The subtitle of this book written by Gretchen Rubin is: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. Now that’s a subtitle! It is also a clear message about what you are in for as a reader. While on vacation I came across the book at the home we were visiting. The book had been suggested by a friend and seemed just right for a vacation read – well yes and no.
The book is outlined by the monthly goals of the author’s yearlong self-help project to deepen her sense of happiness. The opening chapter offers an explanation of how and why Ms. Rubin embarked on her happiness project. There is a very telling dialogue in this chapter between the author and her sister. Her sister tells that her approach to increase her happiness is “weird” because she plans to manage it as a project with milestones, action steps, metrics, etc. I should have realized then this was not my idea of a good vacation read.
On the one hand the book is full of helpful tips and ideas, interesting research findings, and meaningful quotes by a broad array of people. On the other hand it reads like a type A’s journey to make her already remarkable life even more perfect! I had to work to get past her resolutions, overarching principles, commandments, rules for adults, charts and graphs. She does let us know from the beginning that each person’s journey to happiness is unique and that what works for her might not work for you. Yet, some readers may find this make it yours advice difficult at times, such as when the notion of spending more money to support happiness seems out of touch. It’s important to know that the research on happiness clearly holds that money is not the source of happiness. Ms. Rubin is well aware of these research findings, but is trying to overcome her personal quirky frugality.
I found the book sometimes amusing, thoughtful and interesting. I particularly liked the examination of the intrinsic consequences to making choices, which is letting go of other possibilities, or as she states “you can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want”. Overall, it’s a quick read but maybe not a vacation book, because vacation is about kicking back and having fun. It’s not about project management even when it’s a happiness project!