Tag Archives: literature

Revealed! February Book Club: Keys to Good Design, a Personality Quiz, and High Fantasy.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

— one outstanding book about happiness or habits

— one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

— one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

Bonus book this month: with Shea Olsen, my sister Elizabeth Craft has a new young-adult novel, Flower. The tag line? “She had a plan, then she met him.” Romance, temptation, secrets, college applications, celebrity...Check it out.

Now, for the three book-club choices. Drumroll…

A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

 

The Enneagram Made Easy: Discover the 9 Types of People by Elizabeth Wagele

On episode 99 of the Happier podcast, my sister Elizabeth and I discussed the “Try This at Home” of taking personality quizzes. The Enneagram isn’t a scientific way to understand personality, but many people find it to be an illuminating framework. To my mind, that’s the chief benefit of a personality quiz: whether it helps us glimpse into our own nature. Sometimes it’s hard to look directly in the mirror, and something like a personality quiz can help us see ourselves indirectly.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An outstanding children’s book:

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

I was astonished to realize that I’ve never suggested the Tolkien books as my kidlit choice (though arguably they aren’t children’s books). These are towering classics of world literature. The Fellowship of the Ring is the first in a trilogy called “The Lord of the Rings,” and while The Hobbit isn’t part of the official trilogy, and is very different in tone, it’s quite related to the high fantasy epic that unfolds. These books are unlike anything else. Read the books even if you’ve seen the movies; as always, movies can’t capture so much that’s wonderful about books. For instance, one of my favorite characters, Tom Bombadil, doesn’t appear in the movies.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An eccentric pick:

The Pocket Universal Principles of Design: 150 Essential Tools for Architects, Artists, Designers, Developers, Engineers, Inventors, and Makers by William Lidwell.

This is an absorbing, fascinating, accessible book. Each page has a very succinct description of a design principle, with a fascinating example on the facing page. I loved reading this book because it made me realize why certain designs in the world around me worked well — or didn’t work. It’s so fun to know about design principles like “Back-of-the-Dresser,” “Defensible Space,” “Figure-Ground,” and the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.” These may sound dry, but they’re fascinating.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

If you want to make sure you never miss a month’s selections, sign up here for the book club newsletter.

Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

I just went to the library a few days ago — my reading stack is huge. What book are you most excited to read next?

Revealed! Three 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 or habits

— one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

— one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

Bonus book this month: with Shea Olsen, my sister Elizabeth Craft has a new young-adult novel, Flower. The tag line? “She had a plan, then she met him.” Romance, temptation, secrets, and celebrity...how well I remember the phone call when Elizabeth first told about her idea for this book. And now it’s hit the shelves! Check it out.

Now, for the three book-club choices. Drumroll…

A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

Absent in the Spring by Agatha Christie

I don’t read many mysteries, but for some reason I felt like reading Agatha Christie’s wonderful Autobiography. In it, she discusses the writing of Absent in the Spring — an unusual book for her, because it isn’t a crime mystery (in fact, Christie wrote it under a pseudonym, Mary Westmacott). It’s about a woman who’s stuck by herself for a few days while traveling, and with that opportunity for self-reflection, she realizes the fundamental ways that she’s misunderstood herself and the people around her. It’s a short, quick, very thought-provoking book.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An outstanding children’s book:

The Secret Language by Ursula Nordstrom

Nordstrom was an enormously brilliant, influential editor of children’s books. I’ve read Dear Genius, her terrific book of letters,  three times. She wrote this one children’s book herself, and she wasn’t satisfied by it — which is a shame, because I love it. It’s about Victoria, a young girl who goes to boarding school and makes a best friend there. How I love boarding school books,

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An eccentric pick:

All About Colour by Janice Lindsay

I’ve become obsessed with the subject of color. All about Colour is one of the most accessible, amusing, and thought-provoking discussions that I’ve read– many books about color are surprisingly dry. Lindsay has a very strong point of view (for instance, she objects to the popularity of white paint) which makes the book fun to read.

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

If you want to make sure you never miss a month’s selections, sign up here for the book club newsletter.

Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

What books are you excited to read in 2017? I’m always looking for great books to add to my reading list.

Agree? “You Cannot Be a Leader Until You Have Learned to Be a Follower.”

Of his plebe year at West Point, Aldrin notes: “What we were being taught…is that you cannot be a leader until you have learned to be a follower.”

–Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., Return to Earth

Buzz Aldrin is one of the astronauts who made the historic moon landing in the Apollo 11.

Do you agree that in order to lead, you must also know how to follow?

Revealed! Three Book Club Choices for October. Happy Reading!

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

  • one outstanding book about happiness or habits
  • one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit
  • one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

 

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.  Drumroll…

A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

My Antonia by Willa Cather

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An outstanding children’s book:

Jane-Emily by Patricial Clapp

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An eccentric pick:

My Struggle, Book 1 by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. 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.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

A Question I’m Often Asked: “How Do I Become a Published Author?”

People often write to ask me, “How can I write my book and get it published?” A big question!

