Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me’ |

Aspen Times Weekly book review: ‘Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me’

by Brooke Lefferts for The Associated Press
This book cover image released by Ballantine Books shows "Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time," by Rachel Bertsche. (AP Photo/Ballantine Books)
AP | Ballantine Books

“Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time”

by Rachel Bertsche

Ballantine Books

Author and celebrity-watcher Rachel Bertsche spent nearly a year emulating the lifestyles of several famous female stars, seeking contentment, productivity and better arms.

Her new book, “Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time,” is “The Happiness Project” meets People magazine.

Most celebrities are graced with devotees and burdened with haters, and this book — like the A-listers it covers — will likely face both. Some will hail it as a fun, thought-provoking, self-improvement memoir, while critics may call it self-indulgent and shallow.

There may be some readers who find the idea of taking life advice from celebrities questionable, but Berstche — a journalist and former editor at Oprah Winfrey’s magazine — creates a voice that is self-deprecating and relatable

Throughout the book, Bertsche asks why women (including herself) are fascinated by celebrities and often see them as role models. Each of the eight chapters focuses on one celebrity’s particular assets and expertise, in an area the author would like to tackle to lift her self-esteem.

Bertsche is thoughtful about her goals in the project, honest about her successes and failures, and reflective about the results.

Bertsche’s experiment also suggests that even the fabulous are flawed. When trying to follow Gwyneth Paltrow’s food rules and cooking techniques, Bertsche points out the unrealistic amount of time and money the actress’ habits require, and fails her seven-day detox cleanse after two days of drinking a smoothie that tastes like “sweet earwax.”

The book would have more teeth if Bertsche had been able to interview any of the celebrities she writes about to get their take on whether their choices and routines actually lead to happiness. Instead, she relies on Google searches, magazine interviews and many assumptions for information.

Woven into the narrative of her celebrity makeover, Bertsche shares intimate details, including her determination to get pregnant despite fertility problems. Although she knows she has much to be thankful for in her life, her candor about her professional and personal disappointments adds another layer to her story.

Bertsche says her efforts have made her feel like a better version of herself. Sure, it took a little navel gazing and celebrity worship to get there, but maybe that’s what self-help for the selfie generation looks like. If you’ve ever had a celebrity girl crush, stick “Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me” in your beach bag. Bertsche is your people.

Aspen Times Weekly

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