Katherine Center’s newest is an inspiring, hilarious, and heart-rending story of courage, resilience, and learning to be brave in love.
About The Book
Could she change the story of her life?
It was time. Helen Carpenter knew that. Thirty-two and divorced for a year, Helen knew it was time—past time—to pull herself together. She needed to do something wild and adventurous and completely out of character. Which is why she signed up for a wilderness survival course in Wyoming.
Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen Carpenter’s well-behaved life: three weeks in a remote mountain range where she will survive a summer blizzard, a group of sorority girls, rutting season for the elk, and more than one infuriating man. Yet, despite the hardships and the indignities, the mountains bring their own wisdom to Helen’s life, somehow teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for yourself. How being scared can make you brave. How the things you hold on to become the story of your life. And, maybe most of all, how sometimes you just have to get really, really lost before you even have a hope of being found.
bestselling author jillian medoff
"Trust me; you'll feel this satisfying novel deep in your bones.”
on HAPPINESS FOR BEGINNERS
bestselling author sarah pekkanen
“Such a charming, heartfelt novel about a woman who needs to escape from her life in order to rebuild it. I read it all in one delicious gulp.”
on HAPPINESS FOR BEGINNERS
“Center has written a wonderful story, a fast-paced read with sharp, perfectly written dialogue."
on HAPPINESS FOR BEGINNERS
Author Melissa Senate
“Adding Happiness for Beginners to my all-time favorites list. Fun, moving, and honest, it's a gem of a novel about finding out just what you're made of.”
on HAPPINESS FOR BEGINNERS
#1 bestselling author jenny lawson
I folded down pages to go back to—and that's a sign of a great book: when I see something so true or profound that I know I need mark it.
on HOW TO WALK AWAY
*A Top Seller on the Macmillan home page in May!
*An April Book Club Pick at InStyle
*An Emerging Authors Pick at TARGET
*A Spa Week Daily Book Club Pick for May
*A Women’s Fiction Best Bet at Heroes and Heartbreakers
*A Rough and Rugged Reading Roundup pick at SheReads
*Featured in the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2015 Summer Reading Guide!
"I simply loved this book. It was like a warm cup of tea with a cookie on the side for good measure. Comforting, sweet, a little bitter. Perfection. I could not put it down (literally, I read it in one sitting!). My mood is lifted, my heart light."
"I read it twice in two weeks because I loved it that much. READ IT."
"I LOVED this book. This was the book I wanted 'Wild' to be, but wasn't. I got it randomly from the library on Saturday, because the cover looked interesting. I finished it by Monday and I could not get enough! I have been waiting for a book like this (that I couldn't put down) for so long. I just loved it."
"I don't even know how to express my feelings about this book. I do know that I really adored this book! And honestly, I didn't even realize how much I NEEDED to read this book until I did. It's so well written, inspiring, full of heart, beautiful and memorable."
"I very rarely feel compelled to want to re-read a book, especially right after finishing it, but this one has me wanting to revisit it already. My only complaint about the book was that it ended."
"I have read every book Katherine Center has written and she keeps getting better. This is by far my favorite book of hers. I have enjoyed seeing her style develop. She's quirky and smart and real. I very much enjoy her books"
"If I could give this more than 5 stars, I would. I think this is one of those books that I will reread once a year. It just makes me so HAPPY. All. The. Stars. All. The. Feels."
"Super fun to read! Loved every minute of this sweet, relatable, laugh-out-loud, captivating page-turner!"
"This book was absolutely fantastic! I was hooked on the characters and the story from the very first page, and was pretty devastated when I reached the end because I needed (still do, actually) to know more. Also very thought provoking and makes you contemplate your own life, what you value, how you're living, etc. Highly recommended!"
"I loved EVERYTHING about this book! Definitely a favourite."
"This book is a read-in-one-sitting, can't-put-it-down, stay-up-all-night-reading kind of book."
"What a great read! Just absolutely loved this book! Very well written and the humor is perfectly interlaced with little nuggets of wisdom all throughout the story."
