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HOW TO BE FINE by Jolenta Greenberg


What We Learned From Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books

by Jolenta Greenberg & Kristen Meinzer

Pub Date: March 17th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-06-295719-1
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

The hosts of a popular podcast series write about their experiences living by self-help books.

In each episode of the podcast By the Book, Brooklyn-based hosts Greenberg and Meinzer (So You Want To Start a Podcast, 2019) take listeners through the ups and downs of living by the prescriptive rules of their mutually assigned self-help books. The books represent a range of commercially relevant topics, from dieting to financial savings to the mystically aspirational. Within each two-week run, the hosts discuss possible insights gleaned as well as individual challenges, and they relate how their experiences may have affected their relationships with their spouses or friends. Humor is also important, hence the inclusion of occasional chestnuts such as Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints. In this book, the authors approximate the breezily chatty voice of their podcast, and they break it down into thematic sections: “13 Things That Worked,” “8 Things That Didn’t Work,” and “8 Things We Wish More Books Recommended.” The workable tasks included learning to declutter (Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) and preparing for death (The Art of Dying Well). Among the books that didn’t work were dieting books and works stressing the need for forgiveness, such as The Four Agreements. Throughout, the authors offer subjective commentary, more often triggered by specific impulses rather than the quality of the work they’ve chosen to live by that week. In the final section, they expand beyond specific books and delve into more personal issues. Greenberg advocates for talk therapy and medication (in her case, for treating ADHD), and Meinzer, “a world-class procrastinator,” advises accomplishing goals by approaching them in chunks. Though both offer some valid advice, neither seems aware of the many notable books on these topics already available. For their avid listeners, there isn’t much in the way of new information or insights about the books or the hosts, and readers not familiar with the podcast don’t gain an understanding of why they approached this subject in the first place.

A rehash of the podcast that may interest established fans.