“How to Be Fine”: Some Self-Help Books OK, Some Not

If we ever needed such advice it’s now. Co-hosts of the By the Book podcast Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer are now the co-authors of How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books.

Do self-help books really help? The authors try a whole bunch out and draw conclusions on topics such as diet, meditation, and even going to therapy.

A little background from the publisher of How to Be Fine:

Before they began their podcast, Jolenta wanted to believe the promises of self-help books, while Kristen was very much the skeptic. They embraced their differences of opinion, hoping they’d be good for laughs and downloads. But in the years since launching the By the Book, they’ve come to realize their show is about much more than humor. In fact, reading and following each book’s advice has actually changed and improved their lives.

More from Kirkus Reviews:

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.

According to Publishers Weekly, the 13 helpful bits included “positive self-talk, making concrete and direct apologies, finding time for emotional recharge, and actively preparing for death.” Among the eight improvements they wish they’d seen were “recognizing the power and beauty of one’s body and being willing to enter therapy or use medication.”

In particular, Greenberg is a big proponent of therapy, as evidenced by this recent Tweet excerpt: I talk about how much I love therapy so often that my own therapist has told me to talk about it less on social media! (Sorry girl, still clearly working on these boundary issues…)

Kate Manne, author of Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny: “I’ve long been a huge fan of Jolenta and Kristen podcast By the Book, a sharp, hilarious, and intersectional feminist take on a feminine-coded genre that’s often dismissed out of hand: self-help books. Now, we all get to enjoy their wisdom, wit, and discernment distilled into this fabulous book-length exploration of what they learned from living by the rules of fifty self-help books. If you too want to be fine, read this book!”

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