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Customer Review

1,832 of 2,027 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
This review is from: The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (Paperback)
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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Tracked by 11 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 150 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 2, 2012 7:42:46 AM PST
Marie D. says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 3, 2012 12:44:31 AM PST
Sara says:
Riding buses is hard.

Posted on Jan 9, 2012 12:29:19 PM PST
Winston says:
@ Marie D.

No, he sounds properly, rationally resentful of someone who is easily identified as pretentious. There is a difference between bitterness and proper, rational resentment. I resent the strongest, most popular kid in the fifth grade class saying, "stand up for yourself and be confident." Why? Because he's never had to stand up for himself, and that which makes him popular at that age has very little to do with his own personal efforts. His confidence come from his good fortune. I'm also going to resent a man with a Max VO2 far higher than mine when he tells me all I have to do to be a great runner is put a lot of work into it.

It's a fact of human psychology that virtually everyone alive blames their positive attributes on their own efforts, and their failures on circumstances. People don't really understand very well that it is incredibly difficult to filter out what actions one took that actually increased one's happiness, and in what context. Most people have difficulty seeing beyond their own context. For example, how seriously should I take a woman who hasn't had to worry about anything, financially, for decades? Is this the experience of the 99%? Even worse, who is more likely to truly understand what makes somebody happier...somebody who has actually had to grapple with struggle, or somebody who has not, somebody who has been pampered? Those who have the answers are those who have struggled with the conflicts that supply those answers. No, a rich woman who has never had to struggle for her existence has nothing to say about...struggling to by happy while existing. Take her money, her children, her family, and ship her to another country so she can learn to be a man...because every man I know of has to do it on his own or be called a free loader. Imagine a man having grown up without struggle, then proclaiming that he "risked" himself professionally by leaving his job to become a writer...when the whole time he is being supported by a multi-billionaire wife. Sorry, but he'd be labelled an idiot. He doesn't know anything about supplying for the psychological needs of life. At best, he'd use his substantial education to write a well written pamphlet on what it's like to have it easy...the millionaire's guide to shallowly struggling with life's deepest questions.

Seriously, if I owned professional grade sewing equipment and you did not, would you tolerate me lecturing you about how all that was needed to create such great clothing and so much of it was attention to detail and passion? No, you'd get pissed, because it implies he/she has some mastery of attention to detail and passion that you do not, and it is obvious that the difference between you is not mastery of these spoken elements, but rather....opportunity, connections, resources, none of which you have much power over, nor were they mentioned as a would be sheer pretentiousness, and it would be obvious.

I know many women will read this crap, just as they read the crap in Eat, Pray, Love, and they'll think it is excellent, yet it amounts to nothing more than a feel good Hollywood romp in the park. It's shallow, and at worse pretentious that a rich do-nothing is going to presume to have anything to say about being happy.

There is a very obvious distinction between bitterness and resentment of someone who is making pretentious claims. It's insulting for a millionaire to lecture you on how to be happy in your day to day life when her day to day life does not resemble your own any any way. More, the tools at her disposal render her advice useless to you.

Marie D.'s comment that the reviewer should "focus on getting skinnier and richer and then you yourself might be a little happier." Wow, where would we be without pretentious, materialist women? On the one side we've got women who are millionaires who earned their money by marrying the right man telling us how to be happier, on the other we've got anonymous, pretentious women telling us the secret of happiness is getting skinnier and richer. Thanks, "Marie D." And your suggestion that he get richer...are you then claiming that this is what the author did? Because it is quite obvious she didn't get rich as a consequence of her own efforts. She was born into it, and then married a rich man. Marie this your idea of solving for happiness? You're exposing yourself as having a typical female agenda: materialist, freeloading, man-using.

The entire reason I clicked on the comment section of this review is because this review is precisely what I needed to know. What are this writer's credentials? What has he/she experienced in life that deems him/her worthy of me taking his/her advice seriously?

Sorry, nobody but the brainless are going to buy that this woman had it rough.

Posted on Jan 13, 2012 2:14:50 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Mar 3, 2012 9:16:54 AM PST]

Posted on Jan 19, 2012 6:59:53 PM PST
M. Coggins says:
Thanks for the information. I definitely do not want to read this book now. It must be so hard to be happy when you have everything you need and want...and did not have to even work for it on top of it! Sounds like someone is just unfulfilled in life because everything was handed to her.

Posted on Jan 23, 2012 5:05:11 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 23, 2012 5:07:27 PM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2012 12:33:00 PM PST
E. Goins says:
A person's credentials do not necessarily add to or negate thier ability to say something meaningful and useful in a book. I have read The Happiness Project, and not only did I enjoy reading it, but I thought it included some very practical and useful advice. Just because someone is well off doesn't mean they don't struggle with happiness. She never claims to have "had it rough"--instead she acknowledges that she should be enjoying her wonderful life--which is the whole reason she began a project to become happier. Perhaps you should read her book before you bash it.

Posted on Feb 16, 2012 4:55:00 PM PST
SandyCB says:
Sounds like the perfect book to get from the library, as you need not worry about her losing the royalties from the sale.

Posted on Feb 18, 2012 11:26:34 AM PST
poppel says:
Thank you so much for doing your homework...I am a writer and I know how difficult it is trying to get your work published...I actually feel sorry for this woman, as she is trying to fill a void, the void of happiness...But she can't, just by writing this book...
Happiness comes to those who struggle and find success by never giving up and to those to help and serve others...and from serving God.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 3, 2012 12:48:30 PM PDT
Marine Fan says:
you had me until you had to talk about serving god, who, of course, does not exist.
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