Revealed! Book Club Choices for September 2015. Such Good Books.

Pardon this moment of book self-promotion: For many people — at least in this part of the world — September marks a time of new beginnings. In my book, Happier at Home, I write about how I did a project from September through May, to make my home a happier place. If you, too, feel like September is the other January, you might like the book. What a joy it was to write! Learn more about the book here.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

· one outstanding book about happiness or habits

· one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

· one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

The Diary of Anne Frank

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell — Note: This book is definitely young-adult, not for children.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

In any event, I assure you that, for all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

If you read last month’s recommendatioms…what did you think?

Agree, Disagree? September is the Other January. Time for a New Start.

Even though I haven’t been in school for a long time, for me, September  marks the beginning of a new year.  Orange is the new black, breakfast is the new lunch, Monday is the new Thursday, pork is the other white meat, and September is the other January. (And yes, it’s still September, even though most schools start in August nowadays — and of course, this is true only in certain parts of the world.)

January is the official start of the new year, and I always get a burst of renewed zeal at that time, but here in the United States, for me, September also gives the same feeling of an empty calendar and a clean slate. The air seems charged with possibility and renewal.

Back-to-school is a time of self-evaluation and reflection–and also a time when I feel the urge to clean out my office.

Because of the new year feeling of September, when I wanted to do a a happier-at-home project, I decided to start it in September.

So many of the elements of a happy life come together in the idea of home: marriage and parenthood, in my case, though certainly not in everyone’s case; time; possessions; body; neighborhood; and, perhaps most enigmatically, the idea of now. I wanted to set aside a time to focus on the aspects of my life, to try to be as happy as I could be.

If you’re thinking about doing a happiness project yourself, or you want to work on your habits, now is always the best time to start–but if you do like to pick a particularly auspicious time, September is a good one. Think about it! From September to May, in one school year, you could take some steps to boost your happiness.

Blatant self-promotion: if you’d like to read something to get inspired to do a happiness project focused on your experience of home, try…Happier at Home. What a joy it was to write this book!

One of my specialties as a writer is writing endings, and my best endings are the end to Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, the end of my college application essay, and the end to Happier at Home. I have to say, I love the ending to this book.

“But Gretchen,” you’re thinking, “is there any way for me to learn more about the book?” Well yes there is! You can…

– read a sample chapter on the subject of “time”

– watch the one-minute book trailer, “Ten ways to be happier at home” (Can you guess which suggestion has caused some controversy?)

– request the one-page book club discussion guide

– request the Behind-the-Scenes extra (I had a great time writing this)

Summer is over,  and the fall brings fresh beginnings and new possibilities. Now is now.

This feeling of beginning is a good time to start new habits; we can take advantage of the Strategies of the Clean Slate and First Steps to tackle our habits. In Better Than Before, my book about habit-formation, these two strategies are in the section on “The Best Time To Begin.”

Do you feel inspired to turn over a new leaf in September? Or is this just me? (For readers in other zones, please substitute your beginning-of-school-year time. The same principle applies.)

Do You Do Your Best Thinking in the Bathtub?

Interview: Elisabeth Egan.

I got to know Liz Egan because so many people told me, “You’ve got to meet Liz Egan! ” We knew so many people in common that finally we just had lunch — which was a ton of fun.  She’s the books editor at Glamour and has written for numerous publications, and we have writerly friends in common.

Now she’s also a novelist.  A Window Opens is funny and perceptive novel about a woman who makes a big career change and has to manage that — as well as her family.  Think Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

I was interested to hear what she had to say about happiness, habits, and productivity.

Gretchen: What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

Liz: I take a bath every night. I get my best thinking done in the tub, and most of my books have wavy pages from getting dripped on by our leaky shower-head. I don’t have any fancy bathing rituals—I use strawberry Suave in lieu of real bubbles. But closing the door and sitting in one place for a half hour is ritual enough. My kids are constantly shouting questions at me over the sound of the water: More ice cream? New sneakers? Permission to watch a movie? When I’m in the tub, the answer is almost always yes.

What’s something you know now about forming healthy habits that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

Habits don’t just happen, you have to make a decision about what you want to do and commit to it. For instance, I used to be a serial loser of wallets. Every few months, one would disappear into the ether and I’d begin again. This was back in high school, when you’d collect wallet-sized pictures of your friends in little clear pockets, and the thickness of your wallet indicated your position in the social food chain. I wasn’t so concerned about losing my membership card from the Boris Becker Fan Club or ten dollars of babysitting money, but it killed me to have to collect a whole new batch of pictures. I finally committed to a simple habit: glancing over my shoulder every time I left a room, just to make sure I wasn’t leaving a wallet in my wake. You’d be surprised how often I was! I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that wallet retention requires responsibility; it’s not just a matter of luck.

Which habits are most important to you?

I’m committed to habits that give me the illusion of organization. This is why I write everything down, on real paper with an actual pen. I never leave home without two Moleskine notebooks. The black one is my calendar, which shows one week per two-page spread, with space at the bottom for my weekly to-do list. This is command central for everything from high school orientation to work deadlines to my mother-in-law’s birthday. The yellow notebook contains my daily to-do lists, with Glamour things on the right hand side of the page and personal items and notes on the left. I’d be lost without either one of my Moleskines, but the yellow one is the one I’d be embarrassed for someone else to see, since it contains loony ramblings unfit for public consumption.

Has another person ever had a big influence on your habits?

My husband’s fitness and nutrition habits are a big influence, mostly in aspirational ways. He’s incredibly disciplined about exercise and is naturally inclined to eat an apple when I’m digging into my second piece of apple pie. His habits are so ingrained, they’re actual facts: he’ll always make time to ride his bike or cook a healthy meal. I intend to do these things but inevitably run out of time because I’d rather call my sister.

Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you changed a major habit very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

These questions are my lightning bolt. I’m giving up Diet Coke! I’ve had at least one can every day since I was a teenager and it’s a bad habit—and also an expensive one that screams, “I’m an old lady!” Check in with me at 3 o’clock this afternoon and we’ll see how I fare.

Podcast 27: Choose the Bigger Life, Identify Your “Tell”–and I Reveal Whether I’ll Get a Dog.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

I’m just back from vacation, this minute! But before I unpack, I want to post about the latest episode.

Update: In episode 24, Elizabeth talked about her beloved “Blankey,” her childhood blanket that she still sleeps with every night. We loved hearing about other people’s childhood “comfort objects” (such a bad phrase for such precious items). The books I mention are Rebecca Caudill’s The Best-Loved Doll and Dare Wright’s Make Me Real and The Lonely Doll. Oh, how I love the uncanny work of Dare Wright…I’ve collected all her books, including the ones that are out of print.

Try This at Home: Have trouble deciding whether or not to choose a course of action? Like — whether or not to get a dog? Try this: Choose the bigger life. 

In this discussion, I reveal the answer to the question first posed in episode 24: Should Gretchen and her family get a dog?  See if you can guess the answer.

We heard from so many people — it has been fascinating, and so helpful. You can listen to what people had to say in a montage of opinions. Also check out happierpodcastdogs.tumblr.com, to read people’s comments and see the photos of people’s adorable dogs.

In this answer, I mention that I’m an Upholder, which is one of the Tendencies in my Four Tendencies framework. To learn more about that, and to take the Quiz to see if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, read here.

Know Yourself Better: What’s your “tell?”

Listener Questioner: “I can’t answer the question, ‘How are you?’ in a light, positive manner…I always throw in a complaint….I genuinely love what I do, but I seem incapable of just saying, ‘I’m fine, thanks.’ I’m either a complainer or rude. Can you help?”

Gretchen’s Demerit: I don’t really have a summer. Yes, we have family vacation, but I don’t really have a “summer.”

Here’s the quotation I read:  “Every man makes his own summer. The season has no character of its own, unless one is a farmer with a professional concern for the weather. Circumstances have not allowed me to make a good summer for myself this year…My summer has been overcast by my own heaviness of spirit. I have not had any adventures, and adventures are what make a summer.”
— Robertson Davies, “Three Worlds, Three Summers,” The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to the extremely polite stranger who held the door open, even though he was in a tremendous rush.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors.

Check out Smith and Noble, the solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and a free in-home consultation. Limited time.

Also, check out BlueApron.comWish you cooked more? Get all the delicious, fresh ingredients you need to make great meals, delivered to your front door. Check out BlueApron.com/happier to get your first two meals free.

We love hearing from listeners. Tell us — have you ever made the decision to “choose the bigger life,” and if so, what was it? Or if you’re struggling with a decision, does that question help?

Also, please send dog advice!

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page.

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or sign up here.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

And if you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

HAPPIER listening!

Podcast 26: Pick a One-Word Theme for the Year, Take the First Step–and Paper or Digital Calendar?

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

I’m actually on vacation, but am making a brief appearance to post about this episode.

Update: Elizabeth records live from her treadmill desk Which we’ve discussed many times, including in the very first episode. Can you hear it whirring softly in the background?

In episode 24, I asked people to weigh in about a huge, life-changing decision I have to make: Should my family get a dog? We heard from so many people — it has been fascinating, and so helpful. You can listen to what people had to say in a montage of opinions. Also check  happierpodcastdogs.tumblr.com, to read people’s comments and see the photos of people’s adorable dogs. Thanks, listeners — and keep those insights coming.

Try This at Home: Pick a one-word theme for the year — the school year, that is. For Elizabeth and me, September is the other New Year. If you’re interested in this subject, I write more about it in Happier at Home.

Call us to let us know what one-word theme (or short phrase) you choose. It’s so interesting to hear what people pick.

Better Than Before Habits Strategy: The Strategy of First Steps. Practically always, the best time to begin is now. We need to resist “tomorrow logic,” which is the fantasy that everything will be easier–tomorrow.

Important note, in this episode, I misspoke, because I casually said that it would be tough to start a new habit when you were in the middle of moving — actually, that’s a great time to start a new habit, because of the Strategy of the Clean Slate. Stay tuned to hear more about that!

Listener Questioner: “I’m an anxious procrastinator…how do you get started when you’re terrified?”

Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth isn’t doing the very simple steps that would clear up her blepharitis.

filofaxgretchensarchivesGretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to my mother, for giving me my beloved Filofax. Here it is — plus my binders of archived calendar page stretching back many, many years.

Very fun to have this record.

filofaxmineHow about you? Paper calendar — or digital? Weigh in!

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors.

Want to avoid post-office pain, and buy and print official U.S. postage for any letter or package, right from your own computer and printer? Visit Stamps.com to sign up for a no-risk trial, plus a $110 bonus offer — just enter the promo code HAPPIER.

Also, check out Smith and Noble, a solution for beautiful window treatments. Go to smithandnoble.com/happier for 20% off window treatments and a free in-home consultation. Limited time.

We’d love to hear from you. Did you pick a one-word theme for the year? Call us and tell us what you chose. And weigh in on the great paper vs. digital calendar debate.

Comment below. Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: 744-277-9336. Here’s the Facebook Page.

To sign up for my free monthly newsletter, text me at 66866 and enter the word (surprise) “happier.“ Or sign up here.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

Or if you’re reading this post by email, click to view online, to listen to the podcast from this post.

Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really.  To listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

And if you enjoyed the podcast, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

HAPPIER listening!