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Book Review: The Happiness Project


First, I have to confess two things. One of them is that sometimes I buy a book and read it right away, and other times it sits on my bookshelf for a while before I get around to it. The second thing is that while I can remember only having given up on a book once (Catch 22), I don’t always read a book the whole way through the first time I pick it up.

With this book, both of those things happened. For Christmas 2012, a friend of mine requested my book list so that he could send me something. I willingly obliged, happy that he had the forethought to ask directly instead of guessing. When his package came, not only had he gotten me a book from my list, but he also sent me The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I suffer from seasonal depression, and he figured a little self-help in the area of happiness might indeed help me.

Intrigued, I started reading the book almost immediately upon receiving it, but didn’t get very far into it before I shelved it to read other things.

Sometimes we just aren’t in the right mood, mindset, or time of life for a particular book. And that’s totally okay!

Fast forward to last month, December 2013. I was feeling kinda stuck and looking for some motivation to make some changes, which led me to taking this book back off my shelf. I also think part of my thought process was that it was the end of the year, and a new year always means a fresh start.

The author starts out by stating that while she thought she lived a good life, there were things she wanted to improve on or try, and overall she just felt like she could be happier than she was. From there she created the Twelve Commandments and the Secrets of Adulthood. I was sort of confused by these lists, and while I better understood her intent of the twelve commandments later on in the book, the point of her secrets of adulthood never really became clear to me. The author decided to focus on 11 life categories throughout the year, while spending the last month, December, focusing on them all at once. Many of the resolutions she decided to focus on during her pursuit of increased happiness could easily resound with the masses. Things like improving relationships and focusing on finances. I generally found her insight and research on these topics interesting, though sometimes she went off on tangents for a while, discussing something she had read or thought about. There were other resolutions, such as writing a whole novel in one month, that probably don’t ring true for as many, but I think we could all insert our own do-this-crazy-feat-in-a-month idea.

I appreciated some of the blog reader comments she included in the book, as it’s always nice to read multiple perspectives or varying ideals. However, it felt like once she started her blog, the amount of reader comments that she included in the book seemed to increase substantially with each passing month. The author tended to lose me at these points, and I often glossed over some things.

At the end of the book she provides feedback on how her happiness project went, and I was (relieving) left to find her still just as human as the rest of us. My book version also includes several lists of tips at the end, ranging from 7 ways to make exercise part of your regular routine to ways to get someone to like you. I’m not sure if these are in all versions or not, but I found that they were good in summarizing some of her biggest take home messages from the book.

Overall, I enjoyed The Happiness Project. There were parts where I wish she’d have gone into more detail (where did the idea of twelve commandments and secrets of adulthood lists originate from???), as well as parts where it felt like she was rambling on (again, too many blog reader comments for my taste). But all in all, it was a good read.

Will I start my own happiness project? I thought about it for a while. I even made a list of nagging tasks, and my own Resolutions Chart of things I wanted to do on a more regular basis. The nagging tasks list is still floating around being used occasionally, and I have started referring to things as “nagging tasks” in order to increase the importance of getting them done. My Resolutions Chart? Yeah, that barely lasted a day.

So, no, I won’t be starting my own happiness project any time soon, but I’d be remiss if I said this book hasn’t affected me. I’ve been a lot better about focusing on visual clutter (it stresses me out), getting fast tasks over and done with right away (procrastination = more stress, even though I seem to be the procrastination queen), focusing more on the things that make me happy, and trying new things (like this blog!).

However, if you were interested in starting your own happiness project, a ton of resources can be found on the author’s website, She also has information there about her other books. I’ll be the first to say that when her Before and After book comes out, I will definitely be snatching it up!

(Book cover photo taken from


2 responses to “Book Review: The Happiness Project

  1. ryandejonghe May 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I had a hard time with this book: mainly because she started with a certain financial baseline. If you are getting angry at your husband for throwing away a copy of The Economist, then your happiness level is much different than the needs of many others. Hardwiring Happiness seemed to get the gist of what I was after much better. I’m working through 10% Happier now, and also appreciating that, too. Meditation and Mindfulness go a long way.


    • Bookjunkiekrystal May 21, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      I agree with the financial baseline. Considering I’m still swimming in student debt, that part was definitely hard to relate to. However, I also don’t have kids, either, so I sort of took it all in stride.


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