"I finished this book and bought a southwest flight for a solo hiking trip to Lake Tahoe California. lmao. It is THAT influential!"
Praise for Happiness For Beginners
“If you’re anything like us, you’ll read this book in one sitting.”
“This wise, delicious, page-turning novel won’t let you go. Katherine Center writes about falling down, growing up, and finding love like nobody else.”
—Brené Brown, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of Daring Greatly
“Center has written a wonderful story, a fast-paced read with sharp, perfectly written dialogue. Her newest does exactly what we want a good novel to do, introduce us to characters who engage us and take us on a journey.
— Carol Gladstein, BOOKLIST
“Explores heartbreak, triumph, and truth . . . a deliciously refreshing take on life that should be analyzed over brunch or in living rooms or on road trips – but always among friends.”
— The Houston Chronicle
“Happiness for Beginners is my favorite Katherine Center novel yet. I folded down pages to go back to–and that’s a sign of a great book: when I see something so true or profound that I know I need mark it. It’s wonderful. Could not put it down.”
— Jenny Lawson, New York Times bestselling author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
“Such a charming, heartfelt novel about a woman who needs to escape from her life in order to rebuild it. I read it all in one delicious gulp.”
— Sarah Pekkanen, author of The Opposite of Me
“Katherine Center has a unique talent for finding humor in the most unlikely scenarios—a brutal wilderness survival course, post-divorce depression, a family in turmoil. In the wholly refreshing Happiness for Beginners, she explores life’s messy moments with comic precision and proves that it is possible to make a fresh start—and find true love—in the midst of emotional disaster. Trust me; you’ll feel this satisfying novel deep in your bones.”
—Jillian Medoff, bestselling author of I Couldn’t Love You More
“Adding HAPPINESS FOR BEGINNERS to my all-time favorites list. Fun, moving, and honest, it’s a gem of a novel about finding out just what you’re made of.”
—Melissa Senate, author of See Jane Date and The Love Goddess’ Cooking School
“HAPPINESS FOR BEGINNERS does what a story should do—introduces characters we want to know and then takes us on their unexpected journey to a new and braver life. Helen Carpenter is doing what needs to be done, and along the way she shows us how to be brave . . . when we need to be and when we want to be. When life doesn’t give Helen what she believes she wants, she journeys into the wilderness to find what she needs, and we are with her every step of the way. Center’s witty, honest and compassionate storytelling opens us to new ways of feeling and trusting, just as her character is doing the same.”
— Patti Callahan Henry, author of And Then I Found You and The Stories We Tell
“Katherine Center has a true gift for creating a story arc that includes personal evolution, romance, challenges, disappointments, and joy in a way that avoids cliche and creates enough ebbing tension and resolution that the reader is left hungering for more.”
— Christine Koh, Boston Mamas
“Center’s fifth book, Happiness for Beginners focuses on a woman in the midst of self-discovery. It’s funny and sad, poignant and blunt at the same time.”
— The Houston Press
“[The] charming new novel, Happiness for Beginners, is the perfect reason to spend rainy Sunday afternoons in one’s pajamas.”
— Houstonia Magazine
“[Center] is one of my favorite authors, mainly because she has such an amusing and engaging voice. Reading one of her novels is like going on a short trip with one of your warmest and wittiest friends..”
— Karin Gillespie, author of Earthly Pleasures
“Like all of Katherine Center’s books, Happiness for Beginners has a heart of gold. Wise, charming and laugh-out-loud funny, readers will love this book.”
— Jane Estes
“A fun, entertaining read that has a lot to say about our preconceived notions of others. And of ourselves.”
—Lone Star Literary Life
“My good friend Katherine Center has a new book out – Happiness for Beginners. I’ve fallen in love with her books over the years – the characters are imperfect, vulnerable, and always funny. She can write a falling-down-and-getting-back-up story like nobody’s business. And she’s also a 5th generation Texan so there’s always a little emotional pig-wrestling and ass-kicking in her books.”
