I’m part of a book club with some local girlfriends, and we’re always on the prowl for new books. The Happiness Project had been on my “to read” list for quite a while due to the many positive reviews I saw for it on other blogs earlier this year. When I suggested reading it, most of the girls said it was also on their list too so we read it for the month of August.
However, within days, we all started chattering about how much we did not like this book. When we held our book club meeting to discuss it, most of us had actually not even finished the book because we disliked it so much. I was one of the one’s that didn’t finish it.
Now, before you give me crap for writing a review for a book I didn’t finish, hear me out. I am not one to complain about anything, and I don’t like giving negative reviews or remarks to anyone. But this was just so utterly bad that I have to warn others about it.
I personally feel cheated because I read so many wonderful reviews for this book. I thought for sure that I would just love it. Reading this book didn’t make me an ounce happier – it actually made me more annoyed. So hopefully to spare some of you the pain of the complete waste of time that is this book, here are my thoughts.
Right from the introduction, I was already rolling my eyes. Gretchen Rubin claims that she did this project to see if she could make herself happier even though she was not necessarily unhappy. Check one for this-doesn’t-make-any-sense. She claims that she thought her project would be too selfish or odd since it was just about her personal experience. I have no idea what her rebuttal for that was, but it is narcissistic to write a whole freaking book about a “project” you did for a year to “make yourself happier.” Sorry, I just do not get it.
The first chapter talks about boosting energy, in which she aims to get more sleep, exercise better, and organize her life. There was absolutely nothing in this chapter that was new to me. At this point, I just started to feel like Why am I reading about this? I’ve already done all of this myself or read about it elsewhere. Do I really need to read this book to understand that I already know that cleaning and organizing my life makes me happier? Oh, right. I don’t…
The second chapter is titled “Remember Love,” in which she chose to focus on her marriage. What started to really irk me about this part of the book is the way she talks about her husband. She mentions many times how her husband was not into her happiness project. While that’s not a big deal, she just painted him in a negative light to me. I personally respect my husband more than anyone, and if I were going to publish a book and include information about him in it, I would certainly make sure that he seems like a good husband (because he is). I doubt Rubin’s husband is bad, but she sure didn’t write anything good about him, which goes against my personal beliefs and just downright bugged me.
The second chapter is probably what did it for me and made me realize I was never going to finish this
piece of crap book. On pages 58-59, she goes into this whole story about her mother-in-laws birthday. I can’t even describe how messed up this passage is. Basically, she says that she realized in order for her to be happy, she had to take control of the situation of her MIL’s birthday. I understand this to a certain extent, but it came out as her saying she was happy because she got to the control freak of the situation. She puts down her husband (again) and brother-in-laws gift giving and party throwing skills, and says that she had to take over. She basically tells everyone exactly what to do for this crazy party. But – all of this was not selfish, she claims, because it would be making her MIL happy as well.
At the end of this passage, she writes, “I was so happy that it had turned out just right.” Gag me, you sick controlling, perfectionist. I just could not get over that she thought she was doing her MIL such a good thing by throwing her the perfect party, when in all reality, she was just happy to have controlled a situation and have it turn out her way.
The rest of the book follows suit for me. I did not feel like it was ever about happiness, but about her realizing that she had enough power in her life to make things how she wanted them to be. There really isn’t anything wrong with that, unless of course, you call this happiness…
Okay, I know I am not normally this snarky. But this book was just unreal to me. Overall, this book offers no new advice that, if you’ve lived past about 25, you haven’t figured out yet or read elsewhere.
I also felt like the whole time I was reading it, Rubin was trying to convince the reader why this was a good thing. Personally, if it really was a good project worth writing a book about, I don’t think the reader should need such blatant convincing throughout the whole thing. It really showed me that she probably doubted what people would think of this project, so she felt the need to remind the reader.
If I could rename this book, it would be The How-To-Make-Everything-Perfect Project. Because that’s what this book was to me. Her book follows the basic concept of working on a new goal each month, and then also working on the previous goals each month thereafter, meaning that the last month would be her trying to make sure she met all her goals from 12 freaking months all at once, which she called “Boot Camp Perfect.”
Do I really need to explain why I don’t like that? No, I don’t think I do. The whole book was about perfecting everything instead of happiness.
The set up of this book was also very awkward. She writes a lot about how she did “happiness research” and chalks it up as if it’s a normal thing to research (in the library) on things you want to learn about in everyday life. Although I don’t think it was said explicitly, I feel like she was trying to portray the image that she did this project and then wanted to write a book about it. But I feel like she actually started the idea for the book before the project even started. So if the project was all just for her to publish a book, which I feel it was, it feels cheap to me.
Another reason this book and I didn’t get along is because of my beliefs. There is actually a “spirituality” chapter, but I didn’t read it because I’m sure that would have sent me over the edge. Her happiness clearly comes from herself, though, which I don’t get. My happiness comes from God or what God provides for me. I know I can’t do much to make myself happy, so there was a huge disconnect in this for me as a Christian.
This book struck such a chord with me because my values are to embrace what I cannot change. To work on acceptance. This book was the anti-embrace-the-imperfect if you ask me.
There was never any mention of just letting things go and teaching yourself how to be content the way things are. I agree that we are in control of our happiness. But I have quickly found that doing more to make myself “happy” just leaves me dry, empty, and exhausted.
I know that if I attempted a happiness project like hers, I would be so sick of trying to keep up with it all. I know myself well enough to see that it would drive me insane. And for that, I just can’t get on board with this book.
Questions for You:
- Have you read this? Love it or hate it?
- Do reading popular books appeal to you or not?