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  • feedwordpress 15:33:06 on 2018/11/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Books, November,   

    What I Read This Month: November 2018. 

    For more than two years now, every Monday morning, I've posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads

    I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I now put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

    This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read in October 2018, the full list is here.

    Looking back at the month, I see I did a lot of reading in the children's/YA literature world and very little "work" reading.

    November 2018 Reading

    Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! by M.E. Kerr -- this is a terrific YA book that I hadn't read since I was in my teens. It's set in Brooklyn, so I could really envision where it takes place. From the title, you might think it's a book about drugs, but it's not.

    Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls -- short, very thought-compelling. And although it's not like the movie The Shape of Water, it has a very similar plot. Weirdly similar. There's a lot to think about with this novel.

    Augustus by John Williams -- I have to confess, everyone loves his novel Stoner but I didn't finish it. But I love Williams's other novels. It's written as fragments of different kinds of documents, an approach I found extremely interesting.

    The Master Puppeteer by Katherine Paterson -- Paterson is one of the greatest masters of children's literature. How had I missed this novel? Short, wonderful, set in old Japan, where the protagonist is an apprentice at a famous puppet theater.

    Outline by Rachel Cusk -- very interesting approach to the novel. I'm reading her trilogy out of order but that doesn't seem to matter.

    Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi -- Boy I've been hearing about this book for months, so was glad finally to get the chance to read it myself. Fantasy, super-natural powers, fascinating world, gods returning, huge stakes. Just my kind of thing.

    Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis -- thought-provoking, very accessible, funny, lots of very honest reflections from her own life. Great for readers who struggle to make time for their dreams (or even to admit their dreams).

    Remembering Denny by Calvin Trillin -- for reasons not clear to me, I felt the urge to re-read this book. Really good. It's interesting to see Trillin looking back at the '50s from his time in the '90s while we're in the '10s.

    How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish -- I love everything these authors write.

    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson -- somehow I'd missed this major work of YA literature. Very compelling.

    Juliet's School of Possibilities by Laura Vanderkam -- a fable about how to stay focused on what matters most in life. I love fables, epigrams, aphorisms, koans, parables, teaching stories, so I was particularly interested in Vanderkam's decision to express an idea through a story.

    Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson -- short, haunting. A wonderful evocation of a time in history, a place, and a stage of life. Now that I've finished it, I find myself recalling the characters and scenes at odd moments.

    The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert -- wonderful. If you've read Diana Wynne Jones's brilliant Fire and Hemlock, you're especially ready for this book.

    My Struggle: Book Six by Karl Ove Knausgaard -- you're either bored by Knausgaard or riveted by Knausgaard. I love these books and am puzzled and mesmerized by why that is. There are so many reasons it shouldn't work, and yet it works supremely well (I find).

    Daemon Voices by Philip Pullman -- I love, love, love the trilogy of His Dark Materials, so I couldn't wait to read Pullman's collection of essays on story. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis's essay collection On Stories, and I have no higher praise than that. Bonus: now I'm reading many books that Pullman discusses.

    Looking back on the list, I realize I should set myself the task of reflecting on the similarities and differences in the work of Cusk and Knausgaard, and what that suggests about the state of literature today. Hmmmm. Maybe I'll wait to see if someone writes a great article I can read on that subject.

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:21 on 2018/11/29 Permalink
    Tags: author interview, , Books, Erica Meloe, , , physical therapy, Why Do I Hurt?   

    “The Relationship of Our Body to Our Mind Is More than Just a Tagline. It’s a Real Thing.” 

    Interview: Erica Meloe

    Fortunately for me, I've know Erica Meloe for years. From time to time, for no apparent reason, I start to have a lot of pain in my neck—or more rarely, shoulder. Usually this pain goes away on its own, but there have been occasions when the pain was bad and didn't seem to be on the mend.

    In those cases, I turn to the brilliant, super-effective Erica Meloe. She's a physical therapist who has made such a difference for me—and for my husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law, among others.

    She really understands the body in an extraordinary way.

    She just wrote a terrific book, Why Do I Hurt? Discover the Surprising Connections that Cause Physical Pain--and What to Do About Them.

    I'm particularly interested in this book because I've developed a minor preoccupation with the subject of pain (a frightening subject, but interesting).

    I couldn’t wait to talk to Erica about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Erica: I have been doing a lot of Spinning at Soul Cycle these days and I have never felt more exhilarated! I believe that movement in whatever form, is good for your body, mind and soul. I get an enormous amount of inspiration from exercise. Whether it is the community, the movement or just the feeling of sweating through a good workout, it stirs up my creative juices and I feel more alive. Another habit that I do almost every night is read. I am a huge Jane Austen fan, and try to read something from the Regency period fairly often. It really grounds me.

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Erica: This is a great question! The first thought that comes to mind is, “That it doesn’t just happen to you, you have to create your own happiness." I think that our definition of happiness changes, as we grow older. And one of the biggest lessons for me is that what I think will make me happy, actually doesn’t make me happy.

    We think if "we get or achieve" certain things or goals, that is the ultimate in happiness. And what I have found, is that it is the little things that make me happy and fill me with gratitude. For example, going to see “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” with my niece, learning something new, or going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the “Versailles” exhibit, this is what makes me happy.