Listed on “Shit you should buy or steal because it’s awesome.”
“It’s absolutely the perfect summer read.”
“This woman can write! She pulls you deep into the heart of her characters and has you not only routing for them every step of the way, but also learning things about yourself, as well. Her books and her writing always seems to have a hopeful, positive spin on life. Even when her characters are facing tough situations and their lives seem to be turned upside down, she brings that silver lining into every moment.”
“If Nora Ephron had accompanied Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Coast Trail, she would have made a funny, warm, tender movie about it—the lighter flipside to Wild. This is exactly what someone should do with the book Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center. Fleet and funny with characters you’ll remember—Center’s fifth book is a delight.”
“The best books are the ones that completely exceed your expectations. You know, the ones where you have an opinion or assumption formed before you even read the first page, only to have those opinions or assumptions completely blown out of the water? That’s what happened to me with Happiness for Beginners . . . I loved this book so much.”
“I devoured it in a matter of three bedtime reading sessions. The night I finished it, I ignored my exhaustion (this little human I am growing is a tiny energy sucker) and my husband’s tales of his work day and eagerly turned each page. Two hours past my (admittedly lame) bedtime, I finally finished. It’s been a while since I read a book ending as satisfying as this one.”
“Center has the great ability to write with depth, but in the sort of light page-turning way that I enjoy. She has a great sense of humor, which gives her novels a light touch which is balanced to nicely by her insightful depth into people.”
“It was a story of resilience and courage, of losing and then finding, of being brave in love, and of gaining the wisdom that was always a part of you.
. . . And I just loved it.”
“I love Katherine Center because she makes you feel like the main character is real. And, her novels hit on important and universal life themes—that’s what I’m seeking in the books I read.”
“Happiness for Beginners was a delightful read about a woman who is out to change her life. It was touching,funny, and even a little bit heartbreaking. Everything I love in a good book!”
“Katherine Center shares a valuable, relatable message on how recovering from a crushing loss can be a bumpy road, a journey that requires traversing many valleys before you reach the peaks. One quote from the book that I loved: “I had finally come to understand that not getting what you want is actually the trick to it all. Because not getting what you want forces you to appreciate what you already have.” For that thoughtful advice and much more, I’d recommend Happiness for Beginners. “
“Katherine Center’s novels are some of my favorite kinds – women’s fiction with a few chick lit moments thrown in . . . Center’s latest novel is a great way to spend an afternoon.”
“I love the way Katherine Center tells a story. Her characters are people that inhabit my world; they suffer yet they laugh, too. This is the story of an unlikely romance. Helen sets off on a wilderness-survival course and, to her surprise, finds that her little brother’s friend, who has long had a crush on her, has come along, too. The little brother’s friend, however, isn’t so little any more. Adventure. Disaster. Romance. Fun.”
“Center’s absorbing writing kept me reading page after page, long after it was time for me to put the book down. Most interesting to me was how Center got me thinking about happiness, and about what truly makes me happy in life. That message was there, but not in a hit-you-over-the-head preachy way, and I appreciated that even more. It was subtle but enlightening.”
“Oh, how I enjoyed this one. I couldn’t help but root for the young guy to win the slightly older, slightly more jaded woman’s heart, and Katherine Center makes the whole thing, from beginning to end, a fun ride. I think I needed to hear some of this book’s messages right now, especially the idea of reflecting on three good things at the end of each day. Much of happiness can be about choosing it… “
“There are books you love, and then there are books that make you resent the rest of your life for preventing you from reading. Books that change the way you look at the world around you. Long story short: I loved this book.”
“Much like How to Walk Away, this is a story about a woman discovering just how resilient she is. Sure, there is some romance thrown into the mix, (Jake, swoon.) but it’s not center stage. The focus stays on Helen’s transformation from the beginning to the very end. You root for her, you laugh with her (the subtle humor in this story was brilliant) and you cry with her because you can’t help but feel her pain.”
