When I posted last month about my decidedly mixed experience with book clubs, I never expected that my trifling essay would strike a nerve with so many of my readers, many of them fellow bibliophiles searching for the perfect book club experience. In the comments section of that post, via e-mail, and in the Twittersphere, many of you offered your support for the idea of an online forum in which we could come together to discuss books much as we do parenthood and personhood.
So – drumroll please – in the coming weeks, I will be teaming up with the fabulous Katy Keim of BookSnob to offer you the pilot version of a brand new and potentially quite wonderful online book club.
Our first pick is Raising Happiness, by Christine Carter, which Katy introduces below and about which Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place and Lift, writes: “This is the parenting book. This is the one to read over and over. So much wisdom and empathy, all based in real science. My children owe Christine Carter big time.”
Not all of our picks will be parenting books. Not nearly. But what better way to kick off our little book club experiment than with a book that will invite us to talk about our kids, ourselves, and our happiness (i.e. the stuff we talk about all the time anyway)?
And now some thoughts from Katy Keim:
Christine is the author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. She is Executive Director of the Greater Good Science Center of Berkeley and author of the practical and dead-on blog, Half Full. She is a mother of two girls and lives in the Bay Area.
The absolute first thing you need to know about Christine is she has a throaty, rumbling guffaw of a laugh. It’s actually an insanely loud laugh. It turns heads in loud restaurants and instigates a reflexive response in her companions—you find yourself laughing a tad louder, longer than you usually do.
So. Why would you care about that?
Not sure about you, but someone who is about to talk to me about parenting through the lens of science is either going to make me feel a wee bit inadequate, offended, or just drearily bored.
I can assure you, Christine’s book will do none of these things.
I saw Christine speak in Oakland last week to a room of 100+ parents. I will admit that I know Christine socially, but had never seen her in her “element“—up in front of a crowd, preaching her religion, laughing at the mistakes we make. She was dazzling. You could feel the crowd exhale, relax, lean forward.
Well, it helps that she is one smart cookie. Oh, and you can visibly see the deep-seated passion she has for the material. She culls through hundreds of research studies to find the hidden nuggets, but she doesn’t kill us with the science. She nets it out and translates. Her own experience of mothering makes it accessible and non-judgmental. She knows our flaws like her own. She makes practicing the religion seem remotely possible.
Second, she instantly tells us to let ourselves off the hook. “The last thing I wanted to do was to write a parenting book that made people feel anxious,” Carter openly admits. “If there is one thing you walk away with tonight, it is this: happiness is much better thought of as a skill. It is a habit that needs practice.” So all our lives we have been contemplating if we have or do not have the stuff to be happy—Christine tells us it is ours for the taking (or making, as the case may be). Now, we are encouraged even.
It turns out that as individuals we are all pretty lousy at predicting our own happiness. We think that new cars, jobs, houses, babies, outlooks will make it all be okay. But the science, she argues, is relatively crystal clear. Positive emotions, strong human connections, and a growth mindset are all key drivers to our happiness.
But here’s where Christine has the linchpin. While we all surely have a wide view of how to treat our own happiness (see the current controversy over the whole “happiness industry”), Christine takes us to the playing field of our children. And here, the controversy quickly gets softened, because, what parent isn’t hoping in their wildest dreams that they raise a joyful, happy, and positive child? (I can’t wait to meet that parent at the playground who says: “I am trying to raise a negative, entitled brat…” LOL).
The book takes us through the paces of what helps in raising happy children.
No surprise, this takes some practice. For them and for us. Because we also need to be modeling for them what this behavior looks like. (I am pretty sure it wasn’t when I kicked the recycling across the kitchen a week ago, right?). This point brought Christine to her final guffaw of the evening: “Buy the book. It’s like a buy one, get one free in the happiness department.”
Because, let’s face it: isn’t it nearly impossible to model, practice and instill in our kids positive emotions without seeing lasting effects in ourselves?
Katy and I hope you will join us in discussing Christine’s book, Raising Happiness. We are delighted that Christine has agreed to join us during the last week of our conversation.
We will be discussing:
Chapters 1-3 the week of April 12th
Chatper 4-6 the week of April 19th
Chapter 7-9 the week of April 26th and
Chapter 10 + Q&A with Christine the week of May 3rd
Readers, start your engines. Grab a copy of the book and get ready to join us in two weeks!
Will you join us (pretty please)? And what do you think, anyway, of guides to happiness? Are you happy now? Are your kids (if you’ve got them)? Do you think a book can make you – or them – happier?