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.”


  • 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.”



    “Center has written a wonderful story, a fast-paced read with sharp, perfectly written dialogue."


  • 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.”


  • #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.


 *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

“Center takes readers on a funny, surprising and insightful journey through stunning scenery and into the hearts of characters who are confused, occasionally immature and, just as often, genuinely courageous.”
—RT Book Reviews
“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 and Hunger Point

“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


Blog Reviews

Brené Brown

“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.”

The Bloggess

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.”

Jane Estes

“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.”

Life Between Reads

“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.”

Girl In Nashville

“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.”

5 Minutes for Books

“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.”

My Life With Bradley Cooper

“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.”

Angie Mizzell

“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.”

Charlotte’s Web of Books

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!”

Book Mama

“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. “

Books Are My Thing

“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.”

ReaderBuzz: Sunday Salon

“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.”

The Book Chick

“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.”

Morning Light Mama

“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… “

Interviews / Q&A’s

Houston NPR

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.”

The Girlfriends’ Book Club

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.”

1/2 DOZEN (questions) with Julianna Baggott

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

InStyle Book Club: 7 Page-Turning Picks to Read This April

The Houston Press

The Perfect Party :: Houstonia Magazine

Wiring Your Brain For Happiness :: Deseret News