“I’ve kind of read Center’s books all backwards and haphazardly, but amazingly it’s been the perfect approach to cementing her as an all-time favorite author. That’s a big deal for me, because I really only have a few of those. I keep expecting one of her books to miss the mark, but it just hasn’t happened yet. . . . This story was joy-filled perfection.”
“I just loved rooting for Helen as she fumbled through the wilderness! I need more Katherine Center in my life now.”
“I love E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G about Happiness for Beginners!”
“This is my favorite book of 2018. Funny, insightful and just plain lovely.”
“Katherine Center never disappoints. Her work specifically seeks to broaden the reader’s awareness and understanding of the unexplored and expansive strength, power and authority of love—and she pulls it off—every time.”
“The is the second book by Katherine Center I’ve read and I have officially fallen in love.”
“This book hit a note with me when it comes to returning to a place of contentment. I literally laughed out loud and cried reading the same page. I couldn’t put this one down. Helen is the epitome of so many of us out there! I’m going to find 3 good things today.”
“I loved everything about this book! This is the first book I have read of Katherine’s but it won’t be the last. I loved the characters. The humor was just right!”
“I don’t want to offer any spoilers, so I’m not going to tell you what happens. But I will tell share how reading Happiness for Beginners made me feel: grateful, inspired, hopeful, appreciative, and—I know it sounds over-the-top—happy. It was a story of resilience and courage, of losing and then finding, of being brave in love, and of gaining the wisdom that, deep down, was always a part of you.”
“This is the second novel of hers that I’ve read and the second novel of hers that I’ve loved. It makes me happy to realize I’m smiling and/or crying while I’m reading a book. This is one of those.”
“Wow, this book found me at the exact time I needed it. This was my second Katherine Center book and I’m quickly becoming a big fan of her work.”
“Beyond amazing. Beautiful, inspirational and more. Love and highly recommend.”
“I need a follow up story for Jake and Helen after finishing!! I just need more! This was such a feel good read. I loved all the “Windy wisdom”. This was like reading a fun self help/adventure/romance book, and it was perfect! Their wilderness adventure was exciting and the characters were all so loveable. I cannot wait to read more of Katherine Center’s books!”
“Couldn’t stop reading this book! She is such a great author. My granddaughter asked me to get it because she just loved it. Now that I’m finished I’m missing the characters.”
“Katherine Center loves to sprinkle in meaningful quotes which is something I love about her writing. As soon as I finish one of her books, I want to read it again. I can’t wait to read ALL of her books!”
“I absolutely LOVED this book! This was my second book to read by Katherine Center, and I now plan to read them all. Both of the books were SO great – all the feels. I can’t wait to read more of her books. :)”
“If you are feeling stuck in life, read this book. If you’re throwing yourself a pity party, read this book. If you want to [try to] see the good in every moment, READ THIS BOOK.”
“I have always been a Katherine Center fan, but there are not enough superlatives to describe this novel. It is an amazing work that you will find yourself remembering bits of weeks after you put the book in a bookcase. And yes, this is a book to be saved and savored again and again. Katherine has found her voice and it resonates with women of all ages. It will mean different things to each reader, but everyone will find bits of themselves on the printed pages. Katherine has honed her ability to reach into the depths of women’s unconsciousness and find that soft underbelly we all have. I found myself laughing and crying, often on the same page. But, I was invested. Nothing could break my concentration. My tea went cold, my cats had placed every soft toy at my feet, and my phone had several messages. But, for four hours, all that mattered was this book.”
“Katherine Center does an incredible job of capturing the universal struggle of vulnerability with humor and courage. Fold into this book like you would your favorite chair. It is a delicious treat.”
“This was a fantastic read and one that will be on my favourites shelf and a definite re-read. I highlighted so many lines and paragraphs, I laughed, I cried, but most of all, I loved. I loved this book, loved these characters and now I love this author. I will definitely be checking out her back list and future releases.”