    Professionally, helping a patient to problem solve their persistent pain and get them moving better is so rewarding. And even more recently, seeing my book Why Do I Hurt? finally published!

    Making beautiful memories is what happiness is all about for me.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or others – most?

    Erica: What continues to intrigue and motivate me to search for more evidence is that the relationship of our body to our mind is more than just a tagline, it is a real thing. The body has amazing healing powers if we only tap into our own internal resources.

    As a physical therapist, I see so many people affected by persistent pain as is evidenced by the rising rates of consumer opioid abuse. When someone has persistent pain, more often than not, the source of that pain lies somewhere other than their symptomatic body part. Our bodies are such great compensators, that long after an injury or painful part has healed, there are some people who still experience pain.

    What surprises many of my patients is the fact that we also need to treat at least one or two other regions of the body in order for them to achieve any long lasting change. That is the epitome of treating the source versus just treating the symptom.

    What I also find extremely fascinating is that when you give someone a diagnosis, in my field for example, like a “herniated disc” or “your hip or knee is bone-on-bone,” this can be seen as a placebo or alternatively as a nocebo, which can be detrimental. The delivery of a diagnosis to a patient is the most important piece in health care delivery.

    I will stick to physical therapy, as it is my scope of practice, but think about this: “You have bone-on-bone in your hip which is seen on your most recent x-ray and you need a hip replacement." Versus, "You have some degenerative changes in your hip which are very common as you grow older. We call them the 'kisses of time.' You can rehab this or at some point in the future, you may choose to have a very common surgical procedure called a hip replacement. Your CHOICE."

    I believe the first one is a nocebo and the second one is a placebo. Being given a choice versus being told what to do has an enormous impact on how we process pain and ultimately in how we manage it. A health care professional’s words matter.

    Gretchen: What advice do you find yourself giving over and over? If you could wave a magic wand so that just about everyone followed certain habits or practices, what would you choose?

    Erica: I constantly find myself telling people that our body makes unconscious choices in how we move. We resort to old movement strategies or habits that our body sees as “normal.” Our bodies take the path of least resistance until we run out of options. We run a certain way (and we have been running that way for years) until we change something, like our environment, our shoes, our running pattern, and then breakdown occurs. It can manifest as fatigue, pain or lack of endurance as examples.

    Our old habit or strategy that has reached it’s “buckle point” as I like to call it, is now something that needs to be re-patterned or re-trained. I always tell my patients that we need to develop a new habit or a new normal. And that changes depending on the amount of load, stress or activity that we put on our bodies.

    Being open minded to developing new movement patterns, practices or habits is what makes us unique. If I could wave a magic wand (and I would use Hermione’s wand!) it would be to develop many habits or practices. The body responds really well to variance in the sense that if we vary our movements, positions and activities and make that a habit, our bodies would thank us!

    Gretchen: Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    Erica: I thought I would be an Upholder when I took the quiz but my results showed that I am an Obliger! I am working at meeting my inner expectations and learning how to say “no,” more often! I do believe that when you work with patients and are in a healing profession, there is a tendency towards meeting others’ needs ahead of your own.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

    Erica: “Faith and Courage” and more recently, “Bring the Joy.”

    Gretchen: Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    Erica: As an Obliger, I tend to over-commit and take on too many obligations. Often times, I find myself saying no to certain things because of a deadline or expectation on my part that I have to get something done.

    Gretchen: In your field, is there a common misperception or incorrect assumption that you’d like to correct?

    Erica: Yes, thank you! The biggest misconception is that physical therapy is a uniform profession. That is, the same results will be achieved with any physical therapist. This is simply not true.

    Practices, techniques, and philosophies differ. I have heard many stories where patients have not gotten the results they wanted from a medical provider, but have achieved noticeable benefits when they see a good PT who looks at the body differently from a holistic and integrated perspective.

    So I would encourage all patients to try a new physical therapist if they have not gotten the results they wanted. Their experience may be vastly different with someone else.

    why do I hurt? cover

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 20:33:36 on 2018/11/13 Permalink
    Tags: , book cover, Books, , cover reveal, , outer order inner calm   

    Do you judge a book by Its cover? I do. Check out my new cover! 

    I’m thrilled to reveal the cover of my next book: Outer Order, Inner Calm. Ta-da!

    I have to say, I love this cover.

    But it wasn’t an easy process.

    Danielle Deschenes is the super-talented art director who created it (she also created the cover of The Four Tendencies), and she must have done fifty or sixty covers before hitting on this one.

    It’s funny—we looked at cover after cover after cover, and some were good but not great.

    For instance, one proposed cover was gorgeous, but just too much like the cover of Marie Kondo’s blockbuster bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

    And another cover was calm, but seemed…too calm.

    And it was all yellow. I liked the color, but I worried that so much yellow was harsh.

