Time for an embarrassing literary confession: I am a sensible, mature, mostly well-adjusted grown up… who loves a good self-help book. Okay, fine: I like a bad self-help book once in a while, too. But good self-help books – smart, practical, and positive – are my secret love.
I read Gretchen Rubin’s bestselling enticingly titled The Happiness Project shortly after it was published in 2009. The conceit of this “stunt memoir?” Rubin spent a year focusing entirely on her own happiness; she researched tirelessly, thought deeply, and applied what she learned to her everyday life as an NYC parent and writer. To maximize her happiness, Rubin enlisted the help of many spreadsheets, checklists, and actionable items. Be still, my Type-A heart.
While Rubin’s perky, privileged perspective isn’t attractive to every reader, I was totally entranced. Years later, Rubin and her screenwriter sister Elizabeth began a weekly podcast - Happier with Gretchen Rubin. I was an instant fan. Elizabeth and Gretchen banter over “happiness hacks,” share “try this at home” tips, and exchange happiness stars and demerits: like a good self-help book, it’s a quick, breezy, listen that always gives me a slightly new perspective on my own reasonably-happy life.
If you like listening to Happier with Gretchen Rubin, you might like reading inspiring nonfiction books about living well, or maybe fiction stories where characters are wondering what it means to live a meaningful, satisfying life. Here are some suggestions for a thoughtful, happy read.