The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd on April 16th 2012
Genres: memoir
Pages: 336
Goodreads

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.

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.

The Happiness Project is the last book I read in 2017. A friend lent it to me at the beginning of the year and it just sat on my shelf, but that friend and I got into a discussion around Christmas about the book and I decided to pick it up. After reading the first chapter, I challenged myself to read it before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Challenge accepted, me! I finished it at about 8pm that night.

I don’t entirely know what I expected going into The Happiness Project. I’d heard bunches about it, and I knew the general premise, but I didn’t know if any of it would be relatable. I consider myself a fairly happy person. The idea that someone spent an entire year of their life dedicated to making themselves happier just felt, weird?, to me.

The thing about The Happiness Project is that it’s completely relatable while also giving us examples of how each of the resolutions affected Gretchen’s life. So we had the theory behind things and then the proof of how they can work (or not). What made it even more relatable to me was the inclusion of people’s responses from her blog. For almost every resolution, Gretchen posted the question on her blog and included the answers in her book. It was interesting to see how different people interpreted her resolutions or made up their own that related.

There were a couple of things that I took away instantly from the book and started incorporating into my life immediately. I have no idea why they resonated with me so much, but they’ve definitely made small improvements to my happiness.

1. If it takes less than a minute to do, do it right now instead of putting it off.

2. Happiness comes from within, not without.

3. Pursue a passion and forget about the results.

4. Be aware of how your attitude/happiness affects others.

Even if you aren’t looking at improving your happiness, I think you should read this book. I guarantee you that you’ll take something away from it without even trying. I did! Plus, Gretchen’s writing is superb, hilarious, and flowing. It made it enjoyable to read while also teaching me something.

All in all, this was a great way to end 2017 and I’m 100% sure it’s going to help shape my 2018 into a better year.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Hidden

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd on June 18th 2013
Genres: fiction
Pages: 366
Goodreads

While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son as well as contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members, and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother, who was her ex-boyfriend. Tish volunteers to attend the funeral on her company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life.

Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish, and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, the repercussions of our personal choices, and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.

Hidden read like I was getting little glimpses into these characters lives, which I love. I mean, I guess you are (that is the whole point of reading) but as if they were REAL people walking around and they had stopped in to tell me their story or something.

Warning: this may get spoilery.

The multi character narration was incredibly useful, and I don’t usually like more than one narrators in my stories.

Jeff I liked, although I felt a little bad for him. Especially since he, you know, dies. His relationship with Claire could have been explored a LOT more, but we got enough surface details to know they weren’t 100% happy. Their relationship just wasn’t very…meaty…for me.

Claire was okay as a character, but she wasn’t my favourite. She seemed like a good person, but she had some stuff going on that caused her to push Jeff away and I, I don’t know. She felt mopey to me. Mopey before her husband died, I can understand being mopey after he dies.

And Tish, the coworker. As you can probably guess, Tish and Jeff had something not purely work related going on. They emailed back and forth, which pissed me off. Who carries on a personal relationship via office email?? Especially someone in HR who knows they can be read at any moment!?! And who ditches their daughter’s competition to fly to a coworkers funeral who she MIGHT have been sleeping with, where she knows she’d come into contact with his family? I wanted to like Tish, but everything she did screamed fucking selfish to me. There was not one time during that entire scenario where she went “hmmm, how is this going to effect other people?” Tish, you are a fictional character, but you are also not a very nice woman.

I liked the book enough, but I wish it was a billion times better so I could justify keeping it on my shelf because THIS COVER <3 Which doesn’t actually match the story, since I don’t think either of the women are redheads. Or was Claire and I just pictured her as a blonde?

I don’t know anymore.

One StarOne StarOne Star