Happier at Home Review | No Commitment Blogger Book Club #3

Happy Fool’s Day! In March we read Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin in the No Commitment Blogger Book Club (<–that’s a mouthful. Maybe I’ll shorten the name to just Book Club?). My thoughts and review below.

no commitment book club

What was the book about?
Gretchen’s search for happiness continues. Modeled after her first book, The Happiness Project, Gretchen embarks on a nine-month search for happiness in her home.

Did you enjoy the book? Why? Why not?Happier at Home
Time for honesty? I didn’t like the book. I wanted to, and maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it, but at the end of the day, not so much. This sounds so cynical, but it felt like she wrote this book just to make money. She (or her publisher) saw the success of The Happiness Project and wanted to jump on the bandwagon with another best seller.

I enjoyed The Happiness Project, probably because it actually gave some good guidance on finding daily happiness. It challenged me to look at my life and ask myself — what do I really like to do? What truly makes me happy? Am I doing this because it’s popular or because I like it? Her second book, however, just seemed to have random thoughts she didn’t have time to put in her first book.

I think my problem is that I took the title “Happier at Home” literally. I thought it meant finding happiness at home — the place I find solace and rest from the world. I was looking for more practical advice, like If you want to be happier at home, figure out your decorating style: Here is what my decorating style is! Or, If you want to be happier at home, try gardening: Here’s what I learned in gardening! Or, If you want to be happier at home, organize your pantry: Here is how I organized mine!

Instead, the book was basically a journal of all Gretchen’s first world problems. And granted, these are also things I complain about too (time management, cluttered house, etc.), but something about seeing them written in a book set me off edge.

I’ll give you a few examples.

One, the titles of the chapters. Let’s take December’s “Interior Design” chapter. She spent the whole time talking about how she needed to fast from sugar and avoid “happiness leaches.” I suppose it’s her inward “interior design” but the whole time I was expecting her to talk about decorating! My second pet peeve is when she would capitalize her happiness theories like she discovered something truly awesome — Seven Splendid Truths! Or Shrine for Scent! It just seemed a little too much. (This annoyed me in her first book.)

She had a whole chapter on facing her fears, which wouldn’t be a big deal, except her fear was learning to drive. Now. I know there are a lot of people who are afraid of driving or prefer not to, but for most of the population we have no choice. It felt like a really limited example that only a handful of readers could relate to. But I get it, she was trying to be true to herself.

And while we’re at it, one of the things I took away from her first book was Be Gretchen — to figure out what she liked and didn’t like, and be true to who she was. In this book, though, I felt like she used that mantra as an excuse to get out of things.

Lastly, the thing that resonated with me the most was how exhausting it felt constantly striving for happiness. I think it’s good to be conscious about what you like, don’t like, and what goals you want to set for yourself to get you out of your comfort zone (I write about that on here all the time), but the way she craved it seemed a little unhealthy. She obviously didn’t find the happiness she was looking for in the first book, and clearly won’t find it in this search either. Because here’s the thing, there’s no true happiness this side of heaven. Sure there are fleeting moments of happiness, but this fallen earth is filled with sin, death, sorrow, tears and broken hearts. And that’s the whole point of God sending Jesus to die for us — so that in him we can have that happy ending and one day be reunited with the things our heart long for the most: peace, joy, love and everlasting contentment.

There is something much more precious than happiness that we can have this side of heaven — JOY. Happiness is dependent on circumstances, but joy is transcendent and even in the midst of bad circumstances you delight in the hope of a new world where all tears will be wiped and there will be no death. I didn’t mean for this review to get all spiritual, but that’s really what I was thinking as I read every page of this book. :)

Would you recommend this book?
No, I wouldn’t. I do recommend The Happiness Project though!

What’s your favorite quote from the book?
Alright, not all of this book was devoid of goodness, here are a few of the quotes I enjoyed and challenged me:

“While some more passive forms of leisure, such as watching TV or surfing the Internet, are fun in the short term, over time, they don’t offer nearly the same happiness as more challenging activities.”

“As I turned the key and pushed open the front door, as I crossed the threshold, I thought how breathtaking, how fleeting, how precious was my ordinary day Now is now. Here is my treasure.”

Have you read this book and want to participate? Write a review in your blog and post it back here, or comment below and tell me what you thought.

Next up: April’s Book is MWF Seeking BFF by Bertsche, Rachel. The review will be posted on May 6th.
*My original intention was to alternate fiction and non-fiction and I don’t know why I thought this book was fiction! We’ll have non-fiction three months in a row.  Sorry about that!

January: Bossypants
February: What Alice Forgot

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  • I would like to read The Happiness Project. You’re right about the book reading like a journal of her 1st world problems and overcoming driving as her fear. I didn’t dislike the book, since it was somewhat entertaining. Looking at it through the lens of a soon-to-be parent made it interesting to me.

  • I didn’t get a chance to follow along and read this one, though I have requested next month’s from the library! But when I read the Happiness Project a while back it felt off. As though the happiness that she was seeking was costing more than it should in terms of time and effort. And that seems to defeat the purpose of seeking it out in my book.

  • I’m glad that I’m not alone in disliking this book after enjoying The Happiness Project. I went to lecture about the book and had it signed, but struggled to finish it because it didn’t resonate with me the same way as its precursor. The issues she touched were much more specific to her life in this book and as a middle class, single gal without kids, I just couldn’t relate.

  • I didn’t have much of an opinion after reading it, but now I realize why- it did just feel off. As a Christian, its frustrating to see her struggle with “happiness” when that is not our true purpose here on Earth and she made it a to-do list activity journal! more so than the first book, which I really liked as well. Oh well :S

  • I would be interested to hear what she talked about in the lecture. Glad I’m not alone in my review! I couldn’t relate either.

  • Yes, I bet as a soon-to-be parent a lot of the mom issues she discussed would be very pertinent. I think you’d like the first one, it felt much more focused and practical. :)