    In describing my own ideas for the cover, I’d said that I hoped it could:

    • incorporate the blue and yellow colors used in many of my other jackets and on my site
    • have a calm but energetic vibe, and not look like a book about meditation
    • make use of circles (I think that circles really draw the eye to a book jacket, see The Four Tendencies)
    • be eye-catching both on a bookstore shelf and in an online thumbnail

    We’d reviewed image after image, and time was passing, and at the very last moment, when we had to choose an image for the galley by the next day—even if had to be a temporary, placeholder image—she sent around a version very close to the final jacket. And everyone agreed: This is it.

    Take a look at what a masterful job Danielle Deschenes did at incorporating all of the suggested elements!

    Outer Order Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

    And more than that, she suggested nature.

    This, to me, was the brilliant stroke. I love this suggestion of the sky, moon, and sunrise. This fits the book perfectly, too. The book’s epigraph is from Alexander Pope: “Order is Heaven’s first law,” and the theme of nature runs throughout.

    For instance, I quote one of my favorite passages from Jules Renard:

    "Oh! Old rubbish! Old letters, old clothes, old objects that one does not want to throw away. How well nature has understood that, every year, she must change her leaves, her flowers, her fruit and her vegetables, and make manure out of the mementos of her year!" – The Journal of Jules Renard

    And, given my current obsession with color, I love the way she uses color to suggest time unfolding and the serene energy of the natural world.

    I’m thrilled with it.

    Please note: If you don’t like the jacket, don’t tell me! As they say, this ship has sailed.

    At the same time that we were racing to finalize the jacket, I was working with editors and copy-editors to finish the text of the book.

    If you flip through the book, you’ll see that it’s written mostly in short, separate bursts of ideas and suggestions. At the beginning of each of the seven sections, I include a short essay, but for the most part, it’s a collection of quick, concrete tips. It’s meant to be something you read fast to get yourself psyched up to clear clutter.

    I was inspired to try this approach by a book that I’ve always admired: Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. I love the way Pollan presents his ideas in pithy, witty statements, and how he’s able to convey big ideas in such an accessible, fun, compulsively readable way. I’d always wanted to write a book in that style, and finally, I just couldn’t resist.

    As always happens, after I started writing about my own ideas, the form evolved to suit my voice and my subject. But if you look at Food Rules, you’ll definitely see the family resemblance.

    Also like Food Rules, the book Outer Order, Inner Calm includes illustrations, which I think really enliven it. In my previous book Happier at Home, I included photos of objects around my apartment, and that was a lot of fun. I’ve often thought I’d like to include more visual elements to my books.

    But I’ve never worked with an illustrator before, and it was interesting to see what Jon McNaught chose to illustrate, and how. I didn’t know I had strong views about illustrations, but it turns out…I do! I loved most of his illustrations, but there were a few things that I asked to change.

    Outer Order, Inner Calm started out as a “hooky book”—a book that I worked on when I wanted a break from working on The Four Tendencies. I’d sneak off (in my own mind) and work on the inexhaustibly absorbing subject of outer order. I had so much fun writing this book, and it’s exciting that it’s about to hit the shelves in March.

    If you’re inclined to buy the book, it really helps me if you pre-order. I have a pre-order bonus that’s not quite ready to launch, so if you do pre-order, gold star to you, and just hang onto your receipt or confirmation number, and stay tuned for pre-order bonus details. Pre-orders give a big boost to a book among booksellers, the media, and other readers.

    Want to support me and your local bookstore at the same time--and get a freebie for yourself, too? Pre-order Outer Order, Inner Calm at your local bookstore, and snap a photo of your physical receipt and save it to get the pre-order bonus when it's ready.

    Do you judge books by their covers? As a devoted reader, I think I should be able to say “no,” but I have to admit that the answer is “yes.” Though usually, it’s a matter of being intrigued by a great cover rather than being turned off by a bad cover.

    For a reveal of the illustrations and book tour details for March 2019, stay tuned!

     
  • gretchenrubin 12:00:28 on 2018/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , Books, , , , ,   

    Want to Give the Gift of a Book This Holiday Season? A Gift Guide for All Kinds of Readers. 

    It's holiday time! And that means it's time to choose gifts for the people in our lives. Which can be fun, but can also be frustrating and difficult.

    One of the best gifts to give is a book. How I love books. Plus they're easy to wrap, easy to transport, and easy to re-gift if necessary.

    But that leads to the question...what book?

    Here are some suggestions for different categories of gift-recipients, with suggestions of books that I love.

    If I'd made this list last week, or if I did it next week, I'm sure I'd come up with an entirely different list. I love so many books, it's hard to pick out a few. But this is a start.

    For a new parent: Operating Instructions, Anne Lamott

    For the parent of small children: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

    For a person interested in spirituality: Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather

    For a person who loves celebrity memoirs: Born Standing Up, Steve Martin

    For someone who loves to cook: Home Cooking, Laurie Colwin

    For a fisherman: A River Runs Through It, Norman McLean

    For a history lover: Their Finest Hour, Winston Churchill

    For someone who loves a great study of character: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark

    For a nature-lover: Into the Wild, John Krakauer

    For a person who's interested in sports and leadership: The Captain Class, Sam Walker

    For someone who loves fantasy: American Gods, Neil Gaiman

    For someone who loves to write: A Writer's Diary, Virginia Woolf

    For someone who loves science fiction: Lord of Light, Robert Zelazny

    Book that changed my life: Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes (Want to read my interview with Gary Taubes? Request it here.)

