Gretchen Rubin: The Happiness Project: Or, Why I spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean my Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun (2009)

This is not going to be one of my better reviews as I am highly annoyed by this book and the live style it propagates. So instead of a review this is rather a rant. I do however still like Rubin’s blog as it is very colorful and many people tell little stories of their lives.

A word of caution at the beginning seems appropriate:  The Happiness Project is not about happiness, it is about having fun. And if you want to have fun the way Gretchen Rubin teaches it you will need money.

I felt a bit uneasy with her book early on. It is well written and entertaining to read but did not feel right. When I finally came to her view on Buddhism I realised what had bothered me subconsciously right away. There is a big difference between attachment and non-attachment. If you are influenced or attracted by Hinduism and Buddhism then this book will be a great disappointment  to you since it does equal  happiness to materialistic well-being. This is frankly infuriating. It takes a certain arrogance to show means how to improve your life through things and activities that will cost money. Gretchen Rubin’s way to happiness is not for free.

Just read the following quote taken from the chapter “Mindfulness” and you will see, what I mean regarding attachment/detachment:

I’d always been intrigued by Buddhism, so I was eager to learn more about both the religion and the life of the Buddha. But although I admired many of its teachings, I didn’t feel much deep connection to Buddhism, which at its heart, urges detachment as a way to alleviate suffering. Although there is a place for love and commitment, these bonds are considered fetters that bind us to lives of sorrow – which of course they do. Instead, I’m an adherent of the Western tradition of cultivating deep passions and profound attachments; I didn’t want to detach, I wanted to embrace; I didn’t want to loosen, I wanted to deepen. Also, the Western tradition emphasizes the expression and perfection of each unique, individual soul; not so in the Eastern tradition.”   (p. 235/236)

I think this about sums it up.

If however you want to improve your daily life, de-clutter your apartment, hear how to better your relationships with your husband, children, family and friends, then you might enjoy this book. It will show you how to spend and buy things, how to hoard your memories and so on and so fort.

I admit that if I had read the subtitle more carefully I wold have known what to expect. Still, leaving aside the detachment/attachment dichotomy, I believe there is no happiness without creativity and this is an aspect that is not covered at all. Apart from a little paragraph on scrapbooking there is no exploring creativity.