Book Review: 10% Happier, Dan Harris

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A year or so ago, everyone on the street was carrying this book, 10% Happier (the full title of this book is 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works – A True Story, what a mouthful!) Since starting this blog, I’ve been trying to be better about keeping up with contemporary literature: what’s coming out, what’s popular, etc. So when I saw both Ann Patchett and Gretchen Rubin writing about this book, I figured I should finally check this book out. After all, who doesn’t want to be 10% happier?

The premise of this part memoir part self-help book is that Dan Harris, the author previously best known as the ABC co-anchor of Good Morning America, has a panic attack on live television. This causes him to re-examine his lifestyle (which includes cocaine and a lot of anxiety in his stressful work environment) which sends him on a soul-searching mission to find inner peace while “maintaining his edge”. Dan Harris is many things, he’s a bro-y, cocky, ambitious, and smart man who seems like the kind of person who would dismiss meditation and mindfulness as hippy propaganda. During this time in his life, Harris also happens to be the skeptical and reluctant ABC faith/religion correspondent, and he is able to interview notable figures like Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama.

It’s precisely the culmination of these circumstances that really makes Harris a reliable and trustworthy advocate for meditation. Harris is a skeptic, almost to a fault, and he mocks himself relentlessly through his journey. He was hesitant to approach meditation for fear that it would make him too complacent in the workplace – he needs to be aggressive enough to get the news pieces that he wants to cover, which is why “maintaining his edge” is so important to him. However, by the end of the memoir, Harris has found a way to balance meditation and professional success. I found this focus on professional success a bit annoying at times, because I never thought that these were mutually exclusive concerns. Maybe it’s because I’m a millennial, but I had never doubted for a moment that we can have it all. I think the target audience for this book, however, may be people a little less receptive of meditation, the people who really need to be convinced that it can help them. I won’t try to convince you on the merits of meditation, but if this is something that you’ve ever been even a little curious about, I think this book is a great place to start.

As for me, by the end of this book, I was itching to incorporate meditation into my own life.


I would recommend this book to any person who has ever toyed with the idea of meditation, people like me who enjoy reading self help books and memoirs, and people who are looking for a great audiobook to listen to. Dan Harris narrates, and his news anchor voice is absolutely made for audiobooks!

Do you meditate? If so, I’m dying to hear about your mindfulness rituals!


Book Review: Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin

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Wake up earlier, go to the gym, floss regularly – these are some of the habits that I often wish I had, but I told myself I didn’t have the time or energy to do these things. Reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before was just the kick in the butt I needed to help me dive into building the habits I’d like to have. Gretchen (I feel like we’re on a first name basis now) is the perky, optimistic, and relentless life coach I wish I had in real life, but her book is a pretty good substitute. Her genuine enthusiasm for decluttering and goal setting leaps off the page.

This book doesn’t necessarily teach you anything new: it’s mostly common sense stuff your parents have been telling you your whole life. However, it doesn’t hurt to hear this stuff again reframed in ways that can help you feel less overwhelmed about starting a new habit. As Gretchen points out, what often motivates us is an individual story instead of the big picture science or data points. Sure, we technically know how to stop procrastinating, but it can be more illuminating to hear how one person stopped procrastinating. Don’t let the tagline of the book fool you, though, Gretchen isn’t the type of person who struggles with building habits. She seems to have an iron grip on her self control and she doesn’t fail at any of the habits she adopts. I related more to the stories about her sister and husband’s habit building attempts.

One thing I really liked about this book is that Gretchen doesn’t tell us what habits we should have. She leaves that up to us to decide, and she writes the book from a very judgment free zone. She emphasizes throughout the book that just because it should be good for you doesn’t mean it necessarily works for your life. However, I kind of wish she had a list in the back of the most common habits people want to adopt and to kick. After finishing this book, I felt this overwhelming urge to start something new, and I wanted her to tell me where to start! If you’re curious about this book but don’t want to commit yet, her podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, covers a lot of the same material (and incorporates material from her previous two books) and includes other anecdotes and tips. I’d recommend starting there to see if Gretchen’s style is right for you. Her website also has a ton of other resources to help you get started – I love to dig around and see all the different charts and downloads she has made available! So, did Gretchen Rubin leave me Better than Before? Only time will tell, but I am about to head to the gym for the third day in a row now!


I’d recommend this book to people who are always wishing they were the type of person who journals regularly, people who enjoy self improvement projects, and people who are looking for a quick and constructive book to read on a plane.

Additional Reading:

  • Take the Four Tendencies Quiz, which Gretchen developed to help us figure out what our habit-keeping tendency is, a handy framework that she developed to frame our motivations.
  • I would like to thank Blogging for Books for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I’d like to point out that I bought her first book myself, so I would probably have read this book eventually anyway.
  • Buy the Book