Here’s my response — but note that I’m writing from my experience in non-fiction. Fiction, children’s literature, cookbooks, picture books, journals, etc. work differently.

Of course, the first requirement is that you do write. In my observation, many people have ideas for books (blogs, TV shows, movies) swirling around in their heads, but those ideas never actually make it onto the page.

If you’re having trouble with a consistent practice of writing, check out my book Better Than Before! Being a stuck writer is one of the most common habit complaints, so I thought a lot about tackling that problem as I was writing about habit change.

For me, at least, ideas come through writing. You may need to take a lot of notes, make a lot of false starts, make multiple outlines, before you find your way into your subject.

If you haven’t yet identified a subject and started writing, focus on that. It’s not time yet to worry about the publishing process.

Keys to the publishing process

If you have written a book, or are in the process of writing it, here’s what you need to know:

If you want to be published by a traditional publisher, you need an agent. You don’t send a manuscript to a publisher; your agent sends your manuscript to a publisher.  There are very few exceptions to this rule. True, I’ve known people who have had books published without an agent — and in many cases, they’ve regretted it. The system is set up to work this way, and unless you’re an insider, it’s very hard successfully to do things differently.

Getting an agent is a big, difficult step. If you have connections, use them. Also, look in the Acknowledgements of the books you admire that are similar to the book you’re writing, and see if an agent’s name recurs — that means the agent is interested in your kind of book. There are lots of online resources.

If you want to self-publish, you don’t need an agent. You do need to understand the logistics of self-publishing.  I’ve only self-published one book, my  The Best of the Happiness Project Blog. It was a very fun experience, but I am no expert in that process.

This overview is very cursory, and again, there are a ton of online resources. For an excellent, detailed outline of the process, check out the treasure trove of information at Jane Friedman’s blog, in “Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published.”

My own story? I was clerking for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor when I realized that I wanted to be a writer. I had an idea for a book that I wanted to write, and had done a ton of research, when I bought a book from the bookstore called something like “How to Write and Sell Your Non-Fiction Book Proposal.” (That’s not an actual book; I don’t remember the real title.) I read that book, followed the directions, got an agent, sold the proposal — and it became my first book, Power Money Fame Sex: A User’s Guide. What a joy it was to write that book!

Of course, that makes the process sound easy, and it wasn’t.

A few lessons I’ve learned along the way

If you’re saying “My book is unlike any other book,” that’s probably not a good thing. If this book is unlike any other book, it will be hard for people to imagine why they’d want to read it. Along those lines…

It’s helpful to be able to say, “My book is in the spirit of…” or “If readers loved XYZ, they’ll love my book.” This comparison helps people understand what kind of book they’re dealing with. For instance, the flap copy for my book The Happiness Project included this sentence: “Rubin carves out her place alongside the authors of bestselling memoirs such as Julie and Julia, The Year of Living Biblically, and Eat Pray Love.” Obviously, you want these comparison books to be well-known and successful.

A book gets put into a category. If it’s in a physical bookstore, it gets shelved in one particular place. Where would your book go? Have an answer. (Saying “on a table in the front of the store” isn’t an answer.) This categorization will happen.  Writers, including me, complain about this slotting process all the time, but it happens. Online, books can fit into many categories, but figuring out a book’s categories still a useful exercise. It brings clarity.

In a letter or proposal, it’s not useful to spend a lot of words emphasizing how passionately you want to write, or how deeply you feel about the subject of your book.  An agent or editor wants to know that you’ll write an excellent book that will appeal to many readers. Your personal satisfaction isn’t really relevant to their jobs.

Unless you have data to back it up, talking about what you plan to do isn’t very persuasive. If you say, “To support my book, I plan to build a popular, active blog that will attract thousands of readers to a discussion of my subject,” the agent/publisher will think, “Well, if this writer hasn’t done that yet, why do I believe that they’ll be able to do it in the next year?”

If you think, “I’m dying to write a book, but I don’t know what I want to write about,” that’s a problem. In my view, the most important part of writing is having something to say. Whenever I’m stuck, I stop and think, “What do I want to say?” and everything gets easier. My poor daughter is working on her college essays now, and I keep saying, “Figure out you really want to say, then the writing begins to flow.”

Solutions for a writer who’s an Obliger

If you’re thinking, “I really want to write, but I put other people’s needs in front of my own/I can’t take time for myself/I need to work on my self-esteem,” you’re probably an Obliger. Take the Four Tendencies quiz to confirm (whether you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel.) Similarly…

If you’re thinking, “I’ve never had trouble being productive at work, but when I sit down to write on my own, I get writer’s block,” you’re probably an Obliger. Again, take the Quiz here.

So what’s an Obliger to do, to get the writing done? If you are an Obliger, the answer is always external accountability. Join a writing group, hire a writing coach, get a client, start an accountability group,  tell people to expect your book, think of your duty to be a good role model, whatever it takes.

Again, for an outstanding introduction to getting your book published, check out Jane Friedman’s “Start Here: How to Get Your Book Published.”

I’m planning to do a Facebook Live video about this topic, so I’d love to hear what other questions you have on the subject. Let me know in the comments.