Gretchen Rubin

The happiness of always having a good book to read.

One of my favorite happiness-project resolutions is to “Focus on books,” with the sub-resolution, “Read better.”

To that end, I’ve become much more diligent about keeping a list of “Books to Read.”

There are a million books I want to read, but sometimes when I’m most desperate for a suggestion, I go blank.

Keeping this list has been surprisingly satisfying. Just this morning, I was in the library and craving a new book – but what? I checked my list and remembered that a friend had said that Sam Walker's Fantasyland was terrific. Bingo. Ten minutes later, it was in my bag.

Actually, I’m already half-way through the novel on my bedside table, but it’s slow going. This novel, John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, is what I call a “blocking book.” I want to read it, but because I don’t quite enjoy reading it, it’s blocking my reading progress.

I’ve been meaning to read The Pilgrim’s Progress for a long time – say, about seventeen years. And I’ve owned it for a while – about nine years. At last I’m reading it.

Given the subject and structure, The Pilgrim’s Progress should have been one of the first books I tackled for my happiness-project research. Also, one of my favorite writers of all time, Samuel Johnson, was a huge fan of The Pilgrim’s Progress.

Now I’m reading it, and it’s one of those books that I find simultaneously fascinating and boring. If I didn’t like it at all, I could just stop reading. But I do find it fascinating. Also boring. That’s why it’s a blocking book.

So I’m going to alternate with Fantasyland.

My “Books to Read” list also has a special list of “emergency book” ideas: names of books that are so widely available that if I’m in a tiny airport bookstore, and have only five minutes to grab a book, I will see something I want. I never allow myself to read this book until such an emergency arises.

For a long time, my emergency book was Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. Then it was Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. Now it’s Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters.

Zoikes, I just discovered Futility Closet. These kinds of sites are dangerous, because once I start reading, I can't stop, and pretty soon two hours have passed.

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