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521 of 595 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding Happiness (and a Great Read)
This book is part memoir, part thinking person's self-help book. I like the fact that it draws not only on recent research in the new field of positive psychology, such as the work of Martin Seligman, but on the wisdom of thinkers as disparate as Samuel Butler and the ancient Stoic philosopher, Seneca. Many wonderful and wise quotations are included in the text...
Published on November 25, 2009 by Phyllis S. from Brooklyn NY

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374 of 411 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Narcissistic drivel
I have not written a review before but felt compelled to do so after reading 1/3 to 1/2 of Ms. Rubin's work. Rather than feel happy or inspired myself, reading this book became painful. The author's constant reference to her past accomplishments were both self serving and unnecessary. I am still waiting for the "happy" part of the book to materialize. Your money would be...
Published on February 5, 2010 by Mike H.


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374 of 411 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Narcissistic drivel, February 5, 2010
By 
Mike H. (Milwaukee, WI USA) - See all my reviews
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I have not written a review before but felt compelled to do so after reading 1/3 to 1/2 of Ms. Rubin's work. Rather than feel happy or inspired myself, reading this book became painful. The author's constant reference to her past accomplishments were both self serving and unnecessary. I am still waiting for the "happy" part of the book to materialize. Your money would be better spent making a donation to the local food bank rather than buying this book - and I'll guarantee you'll feel happier.
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1,369 of 1,521 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No new insights here..., December 3, 2009
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I don't want to belittle anyone else's experience with this book, but for me these "happiness" ideas are concepts that have been rehashed over and over again in a zillion self-help books and articles.

For example, her relationship epiphany seems to boil down to "you can't change your partner, you can only change yourself." Really? This fact somehow escaped her? Because it seems to me to be the point of pretty much every relationship article that has ever been written.

In another essay, she wracks her brain to think of how on earth she might store all her children's cards, photos, and other paper goods. What to do? Stacks aren't working! Surely there must be some way of filing paper goods away in some kind of storage device...then it hits her: FILE BOXES! Are you freaking kidding me? How does someone get this far in life without having ever heard of organizing papers into files?

There are other such oddities that make me wonder if this woman and I are living on the same planet, such as when she decides that collecting something might make her happy but can't think of anything to collect. Is it me? Does everyone else begin collections by consciously deciding that they need one, then having to try and think up something to collect? Maybe it is me. I just thought that sort of thing tends to happen more organically.

These are just examples, I don't want to belabor the point by stating every single thing that made me roll my eyes throughout the book. There seemed to be something in every single chapter.

She's really not a bad writer and has a nice conversational style, which makes it regrettable that she uses nearly one quarter of the book to share anonymous comments that internet users have left on her blog. That was a bit off-putting for me. A few random insights from others sprinkled in here and there wouldn't be so bad, but there are a LOT, which just seems like a lazy way to fill pages.

If you are looking to start your own Happiness Project and need some ideas of where to begin, perhaps this book will give you some ideas. For me, I've read it all before - maybe I already did my own project and just didn't realize it.
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1,593 of 1,772 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Research Author Before Deciding Whether to Read (Especially if You Lost Money in this Recession), September 16, 2011
Would you read a book called "The Happiness Project" if the cover depicted a bored, skinny, highly connected multimillionare leisurely staring out of her Manhattan mansion from her bed, rereading her favorite childhood books, fretting over her weight, gazing indifferently at her collection of bird memorabilia, and finding fault with her multimillionare husband while a nanny watched her children and a housecleaner tidied her home?

No you would not, and Harper Collins knows this, which is why the cover features humble tenements and handwritten script and omits any detail that would make you think she's not just an arty mom from Brooklyn looking to focus on the bright side of life.

Who is she really? The way she tells it, she's a lawyer who boldly gave up a law career to pursue her passion, writing. She neglects to mention that this was not much of a risk given that she is married to the son of Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary under Clinton, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup guy who personally helped ensure that derivatives stayed unregulated, netting millions for himself and billions of taxpayer bailout for his companies.

Once you know this, the story is unpalatable. Rubin and Harper Collins know this, and go to great lengths to maintain the ruse that Rubin is an everywoman, writing that she hesitates to purchase a $2 pen, or a new blender, or new shirts. Yet how can she really write an honest happy project if she is not truthful?

It is deceitful that she would say how tidying her home made her so much happier when you know that she has had a staff all along that can help her with just that. It seems odd that she encourages parents to remember "the days are long but the years are short" (an old saying she curiously takes credit for) when apparently she is spending much of her time reading and working on her pet project while a nanny looks after her baby. It seems unfair that she uses herself as an example of pursuing your dreams when you know she had years and years of leisure time to do anything or nothing she wanted, given her family's economic situation, not to mention extraordinary connections that would have given her tremendous advantages over another aspiring writer.

