me!


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