Saturday, February 1, 2014

January Book Review: "Happier at Home" by Gretchen Rubin

For 2014, I decided to set a goal to read one book each month. I enjoy reading books, but I don't often find motivation to read. Mike has been doing some coursework for work, so there's a bit more downtime to myself. Perfect time for reading!

For January, I selected Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home. It's a sequel to The Happiness Project which I read last year. In the first book, Gretchen tackles a different area of her life and sets a few resolutions for that month. In this book, she does the same thing, although each theme is very "home-centric" and instead of a calendar year, she follows the school year: September through May. I'm afraid my terrible memory makes it challenging for me to write a book review that just recaps the book. I'd rather just describe the "feel" of the book and perhaps recount some things that stuck with me.

I follow Gretchen's blog and I admire her tenacity and intellectual approach to happiness. This isn't just another book on how eating healthier/sleeping more/spending time with family/doing more of what you love will make you happier. Some of these ideas are in there, but she takes very specific actions. Usually, I relate very closely to her. Sometimes it's a bit scary as she very honestly owns up to some of the "quirkier" parts of her personality and it's like looking into a mirror. For instance, in her first book, she talks about how she's an "underbuyer" (guilty) so she made it a goal to "spend out," or use up things she may be saving for no particular reason other than she perceives them as something to be saved for a special occasion, like fancy soap or stationary. I find myself saying "spend out" in my head every once in a while.

Something in this book that stuck with me was "entering into the interests of others." By this she means, make an effort to understand something that is interesting to a loved one. (One of her Secrets of Adulthood is "What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you–and vice versa." Mike was talking to me about something a couple weeks ago (could have been record players, P90X, his school work, I don't remember) and I realized I had an opportunity to enter into his interest. I tried hard to listen to what he was saying and understand his thoughts on the subject. It's so easy to put the "uh huhs" and "oh, that sounds neats" in the right place when someone is telling us something we're not interested in, but when you're speaking on something that interests you, isn't it nice to have someone ask thoughtful questions and show a genuine interest?

I don't relate to all of the author's happiness goals. First of all she does not like to drive at all. She lives in New York City, so this makes sense at first, but she's from Kansas City and she doesn't like to drive there either. I love to drive and I'm not really sure I understand her dislike of it. No worries! (See aforementioned Secret of Adulthood!) Also, she gets very excited about a landscape scene she commissions an artist to design for their cupboard. I suppose I see how this is need, but my pragmatic side would be annoyed with the lost real estate for cups and plates.

Overall I would say I enjoyed the first book better, but I really enjoyed revisiting the format and seeing what other creative goals Gretchen sets for herself. I haven't started a happiness project of my own, but reading books like this one keep me inspired to set and work towards different goals for myself. I feel happier when I'm working on achieving something.

Have you read The Happiness Project or Happier at Home? What did you think?

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