Gretchen Rubin’s Shrine to Children’s Literature

In the second chapter of Happier at Home—the one dedicated to possessions—Gretchen Rubin talks about how she created “shrines” around her home as way to put the things that mattered to her and to her family front and center: personal collections that would make her apartment feel like home.

Gretchen explains that the purpose of a shrine (a term that she admits is “a little grandiose”) isn’t to fill a niche with candles, flowers, and a statue, but to cultivate “an area that enshrined my passions, interests, and values.”

In the book, she describes how she created a Shrine to Family, full of family photos and keepsakes. She turned her entire office into a Shrine to Work, transforming the previously spartan room into a beautiful and inviting place to write.

But my favorite example was her Shrine to Children’s Literature, which she describes in loving detail. I’ve read Happier at Home a half dozen times by now: every time I come to this passage book lust overwhelms me, and I wish I could see this shrine for myself.

It turns out that’s not so hard after all: I emailed Gretchen … and she sent pictures.

Gretchen Rubin's Shrine to Children's Literature

Gretchen says: note the Nutshell Library by Sendak and my Gryffindor banner

Gretchen Rubin's Shrine to Children's Literature

Gretchen says: note my old Cricket magazines and the miniature scene of a mermaid bringing up treasure

colorful bookshelves

my own shelves: 80% kid lit as of right now

I loved poring over these photos … and while I did it dawned on me that I’ve been cultivating my own shrine to children’s literature without even meaning to. Or without consciously meaning to, because I just told you I’ve read Happier at Home six times, so make of that what you will.

I do know that I’ve never been much of a collector, but just last year I started consciously adding beautiful books to my collection just because they make me happy. It’s been wonderful to see them on the shelf every time I walk through the living room, to catch my kids browsing for something to read, and to arrange and re-arrange just for the fun of it.


Gretchen’s fascinating new book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives hits shelves today. I finally got my hands on an early copy last week, read it in two days, and wanted to immediately start again from the beginning. I highly recommend it if you’ve enjoyed her previous work, although if you’ve never read her books, this would be a great place to start. I’m glad I’m getting this one in hardback, because it will get plenty of use around here.

Thanks so much to Gretchen for letting us see her Shrine to Children’s Literature.

I’d love to hear about your own shrines and collections—especially bookish ones—in comments. 

P.S. All the posts in the Other People’s Bookshelves series.

Books mentioned in this post:

Happier at Home

Happier at Home

I've been meaning to re-read this one since I made my 2013 goals last year. Rubin reminds me it's worth making the effort to do the little things--especially in my home—because they really do make a difference.

Order Now!
About the Book

Publisher’s description:
In the spirit of her blockbuster #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin embarks on a new project to make home a happier place.

One Sunday afternoon, as she unloaded the dishwasher, Gretchen Rubin felt hit by a wave of homesickness. Homesick—why? She was standing right in her own kitchen. She felt homesick, she realized, with love for home itself. “Of all the elements of a happy life,” she thought, “my home is the most important.” In a flash, she decided to undertake a new happiness project, and this time, to focus on home.

And what did she want from her home? A place that calmed her, and energized her. A place that, by making her feel safe, would free her to take risks. Also, while Rubin wanted to be happier at home, she wanted to appreciate how much happiness was there already.

So, starting in September (the new January), Rubin dedicated a school year—September through May—to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love.

In The Happiness Project, she worked out general theories of happiness. Here she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. How can she control the cubicle in her pocket? How might she spotlight her family’s treasured possessions? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.

Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions—and this time, she coaxes her family to try some resolutions, as well.

With her signature blend of memoir, science, philosophy, and experimentation, Rubin’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire readers to find more happiness in their own lives.

Series: 15 books to help you achieve your New Year's resolutions
Genre: Memoir
Tag: 2013 Summer Reading Guide
Length: 289 pages
ASIN: 0307886794
Order Now
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Buy from Amazon
Buy from
Buy from
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from IndieBound

more posts you might enjoy


Leave A Comment
  1. Weren’t you smart to “just ask”! Love the photos.
    I suppose I have a mini “shrine” to travel. I have a bowl of smooth stones collected in Switzerland from an alpine river and beside it is a wooden basket filled with postcards from travels near and far. We aren’t really souvenir people, but we usually buy one postcard, and when I can manage it I get each family member to write something on the back about their favorite thing we did or saw that day or whatever. Visitors often flip through the cards, and we enjoy doing the same sometimes.

  2. Breanne says:

    Oh my goodness, I just love this!! Reading about her love for children’s literature delighted me so much and now seeing her children’s literature shrine is just lovely. I’m so glad you asked!

    Can’t wait to read this book!

