I wondered out to look at the mail, and there it was, the result of Gretchen's Rubin's year long quest to make herself happier. "The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun." Frankly, perhaps because I was a psychology major for ten years (through my PhD in Organizational Psychology), most self-help books make me want to vomit. But once I started reading Gretchen's book, I couldn't stop because -- unlike all those books that seem to tell fake stories about others or promise too much or are too sappy -- Gretchen's compelling voice, great stories, and first person-perspective (and brutal self-assessments at times, few of us are as aware or as open about our imperfections) make the book simply irresistible.
I cheated and read the first and last chapters and have now worked through most of the rest of the book (I am supposed to be writing several letters of recommendation right now and doing some work on my book, but this is making me much happier). This is the rare book that is remarkably conceptually and empirically sound (she really knows research on happiness well), linked to great literature and other writings, but somehow at every stage is tied to her experience in a way that made me introspective, but I thought in a constructive rather than selfish way.
I don't want to give away too much, as really, you deserve to give yourself the gift of reading the book. I first put in a few quotes from the book in this post, and then decided to take them out, as I think that presenting them out of context undermines the flow of emotion and logic that hit me as I read paragraph upon paragraph. I would also add that her voice is similar to her blog, but in reading her book, you can see why the daily rhythms of writing a blog can never replace a great book (even one based partly on a blog)-- it comes across as a complete and emotionally satisfying story, and ends with a set of lessons (and a lovely twist about the effect of the project on her husband) that both sides of my brain believe will make me -- and those I care about -- happier as we travel through life.
As I suggest in the title of this post, The Happiness Project might be the perfect self-help book for people like me who hate self-help books.
P.S. The book comes out December 29th. Reading it strikes me as a great way to start the year.