    Book that was made into a movie, and both are brilliant: Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk

    Book that I played hooky from work to stay home to read: The Stand, Stephen King (I recommend the standard, not the unabridged, version)

    Book that people keep telling me to read: Bad Blood, John Carreyrou

    For someone who's starting to date or looking for a job: First Impressions, Ann Demarais and Valerie White

    For someone with a short attention span or who loves very short stories: Revenge of the Lawn, Richard Brautigan

    For someone who loves essays: Selected EssaysGeorge Orwell

    For a person interested in human nature: The Varieties of Religious Experience, William James

    For a person interested in film: In the Blink of an Eye, Walter Murch

    For a person interested in friendship: Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett

    For a person interested in journalism: The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm

    For a person who loves a twist at the end: The End of the Affair, Graham Greene

     

    If you're buying a book for a child or young-adult, check out my list of 81 Favorite Works of Children's and Young-Adult Literature. So many good books!

    Of course, I can't resist recommending my own books.

    If you're giving one of my books as a gift, and want to put in a free, personalized bookplate to make it more special, sign up here to request one. Feel free to request as many as you want (within reason). Alas, because of mailing costs, I can offer this to people in the U.S. and Canada only. Sorry about that!

    If you'd like to see what I've read, follow me on Goodreads. Or look on Facebook, where every Sunday night, on #GretchenRubinReads, I post a photo of the books I've read that week.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, I've changed my reading habits so that now, if I don't like a book, I stop reading it. So if you see a book listed in Goodreads or on Facebook, you know that I liked a book well enough to finish it.

    I love to choose, give, and receive books!

     
  • feedwordpress 10:00:17 on 2018/11/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Books, October,   

    What I Read This Month: October 2018 

    For more than two years now, every Monday morning, I've posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads

    I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve read.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I now put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

    This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read in September 2018, the full list is here.

    October 2018 Reading

    The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher -- One of my very favorite works of children's literature is the masterpiece Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. It's on my list of my 81 Favorite Works of Children's and Young-Adult Literature. How I love that book! Through reading about Pearl Buck, I learned that Dorothy Canfield Fisher wrote for adults, so off I trotted to the library. I very much enjoyed this book—a real period piece.

    Fables for Parents by Dorothy Canfield Fisher -- These are short stories. I enjoyed them all, and two are unforgettable: "The Forgotten Mother" and "A Family Alliance."

    Harvest of Stories by Dorothy Canfield Fisher -- More short stories.

    Lives Other Than My Own by Emmanuel Carrère -- A bookish friend recommended this to me, and I headed to the library to get it. I found it so interesting that I then read...

    My Life as a Russian Novel by Emmanuel Carrère -- Also very interesting. So then...

    The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception by Emmanuel Carrère -- Interesting, very dark, like his other books, didn't unfold as I expected.

    The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James -- My daughter Eleanor and I both raced through this book. Great suspense, more than one great twist.

    Fighting Angel by Pearl S. Buck -- My Pearl Buck obsession has run its course, I believe. This is the last book I feel compelled to read. Wait, never mind—I still want to re-read The Good Earth. This book is a memoir/biography about Buck's missionary father. If you're curious, I did an episode of "A Little Happier" where I discuss an anecdote that Buck tells about him elsewhere: "A Puzzling Story from the Life of Pearl S. Buck."

    The Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright -- So, so, so, so, SO good. On the list of 81, of course.

    Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright -- I've read it fifty times, if not more.

    Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright -- If you know me, you're thinking, "Hmmm, Gretchen is re-reading for the millionth time her favorite works of children's literature, and she's focusing on Elizabeth Enright. Does that mean she's feeling stressed out about something?" Answer: yes. That's my tell. But I'm feeling much calmer now.

    Lethal White by Robert Galbraith -- I will read anything that J. K. Rowling writes, under any pseudonym she chooses. In hardback!

    Nonrequired Reading by Wislawa Szymborska -- Little essays. Thought-provoking.

    Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler -- I read this years ago, and it was nothing like I remembered, which surprised me. A good, absorbing read.

    The World I Live In by Helen Keller -- Fascinating. What a life, what a mind.

    Nothing Good Can Come from This by Kristi Coulter -- I heard about this book on the terrific podcast But That's Another Story. A great book about quitting drinking, and much more. Bizarre coincidence: in the interview, Kristi Coulter mentioned that she loves Elizabeth Enright (see above)! And also Laurie Colwin, whom I also love.

    Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell by Constance Classen, David Howes, and Anthony Synnott -- Research for my next book. Can't learn enough about smell.

    Butcher's Crossing by John Williams -- I'm astonished I've never read this book before, or even heard of it. A really great book. Symbols and metaphors shooting off in all directions. (Though, if you've read it, do you agree with me that the ending was a bit off?)

    Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry -- Love, love, love this novel. Beautiful, haunting.

    Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry -- Love this one too, but if you're thinking, "Of the two, which Berry novel did she like better?" I'd say Jayber Crow.

    The Outcasts: Brotherband Chronicles, Book 1 by John Flanagan -- I love this world, I keep reading more and more of these novels. This was a gift from a friend, such a treat.