  3. Susan in TX says:

    Hmmm. Some people might say that my entire house is a shrine for books. 😉 Love the photos, though. And am now pondering tracking down a Gryffindor banner to hang above my Harry Potter lego shelf. I haven’t read any of Rubin’s books yet, but the more I read about them, the more curious I become.

  4. Sarah M says:

    I’ve heard of the Happiness Project…do you have to read those in order for them to make more sense? I’ve had that one on my list but didn’t know she had two others! (I had only recently heard of T.H.P.)
    Sarah M

      • Kristi says:

        Meghan and Sarah, they aren’t really in strict order but Happier at Home is kind of the sequel to The Happiness Project, so I found it helped to read them in order. Start with the Happiness Project, it’s the first one she wrote so you’ll get to grow with her as you read through the first and second books. 🙂

  5. LoriM says:

    Love her!! I pre-ordered her new book – it might arrive today – hooray!

    Maybe I’ll “just ask” to see how she does her seasonal photo collages. I’m working on those in my house. With 2 new grandbabies, it’s not too hard!

  6. Anna says:

    I love the idea of structuring your home’s décor around your passions and items that you love. And sometimes the best idea is just to ask. 🙂

  7. Carly says:

    I just requested Happier at Home. I liked the Happiness Project a lot. So the two things I thought of were my Pyrex collection and the fabric covered board where I hang all my necklaces. Oh, and the fabric that I have framed in embroidery hoops. I’ve been collecting Pyrex for a couple years (can’t wait to starting look at garage sales again!) and I change out my display seasonally.

  8. For our recent renovation I turned our den into more of a schoolroom, with built-ins to hold what I think of as our “nice” children’s books. Lots of shelves in our shrine, so perhaps it’s more of a chapel. And I found a massive framed lithograph of the young Queen Mum in the backest-corner of back corners at a consignment shop to preside over it all, which is both suitable (lots of Streatfeild, C.S. Lewis & other British authors pack our shelves) and hilarious, since: Queen Mum.

    Further up and further in, everyone! 🙂

  9. Anne says:

    This is terrific! I was just talking about making a Tomie dePaola shelf/shrine in a new house yesterday. My Anne books used to always be on display wherever I lived until the last several years.

  10. Maryalene says:

    This may be off-topic but I’m actually in the process of purging my bookshelves of a lot of the random books I’ve accumulated over the years, and it’s left me contemplating which books to buy in the future. How do you decide? Do you focus on a particular genre (I.e. kid lit), beautiful books (I.e. the Puffin classics) or only buy ones you plan to re-read?

    Would love to read a future blog post on the topic of ‘books to buy and books to borrow!’

  11. Natalie says:

    My husband and I have a shrine of sorts in our living room – we made some simple DIY shelves and filled them with books that we love most. He has all sorts of books about the Ford Mustang and I have my prettiest cookbooks displayed. My favorite part, though, is seeing my Jane Austen books and other B&N classics side by side with his star-wars series. 🙂 It makes me chuckle.

    • Anne says:

      I’ve never tried them but I’ve heard good things. (Personally, I prefer to do fiction on audio.) If I were you I’d head over to Audible and listen to the samples. Rubin narrates her own books.

        • Alison Pike says:

          I love Gretchen Rubin, and was thrilled because her habits book came out on the day I had a trans-Atlantic flight. I listened to the whole thing in one big binge! Her first Happiness Project book and this Habits book are on audible (at least in the UK) and she reads them herself. EXCELLENT. The middle book, Happier at Home, is not read by her, so I never tried to listen. It would be too weird! I read that one to myself, but because I know her voice so well, it was a really slow read because I turned it into her reading it to me in my head. Perhaps I should not have admitted to that…!

          Anyway, if you are an audio fan, you have treat in store. And totes agree with Anne, doesn’t matter about the order of listening.

  12. Jo says:

    I have my own shrine to children’s literature – mainly books I kept from childhood plus a few older editions I have picked up over the years. I love to have them and know they are the original ones I enjoyed and some that my mother enjoyed.

    I also love Gretchen’s books and re-read them every so often. Ironically, they are about the only paper books I buy these days, something about them makes me want to own the hardbacks.

  13. I have bookcases all over the house but in a tiny bookshelf that sits on the floor next to my desk in my Study, I have a collection of my favorite Elizabeth Goudge and D. E. Stevenson novels that always take me away into a world I enjoy, one that gives me peace.

    I hadn’t read any books by either author until my friends Sarah Clarkson and Lanier (of Lanier’s Books) kept writing about how wonderful they are. Now I am smitten and that one little bookshelf is my altar to authors who are now “friends”.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.