Tag Archives: memoir

E. M. Forster Explains How To Know If a Book Is Influencing You.

“I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have got ourselves. I suggest, furthermore, that when you feel that you could almost have written the book yourself—that’s the moment when it’s influencing you. You are not influenced when you say, ‘How marvelous! What a revelation! How monumental! Oh!’ You are being extended. You are being influenced when you say ‘I might have written that myself if I hadn’t be so busy.'”

– E. M. Forster, “A Book That Influenced Me,” from Two Cheers for Democracy

Does this ring true for you?

I have to say, I think that people sometimes get that feeling from my books, especially The Happiness Project. People often say to me,  “Wow, I could’ve written a book like yours myself.” And I always think, “Terrific, you should!”

One of my favorite happiness-project resolutions is to “Imitate a spiritual master,” and I feel influenced (I hope) every time I read Story of a Soul, the memoir of my spiritual master, St. Therese of Lisieux. She’s a great saint and a Doctor of the Church and I’m me, of course, but still, when I read St. Therese, I think, “That’s exactly right, I’ve thought the same thing myself, I’ve struggled with that impulse, too. ”

What books have influenced you — or extended you?

Are We the Same Person Throughout Our Lives? Agatha Christie Thought So.

Do you agree? It’s a difficult question.

“We are all the same people as we were at three, six, ten or twenty years old. More noticeably so, perhaps, at six or seven, because we were not pretending so much then, whereas at twenty we put on a show of being someone else, of being in the mode of the moment. If there is an intellectual fashion, you become an intellectual–if girls are fluffy and frivolous, you are fluffy and frivolous. As life goes on, however, it becomes tiring to keep up the character you invented for yourself, and so you relapse into individuality and become more like yourself every day. This is sometimes disconcerting for those around you, but a great relief to the person concerned.”

–Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

Self-knowledge! In the end, any discussion of happiness always returns to the question of self-knowledge.

Relatedly, what’s your favorite Agatha Christie mystery? I don’t read mysteries, but I loved her autobiography, so want to try the mysteries. She wrote sixty-eight novels, where to start!

Do You Know that Strange Feeling of Recognition for the People on Your Flight?

From the unconventional memoir Textbook:

VII. At the baggage claim I see the man and woman from my row.

a. My people! These are my people!

b. They are now familiar to me

c. We spent three hours elbow-to-elbow

d. We passed plastic cups of ice water and mini bags of pretzels over to one another

e. I know what they look like asleep

f. Then we hoist our bags off the conveyor belt, wheel away in scattered directions

i. never to see each other again.

–Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Textbook

I know that feeling so well — the rush of relief and recognition of seeing “your people” at the baggage carousel. And then never seeing them again. I loved that this little piece captured that experience. (And yes, the nonsequential lettering and spacing is in the original.)

Revealed! Three Book Club Choices for November. 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:

Essays by Michel de Montaigne

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An outstanding children’s book:

Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An eccentric pick:

D.V. by Diana Vreeland

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 Little Happier: Accept a Gift in the Spirit in Which It’s Offered. (Easier Said Than Done.)

In my books The Happiness Project, and on my blog, I’ve written about the fact that my spiritual master is St. Therese of Lisieux, which I learned after reading her spiritual memoir Story of a Soul.

I’ve always been very struck by St. Therese’s discussion about getting gifts. She emphasizes that we should accept a gift in the spirit in which it’s offered — and also admits why, even for her (a saint!), this is difficult.

This is the line I especially love: “for the love of God and my Sisters (so charitable toward me) I take care to appear happy and especially to be so.”

If you’d like to watch a short video of me talking about the happiness resolution of “Imitate your spiritual master,” it’s here:

Check out Yogi Tea. When it comes to enjoying life, little moments — like drinking a delicious cup of tea — can make a big difference.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:

 

Happier listening!