Revealed! Book Club Choices for January. 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–an excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to 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:

–La Rochefoucauld, Collected Maxims and Other Reflections

Buy from WORD; BN.comAmazon.

An outstanding young-adult book:

– Julie Andrews (yes, the Julie Andrews), Mandy

Buy from WORD;; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

Buy from WORD;; Amazon.

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? Baumeister and Tierney’s Willpower; Cameron’s Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You; and Strachey’s Queen Victoria.

So, so, so good.

If you’re reading this post through the daily email, click here to join the conversation. And if you’d like to get the daily blog post by email, sign up here.

  • SewCatSew

    So true about book descriptions…so many times I’ve looked for a good book and every summary made me reject the book and I just end up bookless! Here’s to jumping in without a description or picking the one that sounds the worst! Happy New Year!

    • johanna Knaus

      I just read Mandy for the FIRST time. I love children’s books and I can’t believe I never had even heard of this fantastic book. I want to buy my own copy so i can read to my granddaughter. (and reread it) This book was so moving, and i agree with another reader who mentioned how complex a child’s mind can be. I have recently retired after 30 years of being a Family Childcare Provider and I still love to go to the library and check out a lot of children’s books. They are all so uplifting and usually have beautiful pictures, too. Thanks again for the great selections and interesting blog site..On to The Borrowers!

  • BKF

    Gretchen, I enjoyed Queen Victoria. Thanks for recommending it.

    My daughter and I just read The Christmas Doll by Elvira Woodruff. Since you like children’s literature, you might take a look at it- perhaps next December. It’s very moving.

    Wish you and your readers a peaceful and fulfilling 52 and 1/2 weeks.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks, I’ll check it out!

  • peninith1

    I will look for the Graham Greene to add to my collection of his novels. This is one I have not read, I don’t know why. I’m particularly fond of The Comedians (Haiti under Papa Doc) and Our Man in Havana (super film with Alec Guinness, Piper Laurie, Ernie Kovacs, Burl Ives and others – you have to see this, even if you don’t read the novel), The Honorary Consul, The Heart of the Matter, The Ministry of Fear, Brighton Rock, Getting to Know the General, and that one about the British journalist and the young American in Vietnam during the French-Indochinese war. A Burnt Out Case, there’s another. Seems like Greene was everywhere in the third world where there was trouble, and he wrote about it with such vivid compassion. This will be on my list for the month.

    • gretchenrubin

      I just started re-reading A Burnt Out Case, but have missed some of the others, so will add to my list.

  • jjbbone

    I have just found Louis Penny! She is a Canadian mystery writer. Her characters develop and change throughout the series. She writes about mystery and “mystery”, and I find it intriguing. Easy reading too, although some of her thoughts make one pause, put the book down, and think.

    • peninith1

      LOVE this series! Inspector Gamache & Three Pines are among my favorite characters and places!

    • Mandysdc7

      Wonderful author. Absolutely fantastic series, Three Pines!

  • jjbbone

    Have you read The Golem and The Jinni? Wow. Young adult.

  • Kathleen

    “The End of the Affair” is a fine book, and “The End of the Affair” is a fine movie, but they put the same characters in a different plot. Interesting discussion could follow. Similarly, “What Was She Thinking?” and the Judi Dench movie were both good but had different endings.
    And I also recommend Louise Penny, for the same reasons as jjbbone.

  • DavidDashnme

    Have you read Wonder? It is one of my favorite books EVER, and my 9 year old loved it too…we laughed and cried, and it generated some memorable and treasured conversations.

    • gretchenrubin

      I looooove WONDER. So good.

  • Emelie Thompson

    I JUST reread Mandy! Thanks to you I have become proud of my love of kidlit. Nothing makes me happier than to read a book that makes me believe in all of possibilities of life again, and children’s books do that better than any other genre. Next, I’m onto The Borrowers series!

    • Jody

      I love The Borrowers! I read them over and over again as a child, I definitely need to reread them this winter. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! So happy to hear that.

  • heeds

    Squeal!!! I love, love, love Mandy. I’m pretty sure it’s what sparked my continuing love of kid-lit.

    • gretchenrubin

      My daughter also LOVED “The Last of the Really Great Wang-doodles,” also by her, and it’s a huge classic as well, but somehow I never liked it as much. But have to mention it, because I know it’s beloved by so many. And how CRAZY is it that on top of everything else she does, Julie Andrews is a brilliant kidlit author? Sheesh.

      • Maria

        My Mom read that book to me when I was 10 and that is where I learned about the double helix and DNA. She gave a book review to my 5th grade class. The scrappy caps and that sweet sweet little Wang-doodle with his sweet tooth. Bravo Julie.

      • heeds

        That is an awful lot of talent concentrated in one individual, isn’t it? I’ve got “Whangdoodles” and I keep meaning to read it to my kids, but it just doesn’t draw me in like “Mandy” always has. I borrowed “Mandy” umpteen times from the library as a kid, and felt vaguely ashamed when I bought a copy of my own as a childless 20-something. Now I know better than to be ashamed, but I’m still glad to know I’m not the only one. 🙂

  • Linda Lefler

    You chose The End of the Affair. I had been thinking of getting the audio book, partly becasue of its reputation and reviews, but partly because the audiobook is narrated by COLIN FIRTH! Happy new year!

    • BKF

      Then I will definitely get the audiobook! 🙂 I also wanted to look into The Testament of Mary read by Meryl Streep (have you heard her velveteen rabbit narration?)

  • Linnea

    I remember reading Mandy years ago as a child – loved that book!

    • Jen H

      That is what I was thinking, too. I think my grandmother gave it to me as a child and I read it many times. I had forgotten about it until this recommendation and warm memories flooded back. I will get a new copy to read to my granddaughter. Gretchen, thanks for the shot of nostalgia!