Maybe Rubin really did want to be a little happier, and that's fair. She's not a bad writer, and some of the ideas are good. (Minus flavoring salads with aspartame to stay slim.) But if she is going to sell her project to people who are probably genuinely suffering, quite likely at least a few of them in some part due to her own family's actions, then she should be honest about who she is and what her circumstances are like.
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61 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Wish I Could Get My Money Back..., May 22, 2012
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I rarely abandon a book midway through, but after the 6th month of Gretchen "being Gretchen" I couldn't take any more.

I found the author's tone whiny and self-important. Inflated sense of ego, anyone? Good grief.

Gretchen is a 40 something, ultra-priveleged mother, "writer", former law clerk to Sandra Day O'Connor and Yale grad (these last two facts are repeated over and over and over just in case the reader didn't catch them the first time). She decides one day that she could be happier, and sets off, in her goal-oriented way, to find more happiness. Also, she likes to give herself gold stars. Lots of them.

The advice she dishes out, however, consists of nuggets of common sense that most of have learned well before age 40. Be nice to everyone! Don't nag the people you love! Spend time with your kids! De-clutter! Get more sleep and exercise more!

Gretchen, as it turns out, lives in a Manhattan triplex, has a nanny, a housekeeper and millions of dollars. Obviously, she has lots of free time and disposable income to fund her 'happiness project'. It's hard to take her seriously when she whines about things like running errands for her daughter's birthday party and how hard it is for her to spend a week being nice to her husband.

I wish she had dug a little deeper into her own psyche - WHY does she need constant approval and attention? That is a question that may have been worth exploring.

In a New York Times article she is quoted as saying about her book, "I don't have anything that's really original".

No kidding.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars oh, my, gosh., February 7, 2012
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I wish I could give this book 0 stars. While I am all for singing in the morning and reading Aristotle, this book gives the false pretense that something magical is going to happen. Each chapter was filled with complaints that could only come from someone who lives on the upper east side of NYC. She nags her husband over problems that are trivial, complains about problems that should be on whitewhine.com, and overall makes herself seem like a spoiled brat. I've read lots of books for academics, and also for pleasure. I've never had one that has left such an unsatisfied taste in my mouth.
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67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Blind leading the blind, November 18, 2011
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Let's get this straight. I was coerced into reading this book because a friend wanted to start a group surrounding this book. After the first chapter, I wanted to exorcise this garbage from my Kindle.

The Happiness Project is not about self-actualization or improving the feeling of one's self worth. No. This is a neurotic journey of one woman who needs to be on Xanax. Or Prozac. Take your pick. To quote: "I wanted to perfect my character, but, given my nature, that would probably involve charts, deliverables, to-do lists, new vocabulary terms, and compulsive note taking." See what I mean?

Happiness is not about "scoring charts" and "set point" levels. It is a state of being that can achieved through the capability of self-love and love for others. It is about learning to accept one's faults and the fact that no one is perfect. It is our imperfections that make us human. The concept of human "perfection" is not only detremental but also completely unachievable. To claim it is possible only confirms that the author is potentially delusional but also harbours a deep sense of self-hatred.

It becomes increasingly clear that the author's superficial exercises (let's clean out our closets!) will not make her happy, but only provide a temporary bandaid for the writer's own misguided inadequacies.

Take for example her chapter on improving her relationship with her husband. She basically was artificially nice to her husband for a set period of time, held back what she really wanted to say, and then reverted back to her old pattern of behaviour after that period is done. What has changed? How has this made you happier? How has this made you a better person? As far as I am concerned, her feelings were merely repressed during the whole episode which was why the behaviour could never be sustained (not to mention her behavioural change violated her commandments from the outset "Be yourself".).

I fail to understand how any of her listed activities would improve her outlook on life. Having encountered many individuals who are much less fortunate, I don't understand why she didn't pursue a project that would have actually made a difference to someone in need. Work at a soup kitchen. Volunteer at a woman's shelter. Heck! help out in an adult literacy program... maybe that would help you sell more books! Perhaps in giving back to the community at large, she would learn to appreciate all the things she has instead of lamenting the things she doesn't.

