Revealed! Book Club Choices for August. Three Terrific Books.

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,, 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:

Born Standing Up by Steven Martin

Buy from IndieBound;; Amazon.


An outstanding children’s book:

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield

Buy from IndieBound;; Amazon.


An eccentric pick:

The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje

Buy from IndieBound;; 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.

A Little Happier: Important Lesson from Dr. Seuss–It’s Fun to Have Fun, But You Have to Know How.

The Cat in the Hat said it, and it’s a truth that I feel more deeply with every year that passes: It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how — and that may take some serious reflection.

Research shows that the absence of “feeling bad” doesn’t mean that we “feel good.” We must actually strive to find sources of “feeling good.” Having fun on a regular basis is a pillar of happiness.

As you ask yourself, “How can I have more fun?” keep two things in mind:

1. Be honest about what’s actually fun for you. It’s a Secret of Adulthood: just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t mean it’s fun for you, and vice versa. Wine-tasting, skiing, baking bread, reading mysteries—I personally do not enjoy any of these “fun” activities. They’re fun for some people; not for me. Don’t try to be self-improving, and don’t plan a “fun” event based on what other people would enjoy. Make time for something that’s fun for YOU.

2. Do have real fun. I often feel so overwhelmed by tasks that I think, “The most fun would be to cross some items off my to-do list. I’d feel so much better if I could get something accomplished.” In fact, though, I just make myself feel trapped and drained. If I take time to do something that’s truly fun for me (re-read All the King’s Men for the fourth time, call my sister), I feel better able to tackle that to-do list.

In case Dr. Seuss hasn’t convinced you, I’ll also invoke Samuel Butler:

“One can bring no greater reproach against a man than to say that he does not set sufficient value upon pleasure, and there is no greater sign of a fool than the thinking that he can tell at once and easily what it is that pleases him. To know this is not easy, and how to extend our knowledge of it is the highest and most neglected of all arts and branches of education.”

An example from my own life: I always knew that I found it fun to read children’s and young-adult literature, but I never paid much attention to that passion; when I made this activity a major pastime, by acknowledging what I found fun and starting three kidlit reading groups, instead of pushing it to the corners of my life, I dramatically ramped up the fun I got from it. (Read about these groups in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.)

How about you? Have you ever had trouble finding fun, or making time for fun? It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.

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


Happier listening!

Do You Struggle to Give Up an Object that Once Served You Well? For Me, My Laptops.

“We conceive…a sort of gratitude for those inanimated objects, which have been the causes of great or frequent pleasure to us. The sailor, who, as soon as he got ashore, should mend [build] his fire with the plank upon which he had just escaped from a shipwreck, would seem to be guilty of an unnatural action. We should expect that he would rather preserve it with care and affection, as a monument that was, in some measure, dear to him.”

–Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

I love this passage, but the old-fashioned language may make it difficult to understand Smith’s point: when some object has done us great service, we’re reluctant to get rid of it.

Do you feel this way? I sure do.

For instance, as I write about in Happier at Home, I found it hard to say good-bye to my old laptops. We’d been through so much together! They’d worked so hard for me, we’d had so many good times together! But the old laptops were starting to take up a lot of space. I took a photograph of them, as a memento, and then sent them on their way.

On my Facebook Live video yesterday, we talked about the issue of managing mementos. Viewers suggested a lot of great hacks.

Mementos serve as important reminders of the people, places, and activities we love, and dear objects make our homes feel more homey. As long as they don’t get too overwhelming!

Do you have a possession that’s no longer useful, but is hard to relinquish, because of the part is has played? A tennis racquet you enjoyed for many years, a dead cell phone…?

Wow, I’m just realizing that in my life as a writer, I really do burn through laptops.

I Need Suggestions! What’s a Great Book to Read on an Airplane?

My daughter and I are going to London next week. I’m not a huge traveler, but I know that novelty and challenge boost happiness, that new experiences stay in the memory better than familiar experiences, and that shared adventures are a great way to get closer to the people we love. And in case there are traveling challenges along the way, I always comfort myself with the Secret of Adulthood that my mother taught me: The things that go wrong often make the best memories.

Plus I do love London.

But here’s my question: what books should I take? I’ll have a lot of airplane time, and I love to read on airplanes — I get to focus, without interruption, for so long.  Plus I’ll have reading time while we’re there.

What books do you suggest? I have a bunch of books in my stack, but none of them seem right. For instance, I have a lot of books about color, but several of them are extremely heavy, and as obsessed as I am with color, it’s not a subject that I want to read about for five hours straight.

I want a terrific, gripping, beautifully written novel or memoir or book of history.  And I want paperback, so it’s easier to carry.

My husband suggested John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Thumbs up?

What else would you suggest?

I checked out three e-books from the library (technology is amazing), but I do like to bring physical books as well.

Do you love reading on airplanes? Where’s your favorite place to read?

I’m going to the bookstore this weekend, so make your suggestions quickly!

Podcast 75: Develop a Minor Expertise, a Deep Dive into Signature Color, and How Do You Help a Rebel Sweetheart to Get a New Job?

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: We won an award! At the recent Podcast Movement conference, Happier with Gretchen Rubin won the Academy of Podcasters “Best Health and Fitness Podcast 2016.” Exciting!

Try This at Home: Develop a minor expertise. Right now, I’m obsessed with color. The most fascinating, delightful subject ever.

Happiness Hack: I love the app TimeHop. It shows me what I was doing one year ago today, four years ago today, etc. Fun memories. If you like this one-year-ago-today way of remembering, you might enjoy The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal: a Five-Year Record. I have to say, I’ve been surprised by how popular this journal has proved to be.

Deep Dive: So many fascinating comments and observations about having a signature color, coming off our discussion in episode 71. Listener enthusiasm got me color-obsessed!

Listener Question:Two listeners ask the same question: How do you help a Rebel sweetheart pursue a career change? If you want to take the Four Tendencies quiz, to find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel, it’s here.

Elizabeth’s Demerit and Gold Star: In a single afternoon, Elizabeth got  a demerit for losing her temper with Adam, then she got a gold star for being spontaneous and going to get a drink at a hotel bar with him.

Remember,  I’m doing weekly live videos on my Facebook Page about the podcast. To join the conversation, tune in Tuesdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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Happier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #75

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