The Happiness Project Book Review

Hi everyone! Happy Monday to you all! I decided to start off December on the right foot, by actually getting to a post on a Monday (it hasn’t happened since October, crazy!). I’m doing something a little out of the ordinary today though…

I decided to participate in the PB Fingers November Book Club this month, because the pick was something I’d actually been wanting to read for awhile now, The Happiness Project.


I really enjoyed this book. A lot.

For those of you who haven’t read it, the basic premise is this: the author, Gretchen Rubin, decides to embark on a Happiness Project for one year. She wants to see if small changes to her routine can “increase” her happiness.

She’s what I would consider to be an average American. She lives and works in NYC, and is married with two little girls. She seems to be fairly well off (at least, compared to me) and for all intents and purposes, should be happy.

But the trials and tribulations of daily life can drag anyone down from time to time. Those days when you just don’t feel like doing the dishes, you’d really rather not go for a nice long run, and you just want to be left alone. When nothing “big” is wrong in your life, why is it still sometimes difficult to just be happy?

Well, Gretchen decided to find out. And here’s what I thought.

Firstly, I loved the author’s style of writing. She writes the way I think: clear, concise, logical, and to the point. I didn’t read a paragraph, then think “wait, is there some hidden context there?” and have to re-read. Whenever I didn’t understand some philosophical mumbo jumbo, she’d explain it with a very simple example. Then I’d be like “oh, that’s what that means.” It was great.

Secondly, I loved her approach to finding happiness. It was methodical and logical. She followed commandments, made resolutions, and tracked her progress. She had twelve commandments in all—my favorites were “Do it now”, “Enjoy the process”, and “Identify the problem.”

Here’s an example for “Identify the problem.”

“Question: Why don’t I ever hang up my coat?
Answer: I don’t like fussing with hangers.
Solution: So use the hook on the inside of the door!”

I bought a hook at Target this weekend to solve this problem for myself.


Gretchen also shares her “Secrets of Adulthood.” My favorites were; “People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think” and “It’s okay to ask for help.” Boy did I need to read those!

Lastly, I genuinely felt like I was meant to read this book at this time in my life. It sounds extremely cliché and cheesy (and I’ll explain more in a later post probably) but I’ve been grappling with some rather important life decisions lately. And this book was something I needed to read.

It even begins with this line: “Whenever you read this, and wherever you are, you are in the right place to begin.”

I don’t want to drag this review on for too long, since I’m sure many of you haven’t read the book. Instead, I’ll conclude with my 10 favorite excerpts that really spoke to me.

  1. “I wanted to change myself but accept myself. I wanted to take myself less seriously—and also more seriously. I wanted to use my time well, but I also wanted to wander, to play, to read at whim. I wanted to think about myself so I could forget myself. I was always on the edge of agitation; I wanted to let go of envy and anxiety about the future, yet keep my energy and ambition.
  2. “Although we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact we often feel because of the way we act.”
  3. “’Feeling right’ was a trickier concept: it was the feeling that I’m living the life I’m supposed to lead.
  4. “Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice.”
  5. “This is one of the many paradoxes of happiness: we seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness.”
  6. “Experts say that denying bad feelings intensifies them; acknowledging bad feelings allows good feelings to return.
  7. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” –Voltaire
  8. “What would I do if I weren’t scared?”
  9. “Gratitude brings freedom from envy, because when you’re grateful for what you have, you’re not consumed with wanting something different or something more.”
  10. “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”

I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap of my weekend, it was a great one!


Question of the day: What’s your favorite novel? If you can’t pick just one, name a few :)

Some of my favorites: Harry Potter, Water for Elephants, and The Help!

31 thoughts on “The Happiness Project Book Review

  1. Carrie

    Thanks for the review, Meghan! I’ll have to put it on my to-read list. Pick one novel?! Ahhh! Like you, I love “Water for Elephants” and “The Help,” and I also enjoy classics like “Pride and Prejudice,” “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” and “The Great Gatsby.” So many books, so little time. :)

    1. aftertheivyleague

      I know, it’s totally impossible to pick just one novel, I sort of picked 9 up there! Haha…I’ve never read “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, but I’m intrigued! I’m looking for more books to add to my wish list, that might be one of them!

