Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Life in Five Senses - Nonfiction Review

Goodreads:  Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World by Gretchen Rubin

Rating: Really Liked It (4 Stars)
Source:   Publisher

Description:  For more than a decade, Gretchen Rubin had been studying happiness and human nature. Then, one day, a visit to her eye doctor made her realize that she’d been overlooking a key element of happiness: her five senses. She’d spent so much time stuck in her head that she’d allowed the vital sensations of life to slip away, unnoticed. This epiphany lifted her from a state of foggy preoccupation into a world rediscovered by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.

In this journey of self-experimentation, Rubin explores the mysteries and joys of the five senses as a path to a happier, more mindful life. Drawing on cutting-edge science, philosophy, literature, and her own efforts to practice what she learns, she investigates the profound power of tuning in to the physical world.

From the simple pleasures of appreciating the magic of ketchup and adding favorite songs to a playlist, to more adventurous efforts like creating a daily ritual of visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art and attending Flavor University, Rubin show us how to experience each day with depth, delight, and connection. In the rush of daily life, she finds, our five senses offer us an immediate, sustainable way to cheer up, calm down, and engage the world around us—as well as a way to glimpse the soul and touch the transcendent.

Life in Five Senses is an absorbing, layered story of discovery filled with profound insights and practical suggestions about how to heighten our senses and use our powers of perception to live fuller, richer lives—and, ultimately, how to move through the world with more vitality and love.

Genre: Nonfiction  

Why I Picked This Book:  I really loved Rubin's The Happiness Project and it's been a long time since I've read anything by her.

My Impression:  While I had really enjoyed a previous book of Rubin's I wasn't sure what to expect from this book.  What could possibly be said about the five senses that would be interesting enough for a full book.  Turns out quite a lot!  

After becoming aware that she is more at risk for retinal detachment because of her very poor eye sight (I fall into this camp as well so this really caught my attention!) Rubin becomes aware of how little she's really been paying attention to the world around her and all the sensations that flow past her with little to no acknowledgement. She develops a plan to tackle each sense at a time and isolate and fully experience each sense over a period of time.  Her primary framework is to visit one place every day for a year and experience it through the lens of all her different senses.  

I really love how the author tackles her challenges.  All of her projects are something that anyone could implement (with some alterations - I can't visit the Met everyday but I could visit the library or some place local to myself for example) and I usually find myself eager to implement them myself.  For sight she begins to collect items of a particular color and for taste she and her husband and friends have blind taste tests of single ingredients to truly isolate what they're tasting.  I suddenly want to start going on shopping quests for single color items (my color would be peridot) and buying 6 different types of mustards to truly taste them.  I'm not sure I will do either of these things but it is fun to think about.

This is an interesting read about how our senses allow us to experience the world around us and how they interact with each other.  I found myself thinking about how I interact with the world as Rubin goes through each sense and I enjoyed this book from start to finish.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Definitely!  She has published several books that I've yet to read and after how much I enjoyed this one I will definitely be looking for future books by her.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would!  This was an interesting look at how we experience the world around us.  

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *


  1. Oh interesting. I know she was so excited about this one (her podcast). So I read every word of your review with interest because like you I'd thought well what could be interesting about the five senses. Sounds like its actually a thought provoking book.

  2. This sounds incredibly interesting! I love books that can make you think like this one.

  3. Sounds like a really interesting book.

  4. Interesting! The older I get the more scents and taste catch my attention. 🤗