Revealed: the Happiness Book Club Picks for November. Happy Reading!

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, I’ve started a book club (of sorts).  So many people have signed up–it’s thrilling! Each month, I  suggest:

  • 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.

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. So I won’t describe these books, but  I love all the books I recommend; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely loved.

I’ll post these recommendations here, or to make sure you don’t miss them, sign up for the monthly Book Club newsletter.

Each month, I’ll ask for comments on the previous selections. That way we can have a conversation about them.

Shop at the wonderful Brooklyn indie WORD,, Amazon (I’m an affiliate of all three), or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

An outstanding book about happiness: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.  Buy from WORD;; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book: The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright. Buy from WORD;; Amazon.

An eccentric pick: The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again). Buy from WORD; Amazon.

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

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think? Did you enjoy the choices? Julia Child’s My Life in France; Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass; and James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson.

Happy reading!

  • Pamela

    Isn’t it funny how you can want to read a book less after someone tells you about it? It happens to me all the time. My mother (a librarian) describes how great the book is, and how I should really read it, and then I don’t want to read it at all. But if it’s just on the shelf or in her pile of books to read, I’m much more likely to pick it up. Glad to know I’m not the only one!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m happy to hear that I’M not the only one! This is one of the most puzzling things about reading to me. Also, if I hear that “everyone” loves a book, I develop a kind of resistance to it. Then when I break down and give it a try, I usually love it too.

      • Kittee

        That is so funny! I thought I was the only one – which is why I still haven’t read 50 Shades yet. Most of my friends read the hot books so they don’t feel left out at the water coooler. Not me. Makes me feel like part of the herd.

    • peninith1

      My mother always used to complain that she would bring something home from the library to me, I would ignore it, she would take it back, and the next time I went to the library I would bring that same book home for myself, read it and rave about it. Just an example of how we insist on making something our own idea!

    • Rachel

      Maybe it’s about expectations? Maybe if someone tells us a good is book, we set our expectations too high and are then disappointed?

  • Sharon Henegar

    Thanks so much for selecting Enright’s The Saturdays. All of her books are just wonderful. I’ve read them so many times I pretty much have them memorized…and still read them again.

    • gretchenrubin

      Glad to hear from a fellow Enright fan! They are so, so, so good. It is hard to explain what lifts them so far above similar books, but whatever it is, it’s there.

    • Susan Hicks

      I’ve only started reading this blog in the last couple of days, thanks to your article in November’s Good Housekeeping I read while in a doctor’s office. It’s so nice to connect with someone who has a passion for children’s books! I have The Saturdays on my shelf; it was my favorite of Elizabeth Enright’s, but for the past many years I’ve had Thimble Summer on my mind. Remember it? My mother used to take us 5 kids to the library almost daily; it probably kept her sane 😉 I also loved Carolyn Haywood and Beverly Cleary, plus Mary Poppins and Dr. Doolittle (but now I’m mixing authors and titles). And I have the set of Childcraft books from my era. Just think–someday all our children’s books can be a bequest to a library to encourage another book-loving child.

      • gretchenrubin

        LOVE Haywood, Cleary, reading Mary Poppins to my younger daughter right now.
        I always overlook Thimble Summer, though if I remember I think Enright won the Newberry for that. I’m going to re-read it TODAY.

        • Julia

          Love Thimble Summer. Has either of you read Blue Willow, a wonderful book about a young migrant family in California? Their family yearns for a home worthy of their single treasure, a blue willow platter.

          • gretchenrubin

            Sounds great. I was just thinking of rereading JUDY’S JOURNEY by Lois Lenski, which sounds along the same lines.

      • Kittee

        Wow! Thimble Summer! I had totally forgotten about that book! When I saw your mention of it, it all came rushing back to me again. Next to the Judy Blume books, Thimble Summer had the most profound effect on me as a child (although I can’t recall why) and the memory of it moved me to tears just now.

        Thanks for mentioning! I am now going to get a copy and reread! 🙂

  • Dan Garner

    Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
    Wonderful book, great story.
    Dan @ ZenPresence

    • Rachel

      I know the story and have seen the movie (though I have not read the book). So depressing! Certainly not a happy story, but I can see its relevance to happiness.

  • peninith1

    Re: Into the Wild. I remember reading the New Yorker’s publication of most of this book in riveted horror years ago. Right now this minute, my 37-year-old son and his girlfriend are bicycling from coastal NC to New Orleans, with tents, cell phones, warm sleeping bags, minimal cooking equipment and a more or less clear plan for where they intend to go. They have been gone for a month, and have reached Jackson, Mississippi. While they are not in the wilderness intending to survive on whatever they can find, and they seem to have quite a bit more respect for reality than the young man this book describes, as far as I am concerned they are ‘out there,’ and I will feel so relieved and blessed the day they roll their bikes back up my driveway. This month’s pick is just a little ‘under my skin’ to be a ‘philosophical exploration.’ I’m going to look into the Andy Warhol instead!

