Book Review: The Happiness Project

“The Happiness Project”

By Gretchen Rubin

I happened upon this book by accident. Brig and I were at Target browsing through the book section. Typically, there just isn’t much to be said about the book selection at a chain store like Wally or Target, but this time there just happened to be a gem. I picked it up and thought, “This sounds uplifting!” and from that moment I loved every page.

This book is about a woman who is a writer, a mother, and a wife (in a small nutshell!). She takes a look at her life and discovers that she is quite content with what she has going on. She has 2 beautiful little girls, a good husband, a good writing career. But, despite her contentedness, she decides to see if changing little pieces of herself would make her happier. She then embarks on this year-long experiment where she makes specific goals for each month. For example, one month she decides that she would work on her marriage by nagging less and not expecting to be noticed for every little thing she does (she said she got upset when her husband didn’t acknowledge her efforts).

Through her 12 months of goals, she becomes more introspective, more grateful for the people and things in her life, more patient and more proactive. She shares specific stories of her successes and failures, which I appreciated so much. As I read, I felt empowered! I felt like she was telling me that I could change for the better and become happier too- even though I am extremely content with my life and who I am. She had a very unique perspective, and one that I needed. I am not someone who deals with very difficult things personally- I am healthy, happily married, happily employed, happy! Content! And Gretchen points out that she is that way too- healthy, happily married, happy in her career, etc. But why should that stop us from wanting to become more? Doesn’t this world need more people who desire to rise above content into the realm of happy?  Happy people, Gretchen reminds us, are more likely to reach out to others in a spirit of compassion and charity than all others. I think I’d like to be more like that.

This book has inspired me to do something similar. Please take a look at the “Becoming a Better Woman” page on our blog to see what I’m up to with it! Like Gretchen, I want to become more, and yet simply learn how to “Be Tiffani”.

Book Review: “The Art of Racing in the Rain”

“The Art of Racing in the Rain”

by Garth Stein

This was the first book I have started and finished since graduating college. Is that a little bit ridiculous? I have always thought of myself as someone who never gets sick of reading, and yet, after forcing myself to consume volumes of information during my college years, I have found that I have become weary of reading. How awful! I have been trying to finish “Ender’s Game” for nearly a year now, I’ve tried to pick up several of my beloved Classics, but my brain rebels, “No! I will not stuff one more bit of written information in me! There’s no room left, and I’m tired! So go watch a movie or stare at Pinterest instead!” My brain can be a real jerk sometimes! (Especially when it knows I’m trying to quit Pinterest!). Anyway, this is happy moment to report on! I have started and finished a book. Finally!

“The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a story about a family through the eyes of their dog, Enzo. Enzo is an incredible faithful dog who loves his family entirely, especially the dad, Denny. Enzo is an armchair philosopher of sorts- he believes that he needs to glean as much human wisdom as possible because when he dies, his soul will come back to earth as a man. He describes his desires to become more like a man, and his battle with fighting his carnal instincts despite himself.

I think the thing I liked most about this story was that this dog, who desired to become more than he was, struggled to grow just as much as I feel I do, and in the same ways. One part of the book that has stayed with me is a scene where Enzo become incredibly sad because of an event in the family. He knows that he should handle the event and his sadness with dignity and poise, comforting his family instead of adding to their sorrow. But, despite what he knows he should do, he is overcome and runs away in a flurry of carnal desires. He runs through the forest, hunts a squirrel and kills it viciously, devouring it even as his conscience is finding him utterly disgusting. He sleeps in the forest that night, seething in defeat and dismay, now not only for the unfortunate even in the family, but for his reaction to them. He wakes up in the morning, with a clear head, and heads home, covered in blood and mud, to do what was right- comfort his family. What a metaphor for how we can feel when doing to opposite of what we know is right! Isn’t it true? When you act contrary to what you know is right, you tend do really make it count- “running through the mud” and doing things you wouldn’t have ever done normally? I do this on a spectrum of severities: from lashing out instead of communicating like an adult to deliberately rebelling against my character. Mind you, I, like Enzo, am continually striving to overcome myself, but that doesn’t mean that mistakes don’t happen! Enzo redeems himself and doesn’t let his emotions rule him again, he has overcome yet another weakness in himself.

I felt like this book had many nuggets of great life metaphors, like the above scene. Though, the story itself was often frustrating (though, that was deliberate by the author). Maybe it was because the main conflict was so emotionally draining. I wouldn’t say that this is the best book I’ve read, not even close; it was often slow, but it was nice to be able to find a book that was short and simple.

If you need a book that you don’t have to commit too much time or emotional effort to, I’d recommend this book to you. (Or if you have an insatiable love for dogs like me, this will be good for you too!).

And thus begins my journey into training my brain to like reading again! Wish me luck!