The happiest moments in both books come when your own experience is reflected on the page. Reading The Happiness Project, for example, I laughed when I encountered Rubin’s description of herself as a (reformed) “topper”—the kind of person who says to a friend, “You think you had a crazy morning? Let me tell you about mine!” A self-involved friend said that to me just the other day.
Am I happier for having read these books? I suppose so. Will I stay that way? Tough to say—especially since it happens to be the wrong question: As Ariel Gore writes in Bluebird, “the happiness we are trying to grasp is the experience of trying to grasp it.”
That means it all comes down to the pursuit of happiness. Now where have we heard that one before?
Evelyn Renold is a writer and editorial consultant in New York. She is the former executive editor of Lear’s magazine and senior deputy editor of Good Housekeeping.