Announcement! I’ve re-recorded the audiobook of Happier at Home, and it’s available for order.
Up until now, the Happier at Home audiobook was read by a professional reader, and over the years, many listeners have written to me to tell me—in no uncertain terms—that they thought that I should’ve read it myself.
The fact is, back when Happier at Home was first being published, a writer friend argued very persuasively that listeners enjoy books more when audiobooks are read by professional actors. Writers, she said, have no experience or training in reading aloud and just don’t provide as good an experience as a trained professional.
I found out later that she was married to an actor, which might have explained her view. In any event, since that time I’ve learned that with a memoir-style book like Happier at Home, most readers very much prefer to hear it read by the author.
This is especially true now that people know my voice from the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.
Because I’ve heard from so many people on this issue, I asked my publisher if I could re-record it myself, and so I did.
I always enjoy the recording process. It’s interesting to go back through the book I’ve written and read every word aloud. One time, I got to sit in the studio recently occupied by the legendary Jim Dale when he’d been recording (under heavy security) one of the Harry Potter books.
This recording session was particularly interesting, because it has been several years since I read Happier at Home.
I was particularly struck by the chapter for the month of March, "Family," when I wrote about how much I wanted to do some project in collaboration with my sister Elizabeth. I describe how we hoped to write a young-adult novel about the Eleusinian Mysteries. Well, we never did manage to write that novel (though I still think it’s a great idea), but we did manage to figure out a way to collaborate—in a big way. Our podcast Happier is a much bigger shared project than we’d ever envisioned as possible.
I’d forgotten that I literally mention the example of the Satellite Sisters—who also have a podcast, and one of whom, Liz Dolan, has been a guest on our podcast! Full circle. I’ve experienced such a crazy fulfillment of that March resolution to "Collaborate with my sister."
Another part that I especially loved revisiting was the section in the chapter for February, "Body," when I wrote about the resolution to "Embrace good smells." My passion for the sense of smell and fragrance started at this time, and has only grown in the passing years.
As painful as it is to realize, I’d sort of forgotten about how we always used to say "Eleanor has a heart full of love." Thank goodness I wrote that down, it’s in the book, so I know I’ll never forget that sweet memory.
I could go on and on.
It took me 15 hours in the studio to record Happier at Home.
I held a pillow in front of my stomach the entire time, to muffle "stomach noises." (I was reassured by the fact that they had the pillow handy—I must not be the only one with this issue!)
As happens every time I record an audiobook, I learned that I’ve been unknowingly mispronouncing a lot of words, such as many people’s names, plus Eleusis, Eleusinian, minutiae, pomander, and—biggest surprise—tumult.
I was interested to trace, again, how my motif runs through the book. In English class at school, you may have wondered, "Come on, do writers actually think about things like motifs?" Well, I do! Happier at Home has a blaring motif; if you’ve read the book, did you notice it? This motif appears on the first and last pages of the book, and is repeated many times. Hint: it’s the last word of the book.
I love all my books equally, but my sister Elizabeth says that Happier at Home is her favorite of all my books.
Want to know more about Happier at Home?
You can read a description of the book here.
You can watch the one-minute video "Ten Ways to be Happier at Home" here. Some are serious; some are a bit goofy. Can you guess which suggestion has proved most controversial?
Note: this new recording of Happier at Home is considered a different item, so if you already have the earlier version of the audiobook, you’d need to purchase this new version; the audiobook won’t automatically update.