Top positive review
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A very personal look at happiness
on December 11, 2009
I was torn between giving this book 2 stars and 4 stars (yes, I realize the compromise would've been to give it 3 stars, but that didn't seem to say much, really), because there are some real clunkers and some real gems here. But in the end, I liked what Rubin was trying to do, and I liked how she wrote about it. Rubin herself is pretty likeable and interesting--I wouldn't mind having a cup of coffee with her. Unlike a lot of self-help books, this book focuses on helping one particular self--the author. Rubin wanted to see if she could make her already-pretty-good life even better by trying a rather scattershot assortment of advice, focusing on one area of her life per month. Perhaps a better title for the book may have been "Gretchen's Happiness Project" but I suspect a title like that wouldn't fly off the shelves. But that is in large part her point: what makes one person happy may make another quite miserable. If you're struggling to figure out how to make your life happier, reading Rubin's book could either be a cautionary tale of what wouldn't work for your (quite useful information, actually), or a handy how-to guide that really could make you happier. I feel it's a book worth taking a chance on regardless.
Why this could've been a two-star book: the author sounds whiny and overprivileged in many places, especially when she thinks she deserves praise for something. She does, in fact, realize that this is a flaw in her, and to her credit, takes steps to change that. The book skips around a bit, too, especially when it comes to mentions of a certain saint. This saint is mentioned throughout the book, but no background on her (she seems to be a less-well-known saint, at least I had never heard of her) is given until the book is almost over, so it was really hard to see how these random quotes from this person fit without knowing anything about her. After reading about the saint, I can understand why the author liked her--knowing that upfront would've been very helpful. The thing that drove me the most crazy about this book was the insistence that introverts can be made more happy if they are around people. While there may be some backing for this (I've never seen any studies that say this, and none are cited here, just mentions that "research shows that. . . "), I don't find that to be at all true, and it struck me as a rather typical thing for an extrovert to claim. I'm not saying all introverts should or want to be hermits, but acknowledging that social interaction is actually very draining for introverts would've been welcome, and more true to the book's dictate to "be yourself."
IN the end, in the spirit of happiness, I gave the book 4 stars. There isn't really anything earth shattering or new here. But I did laugh in several places, and enjoyed reading it despite its flaws.