So if you want a manual about how to achieve self-repression, increase your own self-hatred and become a narcissist, read this book and follow it to a T. If you want to learn about happiness, go live your life instead of reading this book.
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259 of 293 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good idea, but..., March 9, 2010
By 
Lenie (Charlotte, NC) - See all my reviews
I was looking forward to reading this book since I found the idea of it intriguing. As I was reading, I realized that something was bothering me, but initially I couldn't figure out what it was. Finally, about half way through, it hit me: the author seems to be boasting. She goes on and on about how great her life is by letting the reader know that she has a soul mate husband, wonderful kids, a great education, her dream job, perfect relationships with in-laws and parents, tons of friends and acquaintances, etc. It had me wondering why she even embarked on this project other than the obvious: money. If she's not as happy as she could be with all of these advantages, then I am not interested in her journey, anyway. If you're looking for something insightful, I would not recommend this book.
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521 of 595 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding Happiness (and a Great Read), November 25, 2009
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This book is part memoir, part thinking person's self-help book. I like the fact that it draws not only on recent research in the new field of positive psychology, such as the work of Martin Seligman, but on the wisdom of thinkers as disparate as Samuel Butler and the ancient Stoic philosopher, Seneca. Many wonderful and wise quotations are included in the text. Gretchen Rubin has done a lot of research and reading, and distilled it all here, attempting to answer some vital questions. Is it possible to become a happier person? Is happiness a meaningful and worthwhile goal? She comes to the conclusion that while we may have a happiness set point, and a great deal of our mood is--researchers believe-- determined by heredity (50% or so), to some degree it is under own control (perhaps 30%). It may seem that someone who is not suffering from a painful mood disorder should be focused on other (more worthwhile?) goals than mood elevation. But happiness, after all, is something just about every human being wants, the goal that motivates much of our day to day striving. And rather than suggesting a life of self-centered hedonism, research indicates that the very factors that make for a meaningful life--good relationships, acting in a loving and generous way, engaging creatively with the world--contribute to happiness.

Will revamping your life and taking a systematic approach to seeking happiness work? Research indicates that it may. "I really am happier," says Rubin after a year of following through on her own personal happiness plan. She goes into enough specific detail here about how she got to her more happy state that I have no trouble believing her.

Very responsibly, Rubin points out that her intent is to help people who are well become happier, not to treat a medical condition, i.e., depression. I can imagine her book, however, being an aid for those who are mildly depressed, perhaps as an adjunct to medical treatment, though perhaps they need to be a bit easy on themselves and not follow the plan in a perfectionist, pressured way.

I'm with Rubin when she says that even though we are all very different, learning about someone else's successes and failures can be a better catalyst for change than studying ideas in the abstract. She is generous about revealing the details of her own life--her own "happiness project." What is most transferable is not the specifics--particular actions she decided to experiment with in order to become more happy--but the idea of identifying potential sources of joy, designing steps to take to become happier, making monthly resolutions, carrying through and being accountable--i.e., quantifying the results. The average reader is not going to be as thorough and focused as Rubin was--but in my view that does not negate the value of this book. I'm into progress, I guess, and I believe that even a couple of changes modeled on the plan could make a difference in people's lives.

The book is written in an open, engaging, often humorous style. There is no posturing--Rubin is if anything self-deprecating-- but the writing crackles with intelligence. I found the THE HAPPINESS PROJECT a pleasure to read, and I can imagine people reading it with enjoyment even if they are already happy as clams and have no desire to get with the program. Rubin includes a specific guide for those who want to construct their own happiness plans, and also directs the reader to tools on her web site--nice helpful touches. All in all, a terrific book.
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202 of 228 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Should have been called "The Control Freak Project", April 12, 2011
Like many other reviewers, I could not take more than a few chapters of Happiness Boot Camp with someone who thinks her happiness quotient can be mandated, legislated, and manipulated into shape with spreadsheets and checklists and to-do lists.

Gretchen Rubin's approach to finding happiness is lawyerly, pedantic and controlling; when she mentions that she has found herself being "less humorous than usual" I wondered how in the world that could even be possible.

She resents having to be nice to her husband for an entire week, and issues family marching orders (via email) for a party she is planning for her mother-in-law's birthday. She "decides" she needs to collect something, but then wonders what she should collect, and settles not on something that she finds beautiful or intriguing but something that ties in with her project. Her ideas and revelations all spring from somewhere else; she relies much too heavily on her blog readers' (unattributed) comments, and she displays unembarrassed calculation in her dealings with others ("Do good, feel good").

One of her favorite recommendations for solving a problem is (and I quote directly): "Throw money at it". Easy for her to say.

This is a very disappointing book, because Rubin is an engaging writer and this project was a great idea until she throttled the life and authenticity out of it. Her end product, a doggedly do-or-die, check-it-off-the-list approach to creating a better, happier life, is devoid of humor, empathy, self-awareness and a true understanding of the human heart.
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136 of 152 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book made me unhappy, June 26, 2010
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This book was incredibly disappointing. It's just a series of 2-3 page overviews, each about a particular resolution. There are few compelling details. Few compelling anecdotes. No connective tissue.

It was not long before I thought of each section like a poorly written college entrance essay. Here is a thesis, here is some minimal proof from my life about that thesis. There, hope you readers understand me, the idea and are inspired to try this out on your own!

Don't be fooled by the title. This book just made the author happy, and her agent too.
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