All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

To make it easier to purchase books you may read about on the blog, I've linked to through The Cats and a Book Bookstore, which is located on the bottom of this page. Your purchases are fulfilled and handled through Amazon. To assure your privacy, Cats and a Book doesn't handle any of your payment or contact information.

Happy reading!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

This fun book to read is an account of author Gretchen Rubin's personal quest for happiness. Rubin suffered from "midlife malaise"--not being unhappy, but not being particularly happy, either. It's not that Rubin didn't appreciate her life. In fact, she was grateful for what she had. But the nagging question remained, "Is this really it?" More disturbing was the recurring answer she provided, "Yep, this is it."

Thus, the Happiness Project was born. Rubin studied happiness--what did it mean, how did others obtain it, how is it measured--until she settled on an "I'll know it when I see it" approach. Rubin decided to create twelve "resolutions"--one for each month, except for December, in which she'd attempt to do all twelve. Resolutions included a different area of focus that affected her overall happiness. For instance in February, her focus was on love. Her plan included "quit nagging, don't expect praise or appreciation, fight right, no dumping, and give proofs of love." For July, the focus was on money. Her money goals were to "indulge in a modest splurge, buy needful things, spend out, and give something up."

She devised a chart on which to record her progress, and created a list of Twelve Commandments which she'd apply throughout the year. Commandments were guidelines that would apply all year, like "Let it go, " "Act the way I want to feel," and "Be Gretchen." This last one came in handy several times when faced with choices that seemed appealing but Rubin knew were contrary to her nature. And for fun, she created a list of Secrets of Adulthood, lessons she'd sometimes learned the hard way, like "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good," "What's fun for other people may not be fun for you--and vice versa," "Bring a sweater," and "People don't notice your mistakes as much as you think."

Rubin dutifully recorded her successes and struggles, all the while providing insights from her blog readers who were following the project online. In addition, Rubin encouraged her blog readers to start their own projects, recognizing that her project was personal to her. Readers should develop their own areas of focus based on their needs, write their own commandments, if they chose to, or even create their own Secrets of Adulthood lists. In order to encourage readers to develop their own projects, Rubin included blog entries from readers in the book. (When Rubin was criticized for writing "stunt nonfiction"--doing something for a year and then writing about it--she turned those feelings into pride in doing something "on the cutting edge," following her Happiness Projects guidelines!)

The Happiness Project is full of useful advice. For the goal-oriented, it offers a structured way to enrich your life. But for those who prefer a less examined approach, there is much to learn. If you're interested in starting your own Happiness Project, Rubin's website is loaded with information, discussion guides, and more.

Gretchen Rubin is a former attorney and author of Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, Forty Ways to Look at JFK, and Power Money Fame Sex: A User's Guide. The Happiness Project was published by Harper Collins in 2010.

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