Book Review: The Happiness Project

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
by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project Ok, I’ll be honest: I don’t read much non-fiction, because I find most of it to be incredibly dull to read. And recently my standard for enjoyable non-fiction has been MWF Seeking BFF, because it was just funny and relatable, while also being motivating and useful. Sadly, while The Happiness Project was interesting and followed a similar one-year-quest formula, I didn’t really find it enjoyable. In fact, I struggled over several long weeks to make it all the way through. I like the idea it was exploring and it did have some useful tidbits, but I just did not like the author’s voice or writing. I didn’t find her writing funny or relatable, and in fact found myself thinking several times that if this lady is anything like her writing in real life she’d probably annoy the crap out of me. There’s a subtle better-than-thou, pushy attitude that comes through, and it often felt more like lecturing than talking to the reader. This wasn’t helped by the fact that probably a good third of the book (at least) is her quoting other things – commenters on her blog, famous and obscure people, etc. It was distracting and annoying. I get that her background biases her heavily towards research paper kinds of writing, but for me that just made the book fall flat. Which is a shame, because again I think the idea behind it is interesting. So, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to separate the voice of a book from what it’s about. I liked some parts, I didn’t like others. I didn’t find it particularly useful, but it did provoke some thought. And there are some good charts in the back. So it gets a solid middling rating from me.

What do you think? Have you read this?

I give it 2.5/5 stars.

Buy From Amazon

The Happiness Project


  1. Sad to hear that you didn’t like the tone! I have this on my list to read this summer and was slightly worried for all the reasons you listed. I feel like so many of these books have a good concept but I rarely like how it is presented.

    1. Yeah, it’s a tough one – I found the idea quite interesting, but for me the voice was just really off-putting. If you can mostly ignore the voice/tone, then definitely give it a go.

  2. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve read enough of her blog in the past to feel like I’ve gotten a feel for her voice and I’m sure this is going to come off sounding cynical and bitchy but my feeling was along the lines of “Just what I need… another Ivy Leaguer living in a fancy apartment in New York telling me how I ought to live with my life. Why don’t you come spend a month in my cockroach infested basement apartment without any air conditioning in the middle of a heatwave and THEN tell me all about what being happy is about!”

    Yeah. I may or may not be bitter.

    1. No, I think there’s definitely some of that in her voice. There’s a decided overtone to her writing that makes it clear she considers herself above normal people/her audience. It’s part of what annoyed me, too. Which is a shame, because some of her ideas could actually be useful, but how she delivers them just puts people on edge.

  3. I love reading non-fiction, but I picked up the author’s second book (Happier at Home) and didn’t make it past the first few pages. I doubt I’ll be attempting this one, either, although it sounds like something I would be interested in.

    1. It was a real struggle for me to get through this one. But I hate giving up on books, so I powered through.

      What made you put down her second book? Same thing I noticed, her voice? Or more the subject matter?