    So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane -- Fun! A girl finds a magical book in the library, say no more.

    The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo -- In galley. Great insights into the challenges of being a manager. Zhuo is a manager at Facebook.

    What No One Ever Tells You by Dr. Alexandra Sacks and Dr. Catherine Birndorf -- In galley. Great insights into the challenges of being a new mother.

    If You're In My Office, It's Already Too Late by James J. Sexton -- Do's and don'ts from a divorce lawyer. I read about this book in the newspaper, and I just had to get a copy. In a nutshell: be nice to your sweetheart.

    Quantum Change by William R. Miller and Janet C'de Baca -- I've read this book before. It is absolutely fascinating. It's like nothing I've ever read before. I suppose it reminds me of The Varieties of Religious Experience.

    What are you reading this month?

     
  • feedwordpress 07:00:58 on 2018/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: , Books, Dalai Lama, , , hepatitis c, , , , quitting sugar, ,   

    A Question I’m Often Asked: What’s Changed in My Life Since “The Happiness Project” Was Published? 

    Zoikes, it’s hard to believe that almost a full decade has passed since The Happiness Project first hit the shelves. In many ways, my life is much the same—and of course, many things have changed as well. The Tenth Anniversary edition is on shelves today. Order a copy here.

    By far the most important thing that happened was that my husband Jamie’s hepatitis C was cured—a medical miracle.

    As I write about in The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Jamie got hepatitis C from a blood transfusion during a heart operation when he was eight years old. You really don’t want to have hepatitis C; eventually, it destroys your liver. Jamie tried many treatments over the years, but nothing worked.

    When a new treatment was approved, Jamie went on it right away, and as of January 9, 2015 (a date we celebrate every year), Jamie was cured. You can read more about it in my post "Today is one of the happiest days of my life. Here’s why."

    Brief service announcement: If you support organ donation, sign the registry at organdonor.gov, tell your family that you’d want to donate your organs, or post a message with #organdonor.

    Other big news: My older daughter Eliza is now off at college! That was a big family milestone. Here's the advice I gave her when she left.

    After much discussion and pleading, my family got a dog, a delightful black cockapoo named Barnaby. If you want to hear me talk about this decision, Elizabeth and I discuss it in episodes 24 and 27 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.

    Speaking of the Happier podcast, launching the podcast has been one of my favorite undertakings from the last ten years. My co-host is my sister Elizabeth Craft, the TV writer and producer who lives in Los Angeles, and together we talk about happiness, habits, and human nature. We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much! We’ve had so many terrific sisterly adventures together because of the show.

    I quit sugar, and really, almost all carbs. (If you want to know more about this change, I write about it in my book Better Than Before.)

    Since The Happiness Project came out, I’ve written four additional books: Happier at Home, Better Than Before, The Four Tendencies, and Outer Order, Inner Calm. (Plus I’ve written My Color Pilgrimage, but it’s still in the manuscript stage.)

    In The Happiness Project, I write about starting a children’s literature reading group. Well, that group got so big that I started a second group, and now even a third group. Yes, I’m in three kid-lit reading groups, and these groups are a giant engine of happiness for me.

    A big personal highlight was getting interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. She recorded the interview at her home in Montecito, so I got to visit "The Promised Land," and I also got to bring my sister Elizabeth with me, on a terrific sisterly adventure. Oprah is so...Oprah. In person, she’s exactly the way I’d imagined her to be. (You can listen to the interview here.)

    Another highlight was meeting the Dalai Lama. In fact, at the end of our meeting, we needed to walk to the other end of the conference center in the rain, so he grabbed my arm to help him stay steady—yes, I walked arm in arm with the Dalai Lama.

    I had dinner with Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman—he’s notable for his work on the psychology of judgment, decision-making, and behavioral economics, subjects that fascinate me. He’s the author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, among countless other accomplishments, and a person I was thrilled to meet.

    One very fun thing that happened—though I had nothing to do with it—was that "The Happiness Project" was an answer on the gameshow Jeopardy!

    Less flashy, but very gratifying, was that my personality framework of "Four Tendencies" was written up in a scientific journal.

    I’ve been on the cover of a few magazines. That’s surreal.

    I’ve also created several interesting projects. One-sentence journals, habit journals, mugs, Page-a-Day calendars, 21 Day Projects—I even designed a coloring book.

    My blog (which I now call my "site," because the very word "blog" seems old-fashioned) has been going strong for more than a decade. To celebrate the tenth anniversary, I created an e-book, The Best of the Happiness Project Blog—that was a lot of fun to put together.

    I started "Ask Gretchen Rubin Live," a weekly show on Facebook. It’s great to get a chance to talk about happiness, habits, and human nature with people in real time.

    I launched the free "Better" app to help people make their lives happier, healthier, more productive and more creative—just search "Better Gretchen Rubin" in the app store. It’s a place where you can join discussions, ask questions, weigh in, and form accountability groups.

    I also created my first video course to help more people harness the power of the Four Tendencies.

