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Book Review: The Happiness Project

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The Happiness Project

“Happiness,” wrote Yeats, “is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”

Recently I’ve read a new book. Well, new to me – this book has been on the bestsellers list for quite a while now but I finally just managed to getting get around to reading it.

From time to time I like to share reviews of books that I’ve read here on the blog, mainly because getting referrals from other people is usually how I hunt down my next read. If you don’t already follow me on GoodReads you can find me here.

I know, who has time for another another social networking site? But I think GoodReads is extremely helpful and how I find most of my future reads. I read pretty quickly, so when someone asks for a good book for [insert type of mood here], it’s my go-to.

Book Review: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

If you’ve been reading my writing for any length of time, you should probably pick up on the fact that I’m an optimist and finding the “happy” in anything.

I enjoyed The Happiness Project because it’s not another feel-good, warm ‘n fuzzies book. (*Cough, Chicken Soup for the Soul)

It’s not soul-searching reading that will move you to tears either. (*Cough, The Last Lecture)

It’s simple, matter-of-fact, and doesn’t beat around the bush.

Since her past career was in law and she writes biographies, author Gretchen Rubin approaches the abstract subject of happiness with a methodical and organized approach. If anything she treats happiness with the distance and deliberateness one would use to complete a science experiment.

Yet, her abundant use of statistics, psychological analysis and famous quotations read almost as a prescription. Choosing happiness is not a sappy, rosy-eyed decision anymore. Choosing happiness is the logical decision and here’s why- it’s better for your health, your family, your career.

The Happiness Project is accessible to everyone. While I’d love to take a year of my life to study in Italy, India, and Bali (a la Eat, Pray, Love) that’s just not reality. As Ruben says, she wants to find happiness “in her own kitchen”, essentially, living her life quite similar to how she always has – just happier.

There are a few key takeaways I love about this book. If I were the type of person to put notes on my bathroom mirror (I’m not), this is what they’d say.

1. Embrace the four stages of happiness: anticipate, savor, express and recall.

2. The days are long, but the years are short.

3. One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.

4. What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.

5. It’s easy to be heavy; hard to be light.

The Happiness Project is versatile and applicable to anyone. It’s not like you’re choosing a diet and have to give up your favorite foods. You can pick your own areas you want to work on. Because I happen to share Rubin’s love of children’s literature and writing, I certainly connected with her on a lot of her personal goals. But her methods would apply to anyone.

It’s quick easy read it and be read quickly over holiday weekend or could be read one chapter at a time. One chapter of the book is heated to one months of her project, So if you are a slow reader you won’t feel left behind!

Have you read the Happiness Project?

Book Review: At Home by Bill Bryson

Preface: I, Kat, solemnly swear I will not bombard you with reviews of every book that I read. However, I will post about books that I think are deserving enough to spread the word about. As previously mentioned, I am a voracious reader and if I reviewed them all you would never come back.

Bill Bryson is a GREAT author. I have thoroughly enjoyed every book of his that I have read. Bryson is a best-selling American author of witty books on culture, travel and language. He current now resides in England with his family in a Victorian parsonage, the house that launches his idea of his most recent book.

Amazon.com summarizes the book well:
“Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has fig­ured in the evolution of private life.”

Basically, Bryson walks through the house chapter by chapter. He will start a chapter talking about his kitchen sink and end the chapter analyzing how ice and transportation revolutionized the way we eat.

In fact, I learned that a small lake, only 10 minutes from my house, was instrumental in that plight. The lake was famous for it’s crystal clear ice and was shipped all over the world. Food was displayed on this ice in the windows of London shops in the 1840s. Eventually people realized they could ship food all over the world via ice.

Somehow Bryson manages to forcefeed you historic trivia and you love it. Why do we use salt and pepper as our main two spices? Why does a fork have 4 tines? Whatever happened to the drawing room? How did we evolve from mud huts to rolling estates?

I first heard about this book because it kept appearing in the ad section on other home decor blogs that I follow. I knew I had to read it. It’s amazing to discover why our homes are constructed or decorated the way they are and the people who (unintentionally) changed home life forever.

“Houses aren’t refuges from history. They are where history ends up.” – Bryson

The subtitle is “A Short History of Private Life“, but I will warn you; it’s not exactly a short history. It was a whopping 550 pages. I admit, I started to lose interest 400 pages in, I’m only one for trivia for so long and with no culminating plotline to carry you through to the end one can lose focus.

I do, however, give it a 4/5.