“This was the first Katherine Center book I read, about 6 months ago, and I have already read it again. It is like a sigh of pleasure to read, and I was completely absorbed in the book like I was hearing a story about my possible self or my best friend.”
“I love reading and when I find a treasure like this I want to let the author know of my “approval/happiness” by buying a copy. Or in this case, buying a few copies and sharing them with young adults. It’s a very realistic novel with hope.”
“I love a good journey-story and this was one of the best I’ve read. A girl starting over, takes the trip of a lifetime and finds herself somewhere along the way – doesn’t get better than that for me. But, somehow, this book DOES get even better than that. Helen discovers that she can stand on her own two feet, that she’s strong and capable – and able to love again after a love-gone-bad. I don’t even READ romance novels as a general rule, but I adored the romance in this one and even shed a little bit of happy tears at the end. This is a quick, easy, MUST read – you can’t go wrong!!”
“Amazing book!!!! I recommend reading a Katherine Center book to everyone!!!”
“LOVED this book. Light some candles, crawl into the bubble bath and prepare to lose yourself for the next few hours. I could not put it down and was sad when it was over! Laugh out loud funny and bittersweet at the same time, Happiness for Beginners will does not disappoint. Bravo Ms. Center!!!”
“Starts off juicy, and then gets AMAZINGLY MEANINGFUL in the middle. So inspiring.”
“This is a lovely novel!! I could totally relate to and feel the emotions that Helen expressed!! The character development of everyone else is just perfect!! Thanks, Katherine, for another warm and poignant reading experience!!”
“I loved this book. I read it in one sitting and as I read I kept checking to see how many pages I had left, wishing there were more. Katherine Center is one of my favorite authors. I’ve loved all her books, but this one might be my favorite. Can’t wait for her next one!”
“Fabulous. Center’s best yet. Human, heartwarming and heartbreaking all in one delightful read.”
“Thank you Katherine. Another great read. This author is one of my new favorites. Katherine your sense of humor must be so in sync with mine…. I wish I could invite you to my book club… I’d love to chat over wine! I’m getting my ladies to read one of your books for our next meeting! This book is fantastic. Real characters…real situations… real life…. and a really enjoyable read!”
“Love love love this book. I didn’t want to end. I adore Katherine Center’s writing and her characters who are always so relatable. I started this last night and just couldn’t put it down. You always have to root for Center’s characters and a happy ending. If you haven’t read one of her books, you definitely need to!”
“WoW. Such a heartfelt easy and enjoyable read!! I’m a fan!! I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this book. I found it to be wise and super witty at the same time. I am so looking forward to diving into Katherine Center’s other books. I am hooked! Thank you for this much needed happiness!”
“This is a great motivational read. I love every aspect of this novel and how it spoke to me in more ways than one. It is very entertaining as it is inspiring.”
“It was the most fun I have had reading in years.”
“I love Katherine’s other books and this one is as wonderfully good as they are. Favorite thing? The way she develops the main character to a point where you feel like you are part of her mind.”
“Absolutely loved this book! I honestly couldn’t read it fast enough! In fact, I’m buying it for my daughter because I thought it offered a lot of great insights into being happy.”
“Is there a rating higher than 5 stars? This is the 5th Katherine Center book I have read. I think this one passes How To Walk Away for me. I love the meaning behind the story, the journey to become a stronger person for yourself. The journey to find ways to be happy. It was amazingly written.”
“This is such a fabulous book – so funny & endearing, and a great love story. And on top of that, it was inspiring – made me want to be a kinder, more thoughtful version of myself.”
“Crying tears of joy and now sadness that this book is over. I loved every bit of Happiness for Beginners. Thank you Katherine Center for the best summer reading ever!”
“It’s a funny read as all of Katherine’s books are. She has a great wit.”
“Personal growth, happiness, healing, humor, and love, with a wilderness adventure thrown in; this book was all that and more. I highly recommend this brilliant novel to women’s fiction fans. Now I’m off to read all of Katherine Center’s other books!”