    Of everything I’ve written in the last ten years, I think my one-minute video "The Years Are Short" resonates most with people. It was a truth that I felt deeply at the time that I wrote The Happiness Project, and I feel it more deeply with every passing year. The days are long, but the years are short.

     
  • feedwordpress 15:20:07 on 2018/09/28 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Books, ,   

    What I Read This Month: September 2018 

    For more than two years now, every Monday morning, I've posted a photo on my Facebook Page of the books I finished during the week, with the tag #GretchenRubinReads

    I get a big kick out of this weekly habit—it’s a way to shine a spotlight on all the terrific books that I’ve completed.

    As I write about in my book Better Than Before, for most of my life, my habit was to finish any book that I started. Finally, I realized that this approach meant that I spent time reading books that bored me, and I had less time for books that I truly enjoy. These days, I now put down a book if I don’t feel like finishing it, so I have more time to do my favorite kinds of reading.

    This habit means that if you see a book included in the #GretchenRubinReads photo, you know that I liked it well enough to read to the last page.

    If you’d like more ideas for habits to help you get more reading done, read this post or download my "Reading Better Than Before" worksheet.

    You can also follow me on Goodreads where I've recently started tracking books I’ve read.

    If you want to see what I read in August 2018, the full list is here.

    September 2018 Reading

    Turn: The Journal of an Artist by Anne Truitt - artist Anne Truitt wrote three brilliant memoirs; this is the third. I highly recommend all three.

    A Little Love Song by Michelle Magorian - by the author of Goodnight, Mr. Tom, a book I discovered recently. I really enjoyed this novel.

    Red, White, Blue by Lea Carpenter - Lea is a friend, so I couldn't wait to read her novel—and it's excellent.

    In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden - this is my second time reading this book, which I love. I love books about a spiritual consciousness.

    A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler - a great story, told beautifully, very thought-provoking. I sense an Anne Tyler phase coming on.

    True Enough by Stephen McCauley - I just discovered McCauley's work. I really enjoyed this novel.

    Property by Lionel Shriver - I love the work of Lionel Shriver. LOVE. I don't usually read short stores, but loved this book, especially the first and last stories.

    The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald - an unusual, fascinating way to approach a novel. I wish I could take a class in which we discussed it.

    Inheritance by Dani Shapiro - couldn't put this memoir down, read it in one or two days. And so timely! The widespread availability of DNA information has personally affected so many people I know.

    Stories of my Life by Katherine Paterson - how I love the work of Katherine Paterson. Odd fact: she and Pearl S. Buck were both the children of missionaries in China.

    Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright - I've read this book about fifty times. I never tire of it. So good.

    Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson - this novel has been on my library list for years, really enjoyed it.

    Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography by Peter Conn - Pearl Buck phase continues. What a life!

    Return to Gone-Away by Elizabeth Enright - see above. So, so, so, so, so good.

    Weetzie Bat by Francesca Block - this short YA novel isn't quite like anything I've ever read before. Very interesting.

    The Child Who Never Grew by Pearl S. Buck - more Pearl Buck. This short book, originally published in Ladies' Home Journal if I remember correctly, was ground-breaking. At the time, few parents publicly discussed their children with special needs. Buck was a tireless advocate for this community.

    Who is Rich? by Matthew Klam - I really enjoyed this novel, especially because it was a brilliant portrait of the Four Tendencies. The main character is an Obliger who goes into classic, full Obliger-rebellion. (I wrote more about Rich's Obliger-rebellion in this post.)

    The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics by Bradley Tusk - Bradley is a friend, and it's always especially interesting to read a memoir by someone I know. This is a great one. You can listen to his interview on the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast here.

    The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman - my husband had checked this novel out of the library and highly recommended it, so it was delivered into my hands. Very enjoyable. I've been meaning to read Rachman for a while.

    What are you reading this month?

     
  • feedwordpress 11:00:28 on 2018/09/25 Permalink
    Tags: , Books, , , Matt Klam, , , , Who is Rich?   

    A Novel Depicts an Obliger in Deep Obliger-Rebellion (He Has an Affair and Spends All His Money) 

    On a recent trip to Texas, I finished Matt Klam’s novel Who Is Rich? This novel came out in 2017 and got a lot of buzz.

    It’s about the once-famous cartoonist Rich who has stalled out in his career. Every summer, he teaches a week-long class at an arts conference in a beachside town. He’s married with two children, and has also been carrying on an affair for a year with Amy, another teacher at the conference. The novel focuses on what happens during the week of the arts conference when Rich and Amy are there together again.

    I enjoyed the book very much, and I was especially interested to see the Four Tendencies in action. I’m always on the hunt for the Tendencies! This story involves two Obligers: Rich and Amy. Rich’s wife Robin may also be an Obliger, but we don’t see enough of her to judge.

    Rich is definitely an Obliger. He’s having Obliger thoughts and facing Obliger challenges; he shows Obliger strengths and weaknesses. He’s spinning out in major Obliger-rebellion.

    I won’t give away everything that happens, but his Tendency shows most clearly in a few places.

    For instance, he reflects, "People make you do things you don’t want to do." Now of course, all Tendencies have to do things they don’t want to do; this is true for everyone. But it has particular bite for Obligers.

