Want To Be Happier? Read Along with the Happiness Project Book Club.

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

An outstanding book about happiness: My Life In France by Julia Child.  Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book: The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman. Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick: The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell. Buy from WORD; BN.com 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?

Happy reading!

  • Danielle

    Hi Gretchen! I first want to thank you for somehow climbing into my mind and writing not 1, but 2 books about the thoughts and struggles in my mind! I’m so thrilled to announce that, as of today, I’ve launched my very own Happiness Project on my blog. I’m so excited to change my ways and not only become a better person, but to hopefully inflict my own personal happiness on those around me. Thank you for encouraging others (in your own special way) to make this world a better place!
    http://www.danielledeskins.blogspot.com/2012/10/my-happiness-project.html

  • Peninith1

    My Life in France was SO good that I ‘devoured’ it the first time through, then went right back to page one and ‘savored’ it again, ever so slowly. I have since read it a third time. What a wonderful woman, and a wonderful life. Above all her many gifts, I think that Julia Child showed most the gift of full presence and appreciation for her experiences, both as she enjoyed them and as she recalled them. Everything from the delightful people, particularly Paul Child, to the exquisite food, comes completely to life for me. I so highly recommend this book!

    • beach house

      I too devoured and now my mother and sister in-laws are enjoying it as well…thanks to Amazon used copies. Such a joy filled woman and she had such a loving marriage…refreshing in these days of chronic complaining and unsatisfied married folks. I have a wonderful ,marriage and adore married life so this was a real treasure to take in:) To me what was most exciting was that she did not know her true calling until well into her 30’s and in a foreign country on the fringe of war time…the silver lining always shows itself when we stay open as she did.Her zest for life, marriage, companionship, cooking, travel…all delicious! Thank you for suggesting this book!

      • gretchenrubin

        I’m so happy to hear that people enjoyed it as much as I do. LOVE that book.

  • emd04

    Love my Life in France. Of course it also makes me hungry, but cooking/baking makes me happy. So it’s really just a big circle of happiness. I’ve been wanting to read the Life, so I will check that out.

  • Krista

    So far, for September’s reads, I’ve read The Silver Crown. As I mentioned in the comments a few posts ago, I’ve never read kidlit as an adult. This was my first and I really liked it. I found it really easy to imagine being there and seeing all the details. I want a crown just like that. I did find the original end a bit strange, as in quick to end without any build up but there was an alternate ending in the version I read and I enjoyed that one quite a bit. Thanks for the selections. I’m still plugging away at August and September’s!

  • Kimberly

    I’ve read “My Life in France”, LOVED IT!!…and I have “The Life of Samuel Jackson” downloaded on my Kindle (bought it after reading your book). I have not read any kidlit as an adult so, “The Golden Compass” may be the “eccentric read” for me – but, “A Wrinkle in Time” and “The Phantom Tollbooth” are in my Top Five Most Favorite Books, so I will definitely check it out!
    On a side note, I read “Happier at Home” and “The Happiness Project” in early September. Your words have inspired me to go back to college and finish my degree (I start later this month at age 42), start a book/wine club (Read’em & Drink), and start a blog (to write again!!)…I have also decluttered and contine to tackle my own Happiness List. Just wanted to say THANKS for fanning the fire!!

  • Marjorie

    Kidlit… happy sigh… I homeschooled my three children for 8 years and my favorite part was reading – constantly reading. We also had a children’s monthly book club for 6 years where the mothers also read the books and took turns leading the discussions with the children. One of the best meetings was always the last of the year when we all met with lists of “contenders” – books seeking a place on the next year’s club list. What happy times! I was wondering the other day how many of our books you had read. Being in NYC, have you read Ruth Sawyer’s “Roller Skates”? Sawyers also wrote a charming (if a bit old fashioned) holiday book, “This Way to Christmas” that tells of a boy who has to spend a “lonely” Christmas in the mountains far from all the glories of Christmas in the big city. You and your girls might like it 🙂 And then there is Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s “Understood Betsy” and The Westing Game….Ah! there are so many titles that beckon.

  • Llitterell

    Regarding The Golden Compass … it was well over a year before my husband & I gathered the courage to watch the movie which we did find enjoyable but disturbing because it portray Christianity as a heresy and pokes at the Catholic Church in particular. Mr Pullman is a bonafide, card carrying atheist who seeks to evangelize christians for Club Atheism. Please read his works carefully with the realization of his agenda.

    • beach house

      I could not agree more, well said

  • Martina

    September reads were a bit more challenging for me. The Silver Crown didn’t hold me the way that The Midnight Fox did, and while I could see the fascination of Out of Africa and I admired her writing, Just couldn’t see it through to the end. I have hopes for St Therese, but want to read the translation you recommend, and I am waiting for that.

