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Powell’s Q&A: Gretchen Rubin

Describe your latest book/project/work.
My latest book, The Happiness Project, is an account of the year I spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. I explain what I tried, why, and what worked for me.

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I was a load-management operator for a construction company. Trucks would pull up to my station and I'd push the buttons to fill them with asphalt for road-building. Strangely satisfying.

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language. This book blew my mind.This book blew my mind.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
I just finished Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, which was the book selected by my book group.

What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Reading in bed, in my pajamas, while drinking Diet Coke and eating apples.

On a clear and cold day, do you typically get outside into the sunshine or stay inside where it's warm?
I live in New York City, and walk a lot each day, so I'm out there, rain or shine. Which is one of my favorite things about living in New York City.

Who are your favorite characters in history? Have any of them influenced your writing?
My favorite characters in history are Winston Churchill and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. I wrote a biography of Winston Churchill, Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, and St. Thérèse was a big influence on my most recent book, The Happiness Project.

Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
I'm enthralled with Joseph Cornell. His boxes, decorated with objects, seem to suggest so much — each one fascinates me.

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five of my favorite novels about the nature of happiness:

Happy All the Time, Laurie Colwin

Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

A Landing on the Sun, Michael Frayn 9780312421908

÷ ÷ ÷

Gretchen Rubin is the author of several books, including the bestselling Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill and Forty Ways to Look at JFK. Rubin began her career in law, and she was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor when she realized that she really wanted to be a writer. Raised in Kansas City, she lives in New York City with her husband and two young daughters.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Forty Ways to Look at Winston... Used Trade Paper $5.95
  2. Forty Ways to Look at JFK Used Hardcover $16.95
  3. A Landing on the Sun Used Trade Paper $7.95
  4. Bel Canto
    Used Trade Paper $8.95
  5. Gilead
    Used Trade Paper $7.50

  6. Anna Karenina
    Used Trade Paper $7.50
  7. Wolf Hall
    Used Hardcover $10.95
  8. A Pattern Language: Towns,...
    New Hardcover $65.00
  9. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I...
    Used Hardcover $8.95

Gretchen Rubin is the author of 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

5 Responses to "Powell’s Q&A: Gretchen Rubin"

    DLang February 10th, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    If you are even slightly tempted to purchase this book, please read Barbara Ehrenreich's "Bright-Sided" first. You'll understand what an incredible waste of time this happiness project nonsense it.

    Sheila February 10th, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    I just finished "The Happiness Project" and I can assure potential readers that Rubin most definitely doesn't advocate the kind of delusional positive thinking that Ehrenreich rightly decries in "Bright Sided."

    Rather, Rubin talks about the ways you can create happiness for yourself by being grateful, having fun, being mindful of small moments, building better relationships, taking risks, and trying new things. I found it brainy and inspirational.

    Martin Blake February 10th, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    sounds like that DLang guy could use some happiness.

    April Henry February 12th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    I've read about a third of The Happiness Project so far and am finding it really inspiring.

    Cheyanne February 12th, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I was wondering when the Ehrenreich vs. Rubin debate would be on. It seems some people think BRIGHTSIDED is the direct antithesis of The Happiness Project. Nobody wants Little Mary Sunshine around all the time, especially when times are tough. But then again nobody really wants to be around miserable/sick people all the time either. Or do they? The old saying "misery loves company" might be an indication that people actually do like to be around other miserable people. Nobody is supposed drink alone. So if misery loves company, two miserable people drinking together is obviously better than one.

    In any case, I'd take The Happiness Project any day over the Miserable S.O.B. Project if there's a choice to be made.

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