    Rich’s wife Robin is always telling him they need more money; he doesn’t earn enough; they must scrimp and cut back. In an act of deep Obliger-rebellion, Rich buys Robin a $3,000 bracelet, a dollar amount that he knows will wipe out the checking account of their cash-strapped family. He thinks: "From this distance, Robin couldn’t do anything to stop me. I’d worked hard to earn these precious funds to buy a gift she didn’t want or need, to signify my love."

    Then, in further Obliger-rebellion, Rich doesn’t give the bracelet to his wife, but instead gives it to his lover Amy—who, by the way, is a multi-multi-millionaire. (For instance, to play in a softball game, she wears a pair of diamond earrings worth more than $220,000).

    When Obligers enter a state of Obliger-rebellion, they often feel that they’re acting out of character. They’re puzzled by their own actions. As he buys the bracelet, Rich thinks, "I attempted to interpret my irrational action. Had I ever done this kind of thing before? No. A life in the arts requires vigilance and restraint. Was my behavior out of character? Yes, technically, and also terrifyingly, although it was possible that this was merely the culmination of a period of interior deadness and anger, that something had been building for months, or years, that the recent and ongoing stresses had pushed me over the edge."

    Obliger-rebellion is mysterious and important. It blows up a situation—which can be beneficial, absolutely, but can also be destructive.

    Many people have emailed me with examples of the Four Tendencies they’ve spotted in books, TV, and movies. Keep them coming!

     
  • Crystal Ellefsen 10:00:22 on 2018/09/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , book recommendations, Books   

    15 Books That Not Everyone Will Love 

    Here is a round-up of some of my favorite eccentric picks.

    Now, looking at this list, you might ask, "Well, just how eccentric is a book like American Gods? It's a gigantically popular, best-selling book." By "eccentric," I mean that these books aren't for everyone. They suit my idiosyncratic tastes. Not everyone likes books that are fantasy-set-in-the-real-world. But I love it!

    People often ask me to describe the books I recommend. I don't like to do that, because weirdly I often find that when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. The best books often sound terrible. So I like to say, "Take it from me, this is a great book."

     

    1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    2. Revenge of the Lawn by Richard Brautigan

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    3. Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    4. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    5. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    6. J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: the Real Story Behind Peter Pan by Andrew Birkin

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    7. Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    8. Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

    Buy from IndieBound; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    9. The Golden Bough: a Study in Magic and Religion by James Frazer

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    10. Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    11. The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    12. Flaubert’s Parrot by Julian Barnes

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    13. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    14. Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers by Janet Malcolm

    Buy from WORD; Barnes & Noble; Amazon

    15. The Official Preppy Handbook edited by Lisa Birnbach

    Buy from Barnes & Noble; Amazon

     
  • feedwordpress 12:00:07 on 2018/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: Books, , , Ingrid Fetell Lee, ,   

    “I Have a Phrase That I Come Back to Again and Again: ‘Remember What You Love.’” 

    Interview: Ingrid Fetell Lee

    Right now, I can't learn enough about color and scent -- I'm looking for anything I can read, see, touch, learn, or listen to on these fascinating subjects. Plus I'm always thinking about happiness and human nature.

    So when I got an advance copy of Ingrid Fetell Lee's new book, I couldn't wait to read it. Just the title was enough to spark my enthusiasm: Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness.

    Ingrid  is a Brooklyn-based designer and writer whose work focuses on the way that design affects our health and happiness.

    She gave a terrific TED talk called "Where joy hides and how to find it" and writes an excellent blog called The Aesthetics of Joy.

    She has more than twelve years of experience in design and branding, most recently as Design Director of IDEO's New York office, having led design work for Target, Condé Nast, Eileen Fisher, American Express, Kate Spade, Diageo, Pepsico, and the U.S. government, among others.

    About herself, she notes, "loves pancakes, polka dots, and rainbow sprinkles, and has an extensive repertoire of happy dances for any occasion."

    I couldn't wait to talk to Ingrid about happiness, habits, and productivity.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Ingrid: Happy dances! My husband and I often do a happy dance on Friday evenings to mark the start of the weekend. We also do them when one of us has good news. It sounds silly, but there’s science to suggest it works. Research shows that celebrating good news with someone else can deepen relationships by increasing our confidence that they will be there for us in hard times, not just in good ones. And dancing with other people can bring about a state that scientists call synchrony, which elicits feelings of unity, generosity, and a desire to be helpful. Not to mention that happy dances are silly and fun!

    Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    Ingrid: That true happiness is really a sum of many smaller moments of joy. When I was younger, I associated happiness with large milestones or goals in life: getting into the right school, finding a good job, getting married, having children. Reaching some of these milestones has brought me happiness, and some I haven't reached yet — but now I understand that you can have all the “right” things happen in life and be unhappy, and you can have big disappointments and still be extremely happy.

    My research on joy has shown me that the small daily joys matter a lot more than we think. A picnic in the park with a friend, a deep belly laugh, or taking time to stop and smell the proverbial roses: these simple moments of delight have powerful effects that linger long after the moment has passed. Small sparks of joy can mitigate the physical effects of stress, open our minds, and connect us to others. They can even make us more resilient, by sparking positive feedback loops that promote long-term wellbeing. Though the moments themselves seem small, they have ripple effects that do end up influencing our happiness on a broader scale.

