Happiness Is…a Good Book. So, a New Feature! A Book Club!

My favorite thing to do is to read. In fact, reading and writing are practically the only activities I truly love. Which is a bit sad, but true. Because I love reading so much, nothing makes me happier than recommending terrific books–so I’m starting a book club.

At the end of every month, I’ll post a list of three suggested books.

  • One outstanding book about happiness.
  • One outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature. I have a crazy passion for kidlit.
  • One eccentric pick. This is a book that I love, but freely admit may not be for everyone.


However, here’s the thing: 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 when someone tries to describe it.

So I won’t describe these books, but I make you this promise: I love every book I recommend; I’ve read it at least twice if not many times; and it’s widely loved and respected. So…I’m saying, just take my word for it! These books are really good.

I’ll post these recommendations here, or if you want to make sure you don’t miss them, sign up for the monthly Book Club newsletter. (Also, if you sign up soon, I’m offering a little surprise in the mail for book-club subscribers who pre-order Happier at Home.)

If you’d like to comment on the books, post here, and I’ll also ask for comments on these books next month. That way we can have a conversation about them.

So here are my recommendations! Shop at the wonderful Brooklyn indie WORD, BN.com, Amazon (I’m an affiliate of all three), or your favorite local bookstore.

An outstanding book about happiness: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. A world classic.


An outstanding children’s/young adult book: The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars. A perfect book.


An eccentric pick: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. It doesn’t matter if you never read comics or graphic novels (I don’t).

If you’d like to hear me speak briefly about these books, check out this (very short) video.

Blatant self-promotion: My new book, Happier at Home, comes out in September. Read an excerpt here; pre-order here (pre-orders give a big boost to a book, so if you’re inclined to buy it, pre-ordering now is a big help to me).

Happy reading!

  • Cathleen

    Sally from the Peanuts: “Happiness is having your own library card”

    • I love this! I am going to print it and turn it into a bookmark 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      ABSOLUTELY. You should see how long my library list is.

  • s_ifat

    thank you so so SO much for doing this Gretchen, this is so nice of you. i alwayes take your word for it 🙂

  • I already pre-ordered your new book, can I still get the little surprise you mentioned when I sign up to the Book Club newsletter? I am so glad you’re doing this by the way. I’ve been wanting to join an online book club for ages, and I can’t think of a better one than yours!
    Love Katie x

    • gretchenrubin

      Sure—email me through my blog with your mailing address.

  • vashelle nino

    I’m looking forward to hearing your kidlit picks! 🙂

  • This looks like it’ll be lots of fun. I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy your eccentric picks because I tend to like reading widely on odd niche topics.

  • Rachael Hoffman-Dachelet

    I love that you picked Understanding Comics! Scott McCloud is a fascinating guy, and I love this book. Check out his Ted talk too.

  • Lee

    This sounds great! I recently moved across the country, leaving behind the book club I’d been in for over 11 years. I miss it!

  • emd04

    Can’t wait to read! So exciting, esp. the Midnight Fox. And I’ve been wanting to read the Frankl book for years.

    • gretchenrubin

      I hope you enjoy them both. I think you will!

  • Gunilla

    Terrific initiative. Thanks! Man’s Search for Meaning is also one of my all-time favourites.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that you love it, too.

  • Kelly

    Very excited about these books! Also, preordered Happier at Home! September cant get here soon enough!

  • Jennifer Gagliardi

    I love this idea! Reading is one of the great pleasures in life and there is never enough time to read all of the books on my wish list!

  • Andrea

    Awesome idea! I love Man’s Search for Meaning, and I’m looking forward to checking out the other two.

  • Sara

    This is so exciting!!!! I am starting a book club in my neighborhood and this is such a great resource. And can’t wait to meet you Sept. 5th!

  • Virginia V

    I love kidlit and happiness lit, so I’m excited to follow your picks! Do you have a list of kidlit you love somewhere?
    You should consider posting your reads on Goodreads…

    I’m a high school librarian but my favorite books are middle grade. I have some recommendations on my basically now-defunct blog, The Old-Fashioned Children’s Novel(ist): http://ofcnovelist.blogspot.com/. Right now, I’m reading “The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.”

  • Stavroula

    Really appreciate that!! thank you so much for all the things you are sharing with us..

  • I have just read about Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
    It sounds horrible, I mean the stories from the concentration camps.
    Is it? I really don’t like to read too horrible books.

    • gretchenrubin

      This is why I don’t like to describe books. The description often makes a person NOT want to read it! Frankl’s book is deeply moving. It has a very transcendent tone. It is quiet, serious, profound. It’s very short. I think I understand what you’re saying, and this is not “too horrible” though its subject is horrible. On the other hand, it’s not a book that will have you laughing out loud as you turn the pages.

