A year ago my husband and I decided that we were watching too much T.V and wanted to trade it in for more book reading. Thus commenced the 100,000 page project in which we decided we’d read  100,000 pages before watching television again. We’ve cheated here and there, but reading is our new default and that feels really good. Since reading is a pretty substantial part of our family life right now, it seemed appropriate to post book recommendations here.

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” Colette

Last week I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a light, inspiring, and funny read. Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon while riding on a city bus that “the days are long, but the years are short.” She wanted to take the time to enjoy her life more and hence decided to dedicate a year to the Happiness Project.  Rubin wasn’t unhappy, but she did want to more deeply appreciate the good life she already had. The book chronicles her year-long experiment in practicing happiness.Every month Rubin focused on a different aspect of her life, for example: energy, marriage, parenting, fun, and work. In the beginning of the year she developed a list of personal commandments to help guide her, such as “be Gretchen,” or “act the way you want to feel,” or “do what ought to be done.” I thoroughly enjoyed her spiffy one-liners that embodied principles she used to help guide her in how she thought about and processed the world around her. Some of my favorites include:

  • “One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.”
  • “what’s fun for other people may not be fun for you–and vice versa”
  • “happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy.”
  • “If you can’t get out of it, get into it”

Rubin’s year of happiness involved many projects. She de-cluttered closets, established a children’s literature book club, started a blog, practiced gratitude, took an art class, began a bird collection just to name a few.  With wit, humor, and honesty she discusses both the successes and the failures of the year she spent in her happiness adventures.

Perhaps what I liked most about her project was her commitment to “change her life without changing her life.” Thoreau spent two years at Walden Pond on his experimental quest, but uprooting was an option Rubin simply didn’t have. When I’m craving change I often want it to be drastic, for me it’s easier to make drastic change than it is to make small day-to-day changes. It takes a different sort of perseverance and intentionality to seek change and refinement from within the mundane rather than outside of it. This book left me longing for more thoughtfulness, intentionality, and reflection in my life. It was a well-timed read for me as I’m thinking about how to creatively and intentionally craft this next, stay-at-home-mom, chapter of my life.