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Something of a letdown
on September 7, 2012
As other reviewers have said, I really wanted to like this book. I loved The Happiness Project, and found it life-changing--in fact, I re-read it at least once a year. I bought copies for family and friends, I recommend it constantly to students in my college writing classes. I love the author and her writing style, too--she is so refreshingly honest, with a wonderfully accessible style.
But this book, which I'd eagerly anticipated since I pre-ordered it earlier this summer, feels more like a diary or a The Life of Gretchen Rubin documentary than a self-help book. I love detail, normally, but so much of this book seemed to be "and then this happened to me, and then I did this." Hard to say how that differs from the first book, but it did--maybe it was the dearth of new insights, or the inclusion of the seemingly trivial (to me, at least). For example, I love scent, too, but the number of pages devoted to Rubin's exploration of smell, including creating a Shrine to Scent, just seemed like an awful lot of attention spent trying to elevate the incredibly mundane.
I do realize that paying attention to the details was a big part of Rubin's prescription for happiness in her very successful first book, and it's hard to put my finger on what made this one less enjoyable. I guess in the end it felt as though this one was rushed--that she put in the effort to record the details, but perhaps not the same effort towards making those details add up to something relevant and useful to the reader. Sort of a "This is what I did" rather than "Here's what to do"--more of a memoir of nine months than the instructional, follow-this-path tone of The Happiness Project. And I love a good memoir--but this wasn't a good memoir, either. It's like she didn't have much significant to say, but still took up a lot of space saying it.
If this is your first Gretchen Rubin book, you may not have the same problem with it that I did--I guess I just loved the first book so much that I had very high expectations. I still do, and will look forward to her next project and her next book. But I probably won't be re-reading this one.