      A book is about happiness isn’t necessarily light and fun. Though there’s a place for those books, too.

      Other people who have read the book – weigh in. Don’t you recommend it too? It really is so good.

      • Thanks for the clarification! I just associated to a number of books that I have read that’s been related to the holocaust and thought that I’ve had my share.
        I will read the book since I’m sure it’s full of wisdom.
        You know, when I was a teenager and in my “book eating” days I made a case out of NOT reading back covers, maybe it’s time to go back to that!

  • Pat

    I followed the link to read an extract from your new book … but am puzzled by the use of exclamation mark (!) to introduce speech rather than an opening “. Am I missing something or is it to do with how the text displays on screen?

    • gretchenrubin

      That’s odd. Do other people see that? It’s certainly supposed to be a quotation mark!

  • betsyohs

    I have read many of the books you’ve recommended on this blog, and they’ve all be really interesting. Hearing you describe books makes me want to read them!

    And I’d love to be able to reference an annotated list of all the books you’ve talked about on this blog. Or maybe your “books” tag is that…I’ll check it out. I requested these first three book group books from my library!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that! Thanks for letting me know. Can’t wait to hear if you like these three. Hope so.

  • jannine

    Man’s Search for Meaning is an amazing book, I hope I can re-read it on time for discussion. I am going to read the Midnight fox. I am very excited for your recommendations! I am currently reading Jackie after O by Tina Cassidy.

    • gretchenrubin

      So glad to hear you also love Man’s Search for Meaning. Ah, what a pleasure you have in store for you with The Midnight Fox. Wonderful.

  • Deeza

    A friend just gave me your book The Happiness Project when the two of us went on a weekend trip– getting away from kids for two days. Although I had always been a rather optimistic and somewhat cheery person, after a divorce three years ago I had become cynical, irritable and somewhat unkind. I snapped at my kids and secretly snapped at my colleagues at work and my neighbors. I was drinking too much coffee and tea in the day and too much wine at night. I was jealous of every couple in love and even the ones who were no longer in love (at least they had each other). My one lovely moment in the day was reading Harry Potter to my 6 year old before he went to bed. Anyhow– so my friend gave me you book and I said “Great, can’t wait to read it.” Secretly though, I was thinking that another self-help book would just make me want to scream. However, I did start reading it because I’d left my New Yorker in the car and was left with the book, or the hotel bible. Long story short– I kept reading and reading until I finished the book in one night. Many of the issues you had been dealing with seemed identical to ones I was struggling with. One of the reasons I liked the book so much was that much of it is just slowing down — to observe, listen, experience. And laugh. Thanks for reminding me of the important things in life!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that it resonated with you and was helpful during a tough time.

  • Deeza

    PS I read Man’s Search for Meaning many years ago and got so much from it. A fabulous, inspiring book.

  • peninith1

    For some reason, I ‘never got around’ to the Frankl book until you recommended it, although I was aware of and have called on his lesson that we can control our responses to difficult situations–even extremely scary circumstances. As it happened, the week I read the Frankl, my very dear daughter in law became perilously ill. I was living that moment when you know that your every hope and emotional security could be stripped away, watching my son experiencing the dread of loss. The Frankl helped me not to feel quite as helpless, and to remember that there is great solace in making decisions and taking actions based on integrity and love, even though you have lost control. The immediate crisis is now over, and my daughter-in-law’s health is now stable, even though she is still at risk.

    Now I am finding it possible to relish another messages of his book that I had not known until I read it: a well-lived life gives us many beautiful and happy memories to review and relish in difficult times. Being old doesn’t mean being ‘past it’ but rather ‘having a past’–and it is up to us to do our best to have a good store of lovely recollections. Then, if we are in the prison-cell of illness or disability, we will have walks by the sea, the company of loved ones, delectable, leisurely meals with friends, the plots of many novels, and a host of beautiful views to keep us company.

    I did not ‘get to’ your other two recommendations last month in my crisis management, but I am very grateful you recommended this book. It helped, and will go on helping.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter-in-law—wonderful that the crisis has passed. I hope her condition continues to improve.

  • Krista

    I finally was able to get through the first half of the Frankl book. I found it “interesting” but definately not what I’d call enjoyable. I found his writing very difficult to read in the second half of the book due to the psychological babble. Personally, not a fan of the “world classic” but I tend not to enjoy the classics as much as a quirky little read.
    Hence ‘The Midnight Fox’. What a cute little book! I have never read kidlit before (since being an adult that is!) and I was very pleasantly surpised by the humor and serenity it brought every minute I was reading it. If you can believe it, I had to get it from a library 400km away since our city, nor the surrounding cities, had it in their inventory. Thank you so much for recommending this book!