  • Nellie

    I’m reading “Someday this Pain will be useful to you” and am loving it!!! Thanks for the pick last month!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that. SO good.

    • Abby

      I LOVED reading that book, didn’t seem to me that it was kidlit, it was so deep!

  • Lacy

    I love Mandy! Have you ever read ‘Behind the Attic Wall’ by Sylvia Cassedy? I came across my old copy the other day.

    • gretchenrubin

      Oh yes! That’s CREEPY.

  • BKF

    Gretchen, I think a good topic for discussion for your blog might be ‘re-reading a book.” You mention re-reading many of the book club choices. It struck me that I did a lot more re-reading as a child (often because I ran out of books to read at home.) Nowadays, there’s limited time and always something new to be read, so I don’t have the luxury of (or at least permit myself to) re-visiting a book. But it’s such a lovely thing to re-read a loved book and find out that it still holds up!

    • gretchenrubin

      Ah, I LOVE re-reading! Was it Nabakov who said something like “the best reading is re-reading”?
      One of my critera for choosing a book for the book club is that I’ve re-read it. It has to be THAT GOOD for me to suggest it.

  • Susie

    How funny — I’ve been thinking of re-reading The End of the Affair since New Year’s Eve, when a couple of women from my book club compared it to The Good Soldier (which is our next discussion). The End of the Affair and The Power & the Glory are my two favorite Greene books, and would definitely make the list of my all-time favorites. Thanks for recommending it! Maybe after I get through The Good Soldier I can re-read.

  • Susan

    Oh I love Mandy. I have a well-read, tattered hardback from my childhood that I long ago read to my kids. We have joked/considered having a shell room. (half-bath project?)

  • Tchrpen

    I love , love, love Mandy! It is one of my absolute favorites!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so HAPPY to hear from all these fans of Mandy. I bet I’ve read it 20 times.

  • JChatt

    Have you ever read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster? I’ve just finished reading a copy lent to me by a young friend and was totally delighted by the wonderful word play and imaginative characters in this book. Although it’s a “children’s” book, I highly recommend it for any age.

    • gretchenrubin

      LOVE that book.

  • BKF

    I read Mandy yesterday evening in one sitting! It’s so heartwarming – kind of a cross between The Secret Garden and Annie (also The Christmas Doll which is the story of two orphan sisters.) By the way, I found it under “Edwards” in my library (Julie Edwards.) It was a lovely respite from the literary but unforgivingly severe “downer” for adults I last read. Great choice.

    • gretchenrubin

      Yes, seems as if in old editions she uses her married name Edwards, but in more recent editions, it’s under Andrews.
      So happy to hear that you enjoyed it!

      • BKF

        I will be reading it to my little girl next. She saw the jacket photo of the author when I was checking it out and exclaimed,” Oooh! I love Maria!” 🙂

  • Zohra

    I read ”Mandy” when I was at school, and LOVED it. I fell in love with the little cottage in the woods, and the soulful character of Mandy. So good to know someone else feels the same, as none of my friends have heard of it 🙂

  • Juli

    I actually read Baumeister’s Willpower book last month without realizing it was a book-club pick. I really enjoyed it. I found it thought provoking and interesting. It was especially helpful to read around New Year’s :).

    Re: this month’s choices – I LOVE Mandy, it’s one of my all-time favorites. It never fails to make me cry. I so wish it was a movie.

    • gretchenrubin


      So true…now that you mention it, I’m amazed Mandy hasn’t been a movie. Would be so perfect.

    • Lumiere

      Why ruin a perfectly wonderful book by making it a movie?? Look at how The Secret Garden has been spoiled!

  • Casey Steinert

    I LOVE that you included Mandy!! I read it back when I was a child, along with The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. Two of my very favorites!!

  • Susan Parker

    I could not put The End Of the Affair down and finished it in about six hours. What an interesting book. Hate…what does it mean, what does it look like? God…love…miracles? Lots to think about. Parts of the book deserve another read. I deserve another read. Thank you, Gretchen.

  • Kristelle Larsen

    I read both “The End of the Affair” and “Mandy” and loved them both. “Mandy” showed how deep children can feel and how unaware adults can be of the world around them. The whole time I was reading I was thinking that “Mandy” was a bit of “The Secret Garden” with “Anne of Green Gables” mixed in.
    “The End of the Affair” was not what I was thinking and kept going new places. I tried to tell my husband about the book later and realized I couldn’t really tell him what the book was about.
    Both were gret reads and a great introduction into The Happiness Project book club.

    • gretchenrubin

      So happy to hear that you enjoyed them!

  • Awesome recommendations specially for someone like me who loves to read. Do you have anything in particular to recommend for children to read?

  • Abby

    Gretchen, I love your monthly book selection and really enjoyed “Mandy”; I was even a little teary-eyed at the end, I’m getting sentimental in my old age (76). On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy La Rochefoucault’s Maxims, I thought most of them were mean-spirited. Instead of “The End of the Affair” I read Alice Ellis Thomas’s “Summer House” I think you might enjoy it for one of your eccentric choices. Looking forward to February’s choices, they’ve all on reserve for me at the library. Thank you so much!

    • gretchenrubin

      Adding Summer House to my list right now. Thanks!

  • Whimzee

    Mandy is one of my all time favorites from childhood. I’ve read it many times and recommended it many more.

  • Lori

    I couldn’t believe that I have never heard of Julie Andrew’s books! I suppose since I was a teenager in the 70’s when they were written, I would not have been interested in reading them at that time. But in recent years I have been re-reading children and young adult literature that I enjoyed once upon a time, and discovering new books in that genre is becoming a new passion, thanks to you and your recommendations. Mandy was a simple pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing it.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed it —