    You may smile to hear that on the website of our local library [in Australia] the catalogue details for Boswells Life of Johnson appear on a page of just two titles, the second being your own Happier at Home!!

    October’s list looks tempting!!

  • gehrs67

    Did anyone read “Story of a Soul”? I did, and while it was a slow start, it really touched me. St. Therese’s simplicity, humility, and focus on love is a message for our time.
    Anyone out there want to discuss this book?
    Frankly, I was hoping for more out of this “book club”.

    • peninith1

      I have read ‘Story of a Soul’ more than once, and have really studied the life of St. Therese. I am not a Roman Catholic, and in fact not now especially tied into life in a parish church (I’m Episcopalian), but I find her ‘Little Way’ compelling and rewarding. I love how her life speaks to authority for justice and kindness. I love how she finds ways to face the worst silences with the greatest of courage. I love how wise she is in knowing that the tiniest details offer epic opportunities for insight and heroic response. Have you seen the film about her, called simply ‘Therese’? It is not an officially sanctioned, worshipful biopic, but amazingly insightful–sort of gives you the chance to see her the way people around her might have seen her, as enigmatic and yet radiant. She offers a great deal, if you walk with her for a while.

    • Cal

      I too, have been waiting for more discussion on Story of a Soul. I found it to be one of those books that I had to push myself to persevere with, although it certainly is an inspirational read. What I got out of it was St Therese’s absolute dedication for her cause – her unwavering focus – I think we could all benefit from such commitment to something that is important to us.

    • beach house

      an amazing read! I loved that someone was ABLE to explain the love of God, Son and Spirit with words…I’m a big fan. This was my first time reading from St Therese and I felt the power of the holy spirit throughout this entire book, that is rare to find in literature. It was encouraging to know that someone else feels a nearly romantic love for her creator as much as I do, love love love!

      • gretchenrubin

        I’m thrilled to hear that people love STORY OF A SOUL as much as I do. So extraordinary. Just thinking this morning about “I choose ALL.”

        Sorry that there isn’t a better way to foster discussion—that I’ve found. Trying to set up forums or the like, beyond people posting comments here, starts getting pretty complicated, and I’m trying to keep this simple. I could set up a page on Facebook but then many people argue that they don’t want to use Facebook. Etc.

  • You all have inspired to pick up “Story of a Soul” again. I started it about a year ago and then abandoned it. I’ll pick it up again…

    • beach house

      This is one of my favorite books, such beauty!

  • susana gonzález

    I´m reading “The Life of Samuel Johnson” which I enjoying so much…. I also love biographies. It´s like being witness of all those things happening in that historic moment. Like looking through a little hollow in the wall…

  • Amy

    I read the Life of Samuel Johnson for a linguistics paper I wrote about Johnson’s Preface to his dictionary.  I would recommend reading the Preface; there’s so many insights into his personality, the long project of writing the dictionary, his views on how you actually define words, and descriptive/prescriptive language.  Still so proud of that paper!

    • gretchenrubin

      I have NEVER read the Preface, though such a huge fan of Johnson. Off to get my hand on that now…

  • Molly

    I read “My Life in France.” What a great book! I’ve always liked Julia Child and loved the depiction of her by Meryl Streep in the the movie a few years ago. I had read a shorter biography, but not this one. What was amazing to me is how Julia Child’s love of food evolved along with her love of the french people and culture. I was inspired by the arduousness of the task taken on in Mastering French Cooking (exact title?), and all in all, glad this book appeared on the book club list. It was well worth reading!

  • beach house

    Warhol’s The Philosophy of Andy Warhol was interesting to be in the mind of such a unique individual. There was something so loveable about Him here and over all I ma glad I took the time to read this book, it is short and easy to read. At times I was peeling my jaw off the floor, he JUST says it in such a way, very silly at times. I will try for Samuel Johnson next, I have not read anything by him and am excited:)

    • gretchenrubin

      Warhol is so thought-provoking, for me. He says things in a way that seems so simple, so naïve, but then I’m hit by how profound or surprising it is.

      Johnson – will be a big change! Also enormously thought-provoking but quite a different style.

      • Kirsten

        No one ever knew whether to take Warhol seriously, he was so dry and deadpan and said the most outrageous things. He was life-changing for me.

  • Lori

    I read My LIfe in France after reading your recommendation and loved it! I have since told others about it and watched them fall in love with Julia too. What a fascinating look at a very interesting woman. I had a lot of impressions about Julia before reading this book, and most of them were wrong. A delightful read that I would recommend to anyone who loves memoirs and autobiographies, cooking, France, and Julia’s unique style. If you enjoyed Julia and Julie, you will enjoy this even more.