  2. runningonjava

    This book has been on my list for a while – so happy you posted a review! That’s so funny you posted your favorite excerpts. I thought I was the only one who highlighted/wrote down my favorite quotes from books. That being said, picking a favorite book is incredibly difficult for me..I can’t decide! #nerdsunite? Oh, and I just may consider a coat hook. All my coats are currently strewn on the back of my desk chair. Hope you have a great day!

    1. aftertheivyleague

      Haha you are definitely not the only one who highlights things as they read, even when it’s just for fun. I had so many passages highlighted in my kindle reader, I had to narrow it down to just 10. Seriously, #nerdsunite for sure because it’s impossible to pick just one favorite book. We were doing the same thing, coats and purses thrown on the dining room table even though we have a coat closet. That little $4 hook is making me so happy! haha

    1. aftertheivyleague

      There really were a lot of insights, narrowing it down to my favorite 10 was difficult! And I’m loving all the Harry Potter love :) I think it’s time I re-read the series for oh, the 4th time haha

  3. Amanda @ .running with spoons.

    I’ve been eyeing this book for a while now and you’ve pretty much just convinced me to go pick it up. Absolutely LOVE those excerpts.

    I don’t think I’d be able to narrow down my favourite book to just one, but some of the ones I love are Life of Pi, The Alchemist, The Hobbit, My Name is Asher Lev, Don Quixote, To Kill a Mockingbird, Dante’s Inferno, and the Song of Fire and Ice series.

    1. aftertheivyleague

      That’s so great! You should definitely pick it up, it was a fast read with a ton of interesting info packed in, and those excerpts are just me narrowing down my favorites. There’s lots more good stuff in there!

      I’ve had The Alchemist on my Amazon wish list for months now…looks like I need to finally buy it now that I have someone other than Amazon recommending it to me! haha

  4. Arielle

    My favorite novel of all time is “Love, Rosie” by Irish author Cecelia Ahern. I’ve read it about a thousand times and still like to just get it out, pick a page and read it again. =)

    1. aftertheivyleague

      I’ve never read that one! I’ll have to keep it in mind. That’s so cool that you’re able to read a favorite book several times over…the only books I’ve ever done that with are the Harry Potter ones. I find I always have a huge list of more books I want to read, but sometimes, it’d be great to just re-read an old favorite!

  5. AnnaTheApple

    Ooh sounds like a really interesting book! Sounds straight to the point and down to earth, which I like.
    Ermmm favourite books… Memoirs of a Geisha, Jurassic Park, The Help…too many! :)

  6. Chelsie @ Balance, Not Scale

    I’m on the waiting list at the library and simply CANNOT wait any longer!! I’m REALLY keeping my fingers crossed that I get a bookstore giftcard for Christmas — that way I’ll be forced to buy the Divergent series (I e-Reader’ed it when I read it, but really want the pages) and this one. Only 59 more people to go … ugh. At least there are 56 copies in circulation, so maybe before the new year. Fingers crossed.
    That being said, I’m reading Eat Pray Love right now and this is super blasphemous, but I don’t care — EPL has become my new bible. No word of a lie. It’s totally how I want to live my life. I think that THP will be very much the same.
    Thanks for the review, Meg — you got me even more excited!! :D

    1. aftertheivyleague

      Yay! I’m so happy I got you even more excited for this book! I read EPL also a couple years ago, I love how she just up and left her NYC life to figure out what would really make her happy. The thing I liked about this book was that Gretchen followed a more “realistic” approach. Not everyone can afford to just up and move to Italy on a whim! But she still found small changes in her life that made her happier, can’t wait to hear what you think!

    1. aftertheivyleague

      So cool! I loved it too (obviously haha). My friends and I tried to start a book club this summer but it fizzled out, may be time to pick that up again! Although the online book club is super fun too :)

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  8. Julie @ There and Back Again

    Awesome review, and I loved your coat hook example! After I read this book, I had the same reaction and felt so inspired to start implementing even the tiniest ideas in my own life. It’s awesome how such little things can make a big difference to your happiness and stress level!

    1. aftertheivyleague

      Thanks Julie! I’ve been having the same reaction, I thought the book was so inspiring. Just little things, like prepping my lunch the night before, doing the dishes right away when I see that they need to be done, it’s amazing what a difference it makes! So glad to hear you liked the book too and were equally inspired :)

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