  • E.S. Ivy

    I wasn’t signed up for book club last month, but I read Julie Child’s “My Life in France” and *loved* it. I read it right before I met a friend in Paris (she lives in Europe) for a birthday trip, and it inspired me to try new things – like foie gras. Can’t say I liked it, but I did try it! And I never did find a place serving the famous pressed duck. 🙂 But I enjoyed the bakeries she raved about much more – and took comfort in the fact that Julie Child’s thought it ridiculous that anyone would try to make croissants at home. Leave that to the professionals – you have to get up too early for that – and tend to the rest of your meal!

    It was fun to watch the movie Julie and Julia after reading the book, too!

    • peninith1

      I watched the movie, was enchanted and carried back to my early married days watching Julia’s show every week, got out my cookbooks and had a cooking frenzy, and since have amassed a complete collection of Julia Child’s cookbooks, My Life in France (have read it three times!) and her correspondence with Avis DeVoto. What a great read, what a wonderful and inspiring life, what a JOY to get to really know more about Julia and Paul Child. If you didn’t choose to read this already, I have to say this is now a forever favorite for me!

  • Dana_Britt

    I, too, find most descriptions of books off-putting. I talk about books a lot but I don’t critique nor do I go into great detail, I just like sharing what made me happy about the book! I’m looking forward to chiming in after reading these selections 🙂

  • E.S. Ivy

    The Saturdays looks fun! And yes I am *totally* judging a book by its cover. 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh it is SO SO SO good.

  • Carole-Ann

    I read and LOVED Julie and Julia (didn’t enjoy the movie so much), so didn’t want to read My Life in France and chose Golden Compass instead, but I’m struggling to get through it, however, I will persevere. Looking forward to Into the Wild this month.
    I did read one of your other passing recommendations – Why we get Fat and what to do about it and I thoroughly enjoyed and flew through that!

    • peninith1

      Yes, I read ‘Why we get fat’ and think the author is onto something–have not yet made the changes that he recommends though );

  • Charmaine

    Into the Wild is on my favourite list. I first saw the movie then had to read the book. “Happiness is best when shared”.

  • I read My Life in France and loved it! I am so enamored with Julia Child now. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Rachael

    Okay, I might need someone to explain how Into the Wild increases happiness. That was hands down one of the saddest books I have read!

    • gretchenrubin

      I find this book so thought-provoking about happiness, human nature, “the wild.” It forced me to consider: what did I think about what McCandless did? What was he striving for? How do these impulses fit into human nature?

      To be clear, when I say a book is about “happiness,” it’s not necessarily a book that lifted my spirits in an immediate way. It’s a book that makes me think about happiness. Like “Man’s Search For Meaning.”

      • peninith1

        Interesting–I found “Man’s Search for Meaning” paradoxically easier to take than “Into the Wild.” Perhaps it is the loneliness of McCandless’s ordeal that unnerved me so much, or maybe the completely unnecessary nature of the disaster. Certainly his family’s suffering was agonizing to witness even at third hand. I confess I have found some stories of confrontation with nature inspiring, when the participants are lucky enough to survive (LOVE the story of Shackleton’s voyage for example, and the story of the exploration for the sources of the Nile). But truly, nature is all too often able to crush the adventurer. I really DISLIKE it when reckless adventurers put others in peril to rescue them. I would guess that the Shackleton voyage, more than any other story of this sort, offers lessons in making happiness into a source of strength.

  • I just joined, and purchased The Life of Samuel Johnson; I think it was your first book that encouraged me to check it out, and it looks quirky and wonderful. Wow, when I saw “Into the Wild” as this month’s choice, it struck me. McCandless was seeking happiness; I remember he brought with him a Tolstoy book (title escapes me) – but the title and subject of the book was heartbreaking – family? His vision quest was foolhardy, but incredibly touching and it does make me wonder about what I am seeking and what I am willing to do to make it happen.

    • gretchenrubin

      War and Peace was the Tolstoy book he had with him.

  • Janet

    I tried to read “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol” and was not able to enjoy it. Not for me. Did LOVE “The Golden Compass”, though. Read the whole trilogy. Wonderful! Thank you, Gretchen for many hours of pleasure.

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, the Warhol is a bit…eccentric! I’m so happy you enjoyed the Pullman trilogy. I love those books.

  • peninith1

    Read some chunks of the Andy Warhol book. Since you like quotations, I can see why his strangely epigrammatic style would be appealing, and you can certainly tell there’s an actual, oddly charming person in there somewhere. For me it was a window into another world, in which a discussion of jeans vs. leather pants has both housewifely practicality and the ponderous dictates of style about it, and stories about lost, exotic creatures like ‘Taxi’ seem like the answer to what happened to that girl from school after she floated beyond any ordinary person’s ken. Reminds me a little bit of the much better writing of Truman Capote, whose stories and essays are unnervingly good, by the way.

  • tiffany k smoot

    how did i not hear about your book club? my book club died & i have felt so lost without it! thanks so much!

  • Roxanna

    I am in the middle of My Life in France and I absolutely love it.

  • Ooo, I love the Melendys!! The Saturdays was one of my favorites. What a great series. It’s so wonderful to go back and relive the story, where nothing changes, isn’t it? It picks you up and magically drops you right back into childhood. Talk about happiness!!!