RUBIN, GRETCHEN. The Happiness Project. New York: Harper, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-06-158326-1. Pp. 296. $14.99.
Gretchen Rubin makes a noble effort over the course of one year to be a happier person, and has inspired many others to do the same. Her plan is very meticulous, organized, and well-researched (the lady went to Yale for undergrad and law school, so...). Which may be why I couldn't get into this book. It certainly got me thinking about a lot of things, but I don't think I can make charts and ponder "eternity" (what does that mean?) for an entire month. Which is fine, according to Rubin. Everyone is going to have a different kind of happiness project. What's fun for some, isn't fun for others. Interestingly, Rubin and I do think the same things are fun: reading. I guess that's just one thing, but it's important because we think of reading (and writing) in the same, obsessive way. Nevertheless, Rubin left me cold for one reason. Poor girl doesn't have a sense of humor (she does acknowledge this, but that only adds to the humorlessness of the book). I found her tendency to quote Samuel Johnson, Tolstoy, and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux on every page kind of, well, pompous. As the magnificent Keith Richards would put it, "it's all the blah blah blah".
Rubin's Happiness Project is organized into eleven categories, including marriage, parenting, and friendship. The author works on each of these for a month, doing simple, sometimes minuscule chores in order to be a better wife/mother/friend. The twelfth month is a boot-campy, go back and do-it-all-at-once type thing. It's probably the shortest chapter. Maybe she didn't make it. Anyway, for each month, Rubin sets up several small tasks, such as gathering all her friends' birthdays so she can send birthday e-mails. While for many of us, this would only take a minute (who has time for friends anyway?--Hi Joey, I've owed you an e-mail for over a month, probably. I miss you, does this count??), but for Rubin, this is a massive undertaking. She does seem to go to an awful lot of cocktail and dinner parties.
I should really reiterate how much this book can get you thinking. Maybe not on every page, but I think it did make me more thoughtful when it comes to living with Koch. I actually tried one of her suggestions and called him at work to tell him about something stupid I'd done. His response: "So why are you calling to tell me this?" Fail. But that's not the only thing. And I did notice that he cleaned out the cat box even though it wasn't necessarily his turn. But more importantly, I realized that I have been working on my own Happiness Project of sorts without necessarily realizing it, and that is very reassuring.