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Book Review – Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

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Book Review – Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin


    I had the pleasure of reading Gretchen Rubin’s last book, The Happiness Project, which chronicled her quest to spend an entire year achieving careful, measurable goals in different areas of life while working to build on them cumulatively, using concrete steps along the way. In fact, she’s maintains a blog over at the www.happiness-project.com, where she continues to write about her happiness adventures.

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    So when I learned she had a follow-up to The Happiness Project, I jumped at the chance to give it a read. Today marks the launch of that book, Happier at Home, and while my initial curiosity was all about whether or not there would much of her previous work reappearing within its pages, that isn’t the case. Instead, the author builds upon her previous book, and as result she makes both books all the more accessible to a wider audience.

    Happier at Home describes her second Happiness Project, which ran from September to May — which essentially mirrors the school year. As with The Happiness Project, Rubin devotes a chapter — consisting of one habit — to each month, outlined as follows:

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    1. September — Possessions
    2. October — Marriage
    3. November — Parenthood
    4. December — Interior Design (Renovate Myself)
    5. January — Time
    6. February — Body
    7. March — Family
    8. April — Neighborhood
    9. May — Now

    As a writer and a stay-at-home parent, Happier at Home really resonated with me. Rubin strives to make her home as pleasant a place as possible through measurable means and provides a guideline (and guidance) for the rest of us. Much like A.J. Jacobs has done in his work, Rubin acts as a sort of “guinea pig” for the readers, so that we can see what can happen if we follow through with an experiment like this. And in this case, an experiment like this one well worth giving a try. No matter whether or not you work at home or not, it’s important to make your home a place where you can thrive — and by working to improve on nine aspects of her home life Rubin has provided a roadmap for us to follow.

    Rubin’s writing style is quite anecdotal, but many of the stories are easy to relate to. Her style makes Happier at Home a very easy read, even if taking on the project within isn’t quite as easy.

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    If you were a fan of The Happiness Project, then you’ll like how Happier at Home takes things one step further. But if you haven’t read Rubin’s previous book, then this book is a great place to start.

    We’ve been given the opportunity to giveaway copies of Happier at Home to 3 lucky Lifehack readers. To enter for your chance to win, simply leave a comment either below or on our Facebook page mentioning what one of the nine areas of home life mentioned in the book that you feel is the most important for your to improve to achieve greater happiness. You will get one entry for a comment here and one for a comment on our Facebook page, giving you two chances to win if you do both.

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    We’ll select the winners at random on Sunday September 9th at 11 p.m. Pacific time, so be sure to enter by then and to leave us with a means to contact you. Good luck!

    More by this author

    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on January 27, 2022

    5 Reasons Why Food is the Best Way to Understand a Culture

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    5 Reasons Why Food is the Best Way to Understand a Culture

    Food plays an integral role in our lives and rightfully so: the food we eat is intricately intertwined with our culture. You can learn a lot about a particular culture by exploring their food. In fact, it may be difficult to fully define a culture without a nod to their cuisine.

    “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1825).

    Don’t believe me? Here’s why food is the best way to understand a culture:

    Food is a universal necessity.

    It doesn’t matter where in the world you’re from – you have to eat. And your societal culture most likely evolved from that very need, the need to eat. Once they ventured beyond hunting and gathering, many early civilizations organized themselves in ways that facilitated food distribution and production. That also meant that the animals, land and resources you were near dictated not only what you’d consume, but how you’d prepare and cook it. The establishment of the spice trade and the merchant silk road are two example of the great lengths many took to obtain desirable ingredients.

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    Food preservation techniques are unique to climates and lifestyle.

    Ever wonder why the process to preserve meat is so different around the world? It has to do with local resources, needs, and climates. In Morocco, Khlea is a dish composed of dried beef preserved in spices and then packed in animal fat. When preserved correctly, it’s still good for two years when stored at room temperature. That makes a lot of sense in Morocco, where the country historically has had a strong nomadic population, desert landscape, and extremely warm, dry temperatures.

    Staples of a local cuisines illustrate historical eating patterns.

    Some societies have cuisines that are entirely based on meat, and others are almost entirely plant-based. Some have seasonal variety and their cuisines change accordingly during different parts of the year. India’s cuisine is extremely varied from region to region, with meat and wheat heavy dishes in the far north, to spectacular fish delicacies in the east, to rice-based vegetarian diets in the south, and many more variations in between.

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    The western part of India is home to a group of strict vegetarians: they not only avoid flesh and eggs, but even certain strong aromatics like garlic, or root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Dishes like Papri Chat, featuring vegetable based chutneys mixed with yoghurt, herbs and spices are popular.

    Components of popular dishes can reveal cultural secrets.

    This is probably the most intriguing part of studying a specific cuisine. Certain regions of the world have certain ingredients easily available to them. Most people know that common foods such as corn, tomatoes, chili peppers, and chocolate are native to the Americas, or “New World”. Many of today’s chefs consider themselves to be extremely modern when fusing cuisines, but cultural lines blended long ago when it comes to purity of ingredients.

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    Black pepper originated in Asia but became, and still remains, a critical part of European cuisine. The Belgians are some of the finest chocolatiers, despite it not being native to the old world. And perhaps one of the most interesting result from the blending of two cuisines is Chicken Tikka Masala; it resembles an Indian Mughali dish, but was actually invented by the British!

    Food tourism – it’s a whole new way to travel.

    Some people have taken the intergation of food and culture to a new level. No trip they take is complete with out a well-researched meal plan, that dictates not only the time of year for their visit, but also how they will experience a new culture.

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    So, a food tourist won’t just focus on having a pint at Oktoberfest, but will be interested in learning the German beer making process, and possibly how they can make their own fresh brew. Food tourists visit many of the popular mainstays for traditional tourism, like New York City, San Francisco, London, or Paris, but many locations that they frequent, such as Armenia or Laos, may be off the beaten path for most travelers. And since their interest in food is more than meal deep, they have the chance to learn local preparation techniques that can shed insight into a whole other aspect of a particular region’s culture.

    Featured photo credit: Young Shih via unsplash.com

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