Through the mysterious serendipity of Milwaukee Public Library's holds system, I got these two books at the same time, both examining the idea of "happiness" through opposite lenses.
I wondered why Gretchen Rubin even felt a need to be happier - great husband and family, great job, great apartment in New York City - but she did. The Happiness Project traces her year long quest to change her life for the even-better. She intersperses timeless philosophical observations on happiness with her month by month account of specific steps she took to make improvements, from clearing clutter to 'fighting fairly' with her (extremely patient) husband. She also blogged about The Happiness Project, so some content seems repetitive and familiar from similar 'self help' books, but her honesty about her privileged lifestyle is welcome, as is her hope that everyone should be having more fun.
In her new book Bright-Sided Barbara Ehrenreich offers a well reasoned and provocative take on the institutionalization of the cult of optimism and happiness that has been part of the American psyche from Emerson to Joel Osteen and his ilk. She argues that putting a positive spin on everything from breast cancer ("the best thing that ever happened' says one woman) to perpetual prosperity and successful military outcomes leaves us blindsided by stark reality when the rosy forecasts don't pan out. One of the most hilarious sections recounts her time at enormous - and expensive - motivational rallies where speakers convince attendees that any problems they have can only be the result of a failure to "think positively." Because Ehrenreich had cancer, her insights into the 'bright- sided' and pink-ribboned attitudes towards a deadly (and highly politicized) disease are especially challenging.
Submitted by Christine @ MPL Central