    The reason this is important is that while the big elements of happiness are often out of our control (we don’t always get the dream job, and we don’t know when we’ll meet “the one”), joy is always accessible to us. Turning our attention to the joys of the moment absorbs us in the present, focusing us on the parts of our lives that are good, not the ones we’d like to change. We notice more moments of joy — in fact, research shows that people in a state of joy are actually more attuned to positive stimuli on the periphery of their visual field — and begin to include others in our joy. When we focus on joy, happiness finds us.

    Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or your readers -- most?

    Ingrid: I've found that people are often surprised to learn just how deeply our physical environment affects our emotions and wellbeing. The field of psychology has historically focused almost exclusively on the internal factors that shape our emotional experience, in the form of thoughts, behavioral patterns, and neural chemistry. Almost no attention has been paid to environmental factors. So, if we are feeling sad or anxious, we’re conditioned to believe this is due to either our genetics or our learned responses. We never look around us and think that there might be something in our surroundings that is making us uneasy.

    Yet when you look at the research, there are many well-documented links between environment and emotional wellbeing. One example that has gained visibility in recent years is Seasonal Affective Disorder, which highlights the link between light and mood. But light therapy has actually been shown to be effective in treating non-seasonal depression too, so effective that in some studies the results are comparable to those achieved by anti-depressants. (We rarely hear about this research, perhaps because it's more lucrative for pharmaceutical companies to fund studies about drugs than about light.) Other research shows that employees with sunnier desks sleep better and are more physically active in and out of the office than those without windows, and that just changing the lightbulbs in a nursing home can reduce both depression and cognitive decline among Alzheimer’s patients.

    These effects can come from very subtle aspects of the environment, ones we may not be conscious of, such as symmetry and shape. For example, researchers at the University of Chicago have found that showing people pictures of visually disordered, asymmetrical environments increases the likelihood that they will cheat on a test. And fMRI studies have shown that when people are shown pictures of sharp, angular objects, a structure in the brain called the amygdala, associated in part with fear and anxiety, lights up, but stays quiet when people look at curved versions of the same objects.

    I've found that many people have an intuitive understanding of these effects but have been taught to tune them out. Or worse, made to feel that their impulses toward color and light, symmetry and curves are frivolous. What has surprised me most about this work is how validated many people, especially women, feel to know that these sensations are a real, measurable contributor to their wellbeing. I even heard from one woman who told me she cried with relief after watching my TED talk, because she had so often been judged as childish for her vibrant home and whimsical outfits. My hope is that as awareness rises of the role that environment plays in emotional wellbeing, more people will feel permission to seek out joy in their surroundings, and as a society we will recognize that mental health is a function of both what’s in us, and what’s around us.

    Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) 

    Ingrid: It’s not a motto, exactly, but I do have a phrase that I come back to again and again: “Remember what you love.” When I get overwhelmed by everything I need to do, or feel anxious about what I’m trying to say or how people might receive it, this phrase helps remind me that everything I do at root stems from the love I feel for this beautiful, diverse world, for the people in it and the extraordinary joy that can be found in even its ordinary corners. I do what I do because I want to share that love with others. When there’s a task I really don’t want to do, “remembering what I love” helps me see the bigger picture. An email or errand that normally might feel like a chore becomes an extension of that love; it enables it and is connected to it .

    This phrase also helps me conquer some of the anxiety I feel about speaking in public. If I focus on the idea that I have to stand on a stage and talk about my work, I get nervous. But if I "remember what I love," that feeling cuts through the anxiety and helps me see getting on the stage as an opportunity to share my excitement and joy with others. I think this phrase is one of the things that kept me working on Joyful for ten years, even during times when I was really unsure if I’d be able to finish it. Every time I felt lost, “remembering what I love” brought me back to the fundamental reasons why I wanted to write the book, and reinvigorated my desire to see it through.

    “Remember what you love” is also really helpful in relationships. In the day-to-day of a marriage, a work partnership, or a friendship, it’s easy to let small disagreements or annoyances take over. When you remember what you love about the other person, it reconnects you to the reasons you chose to be in this relationship, and it becomes easy to let some of the small things go. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but this also applies to one’s relationship to oneself. As someone who can be quite hard on myself, I think it’s not a bad idea to occasionally balance out the critical voices by “remembering what you love” about yourself too.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Ingrid: It’s not a habit exactly, but as a city dweller I’ve found that getting out into nature regularly is important to my sanity and wellbeing. When I’m in the city, this means taking a walk to Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, an old pier that was converted a few years ago into a meadow. I sometimes bring a notebook and spend an hour there working on an essay or a talk. But I also enjoy getting out of the city as often as possible, to the beach or for a hike, or to go snowshoeing in the winter!

    Having houseplants brings a little of that nature into the house, and creates a new habit by necessity: watering once or twice a week. I find I really enjoy this task — checking on them all, dusting their leaves and removing spent flowers, and seeing what new growth has appeared. Even if I have a million other things to do, the plants need me, and that brings me back into connection with the natural world.

    Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee

     
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