Gretchen Rubin is a New York Times bestselling author, known for her books Better Than Before, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. Her readership is ever-growing, both in print and online, and she has sold over two million copies worldwide, in more than thirty individual languages. Gretchen Rubin is also the host of a weekly podcast entitled Happier with Gretchen Rubin; each week she discusses good habits and happiness with her sister Elizabeth Craft. The podcast is incredibly successful, and has been named in the Academy of Podcasters ‘Best Podcasts of 2016‘, as well as consistently ranking in the iTunes top charts. Gretchen Rubin began her career clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, but quickly realised she wanted to be a writer. Please enjoy my interview with the talented author Gretchen Rubin…
I’m a writer. I write books, such as The Happiness Project and Better Than Before. I write a daily blog, and I write (sort of) and record a weekly podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. And what’s the subject of my writing? My subject is human nature.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m currently obsessed with color, so I’m reading book after book about color. I also just started re-reading A Room with a View by E. M. Forster.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
My parents rarely bought books for me and my sister – we usually used the library. But each summer, to prepare for the long car trip to visit my grandparents in North Platte, Nebraska, we’d go to the bookstore, and I’d get an Oz book. How I love the Oz books! They always remind me of my childhood.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
You know, I never really thought about it. Which seems surprising, looking back.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
My school-aged self would be thrilled to see the life I’ve created. So much fun, doing all my favorite things! I’m incredibly fortunate, and I never forget that for one day.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
I wish I could give myself my own book, The Happiness Project. It includes a lot of conclusions that I wish I’d figured out earlier.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
I love to read in bed. I don’t have much of a routine, other than to try to read whenever possible, and to try to read for several hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser. I’ve read it several times – it’s so beautifully written that it’s a joy to read, and it has had such a good effect on my writing.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
The most important thing about writing is to have something to say. Once you have something to say, the writing comes much more easily. And you actually have to record words down on a page. Many people have ideas or the intention to write, but what matters in the end is what is on the page.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
I associate Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder with my family.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. It’s such an interesting book, on so many levels.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I think I’d have to say both!
Do you think reading is important?
Absolutely. It’s my cubicle and my playground.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Hmmm…perhaps My Antonia by Willa Cather.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
I prefer physical, though I love to have some back-up digital books when I travel.
I think humanity could do with reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
I feel like I get epiphanies from books practically every month. So I can’t say what’s the biggest, but I was very influenced by Jackie Under My Skin by Wayne Koestenbaum; My Early Life by Winston Churchill, The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell, The Habit of Being by Flannery O’Connor, A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. But there are so many.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
I’m a huge fan of children’s literature and young-adult literature; in fact, I’m in three reading groups where we read kidlit. So I made a list of my 81 favorites.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I’m reading about color, and about happiness, and about habits, and also about a subject that I’m calling “the feeling of wanting something more.” That’s my new fascination.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?