I first noticed Gretchin Rubin’s The Happiness Project a few years ago while mingling through the bookstore. The bright cover with block print and a catchy subtitle (Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun) was hard to ignore. A perpetual optimist, I’m almost always on the lookout for means to joy.
Rubin, a former lawyer-turn-biography writer, began a twelve-month project to live better, and she wrote about it. Creating resolutions for each month, Gretchen measured her happiness success on a chart. To complement these resolutions, Gretchen developed a personal “Twelve Commandments” and “Secrets of Adulthood,” which also guided her journey.
An extensive bibliography accompanies the text, and Rubin often cites a range of others’ paths to happiness as she journeys her own. Rubin is honest throughout the book, even if that honesty, at times, seems self-indulgent.
The book’s greatest fault is one Rubin herself suggests to be a weakness–in Rubin’s scientific quest for happiness, she neglects intangible paths to joy. At her essence, Rubin is a biography writer and a huge Samuel Johnson fan. (There were more references to Samuel Johnson in The Happiness Project than in the entire collection of Norton British literature anthologies stacked on my college bookshelf.) Rubin’s not a spiritual leader with major insights into the human condition, but she doesn’t promise to be.
Readers with an interest for a specific plan to increase personal happiness could benefit from The Happiness Project. Those searching after deeper thirsts, however, may better appreciate alternative philosophies.