Revealed! Book Club Picks for July. Happy Reading.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, 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’ll post these recommendations here, or to make sure you don’t miss them, sign up for the monthly Book Club newsletter.

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: Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. Buy from WORD;; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book: Edith Nesbit’s The Railway Children. Buy from WORD;; Amazon.

An eccentric pick: Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s DiaryBuy from WORD; BN.comAmazon.

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.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think? Smith’s Just Kids; Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Orwell’s A Collection of Essays.

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  • peninith

    Edith Nesbit–Magical. I remember reading those and something with ‘Amulet’ in the title in vacation in Canada in the early 1960s. Lots of fun!

    • gretchenrubin

      I LOVE all of E. Nesbit. Also Edward Eager, who inherited her mantle. So good! You’re thinking of “The Story of the Amulet.”

      • Geoff

        And “Five children and It”

  • Elizabeth

    Highly recommend … Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss MD, this book has put a fire in my soul and speaks more truth than anything I have ever read. I’ve recommended it to many friends and family and hope your readers get as much as I have from it. All the Best, Elizabeth

  • caseynotes

    I love All the King’s Men — fabulous writing and story….but I wouldn’t have thought of it as a happiness book. Can you explain how you connect this book with Happiness?

    • gretchenrubin

      To me, the novel is all about choices, and whether those choices make us happy or not. On a very high plane.

  • mbranme

    I highly recommend Far From The Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. It taught me volumes about happiness and finding meaning in one’s circumstances and relationships. It was also a fascinating introduction to rich experiences and worlds about which I would otherwise have never known.

  • Beth T.

    I think The Railway Children is an absolutely perfect choice for your book club. To me, the ending is an example of something I think is hard to find: a portrayal of happiness that feels real and extends the happiness to the reader.

  • jeanineunsworth

    The Good Earth by Pearl Buck – Timeless classic. I read it every 5 years. As I grow older I see the story differently each time I read it.

    • gretchenrubin

      I haven’t read than since I was about twelve… I should reread it.

      • Debora

        I re-read The Good Earth a few years ago, after first reading it around age 12. It is spectacular, and timeless.

  • Yuen

    The Joy of Living! A book that talks about simple skills on being happiness and the most important is: we are all looking for happiness by nature!

  • Janice

    Great choices. I loved Edith Nesbit and Edward Eager too, as a child and later as a mother of young children, and now that I’m a grandmother twice over, I think it’s time to read them all again! In the spirit of these wonderful authors, may I also suggest another favorite, The Borrowers, and others by Mary Norton. Happiness is “knowing” that when you’ve lost that button from your favorite shirt or the other earring that was right there a minute ago….a little friend has it, for a very good reason.

  • Ricki Treleaven

    My daughter and I are currently reading The Secret Garden for her summer reading projects. 😀

    As a Southerner, I *heart* Robert Penn Warren….I look forward to re-reading All The King’s Men, and I’m a long-time reader of The Southern Review.

    I also love Virginia Woolf. Mrs. Dalloway is one of my favorite books, but I’ve never read A Writer’s Diary.

    Great selections!


    PS I host a Literary Friday Link Party on my blog, and my readers have recommended some excellent books.

    • Kelly Dopman

      Ricki..if you haven’t read The Hours by Michael Cunningham, I’d strongly recommend it…literally a modern Mrs Dalloway..won the Pulitzer.

      • Ricki Treleaven

        Thank, you, Kelly! I’m headed over to Goodreads right now and putting it on my Want to Read list!

    • Beth S

      What is your blog?

  • Annie Kate

    The Railway Children is a phenomenal read aloud.
    We’re just completing Madame Curie by her daughter Eve. It is a bit heavy and long for a read aloud, but has been transformative for my kids and me. It’s amazing how differently happiness is defined by different people.

  • I must be meant to read The Railway Children aloud to my kids. I saw it last week on Life As Mom’s Booking It, and was intrigued. Now it’s showing up here. Definitely checking that one out.

  • Katie M Turner

    I loved Just Kids when I read it after it came out. I’ll have to reread it. It certainly was a nostalgic take on the bohemian/early punk scene in NY but Smith has a captivating narrative style and a way of making readers identify with her insecurities and struggles to fit in with nonconformists. It’s clear that she derived much happiness from the friendship she shared with Mapplethorpe through the years and I suppose that is the takeaway message: the happiness and pleasure that we derive from sharing periods of our lives with close friends shapes our experiences, perceptions of ourselves and our future. But the loss of her dear friend made the book end on a less hopeful note. Still it is a worthwhile read and a fascinating glimpse into a time, place, and subculture that promised happiness for those who didn’t buy into mainstream measures of happiness.

  • Jeanne

    I’m a big nonfiction fan. My shelves are full of “self-help” books, but I think of them as manuals to help heal from a childhood that was pretty bad. Everyone on the planet should read “The Power of Now” (IMHO) as well as “There Is Nothing Wrong with You,” by Cheri Huber, a Zen Buddhist nun. Need recommendations on the the books that heal, I’m your girl.

  • The Secret Garden ages well. As a kid, I loved it for the Gothic elements (a spooky old house! Cries in the night! A walled garden!). When I re-read it as an adult, I was so moved by the resurrection imagery and by the message that activity and time in nature are essential to happiness. I’m hoping to re-read it this summer (sorry; I’m a bit late to the party here).

    I still have the old copy my parents gave me for Christmas when I was ten. It has illustrations by Tasha Tudor and I adore it.

  • Kay

    Like Caseynotes, I’m half way through All the King’s Men, love it, the characters, the wrting, the story, but am having a hard time finding the nugget of happiness, even with GR’s reply about choices…. hmmmm, Kay-who doesn’t want to use some password, which one is unclear, but gets unhappy when passworded to comment.

  • Lucky Barb

    The Railway Children is a beautifully-written book. I had only read it once before, years ago, but I adore the movie version (the later one, from 2000, in which Jenny Agutter plays the mother; she played the eldest daughter in the 1970 movie.) I re-read the book this month and found it simply delightful. From the curiosity and adaptability of the children to the joyful ending, I could not put it down. Good choice!