“5 glowing, laughing,crying, wonderful, all-time-favourite stars. I loved, LOVED, loved this book so much! I had to create a new Goodreads shelf for it: all-time-favourite! I laughed A LOT…then I cried a bit and then I laughed while I was crying. I learned to look at things a different, better way. And while I did I had the greatest time ever.”
“5 Feel-Good Book Stars! I borrowed this book from the library but it’s one that will find a home on my bookshelf so I can open it at any time and read a page here and there whenever I want. This is a story where I always want to remember it ALL. The only thing I regret is not savoring it longer, I just couldn’t put it down.”
“I was feeling a little anxious and restless, and I couldn’t find inner peace or calm. That’s when I knew it was time to read this amazing book again. For the fourth time. The moment I opened it and started reading, I had this feeling of ‘ahhhh, this is good and just what I needed.’ Every time I read this, I go on the journey along with Helen. From her reflections, I reflect on my own thoughts, life and happiness, and I get inspired to exercise my appreciation. Throw in witty and great writing, great characters, wilderness setting, a beautiful cover and a bit of romance, and you get, in my opinion, a fantastic book.”
“Read this on my Girls Trip Weekend, and my pals commented on how unusually quiet I was poolside and had never seen me “so totally absorbed by a book”. It’s true. I couldn’t put down this enchanting story. Highly recommended for those looking to smile as pages are turned and don’t mind the pitter-patter of the heart and then looking up and realizing that the entire afternoon had completely gotten away from you.”
“Added this to my top ten ever fiction books list. Fantastic story and writing. It made me both laugh and cry. I’m planning to read everything else she’s written now.”
“Surprised me from the beginning and held my attention till the last page. I honestly couldn’t put it down. Center writes of love and adventure with such a pure truth and believe. Every page placed me right in the center of the story. It left me with a desire to find my own life changing crazy adventure.”
“This book was a true joy to read. I found myself cheering for Helen as she navigated life being newly divorced and trying to find her way. She ended up surprising herself numerous times, and I enjoyed the journey.”
“My second read by Katherine Center, and I have definitely found a new favorite author! I won’t even bother with descriptions of this book, just pick it up and read it people! It was just as enjoyable as ‘How To Walk Away’ if not more so. I am now in search of the other books she has written. I hope Ms Center has many books left in her!”
Interviews / Q&A’s
Houston Matters producer Michael Hagerty asks Center why and about why we often look to the outdoors to help us find ourselves.
KC: “There’s a lot of me in Helen, and this is one of those things! One thing she needs to learn to do in this book is to savor the good things around her—even if she can’t fix or eliminate the bad. That’s a lesson I’ve been working on my whole life. “
KC: “I am far more interested in the ways we pull ourselves together than in the ways we fall apart. I think a lot of writers are afraid of happy endings — afraid they won’t be taken seriously, or they’ll seem false. As a culture, we’re deeply mistrustful of happy endings in stories, as if we’re foolish to long for them or enjoy them, as if there’s nothing meaningful to take from the joys of life. But I disagree. Good things do happen — all the time. I don’t want to live a life that ignores them or write stories that ignore them.”
KC: “I came across an idea once that people go to nonfiction to learn things, but people go to fiction to feel things. (That’s the great Dwight V. Swain, by the way.) It’s an idea I’ve thought about a lot since. What do I want to feel when I read a novel? Because you can only write the story you long to read. On some level, all of us who love fiction are looking for something that makes us feel alive. But for me, I find I’m mostly drawn to stories that are a pleasure to read, ones I look forward to coming back to when I have to set them down, ones that make me curious and eager to turn the pages and keep me up past my bedtime.”
KC: “Write the story you want to read. Not the story you think your smart friend wants to read. Or the story you think will impress your writing group. Or the story you think will be a bestseller. Write the story that your own inner reader would love more than anything to curl up with for an afternoon. There are infinite stories you could write. The real question is, which one is yours?”
Features / Mentions
The Perfect Party :: Houstonia Magazine
Wiring Your Brain For Happiness :: Deseret News