About mini reviews:
Maybe you’re not an audio book person, or maybe you are. I provide mini reviews of audio books and give a recommendation on the format. Was this book improved by a voice actor? Would a physical copy have been better? Perhaps they complement each other? Read on. . .
As podcasts become more popular, I imagine we’ll seen an uptick in podcast hosts writing books. Some translate into text, while others lose the magic of hearing another person. While I’ve never listened to By the Book, a podcast for which Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer read a self-help book and follow the instructions for two weeks, that didn’t lessen my enjoyment of How to Be Fine: What We Learned From Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books.
The authors narrate the book themselves, going back and forth in a way that made the text sound like a podcast — therefore, I recommend the audiobook. In fact, I couldn’t imagine what How to Be Fine even looked like on page if it didn’t have dialogue tags, though Hannah @ Books and Bakes recommends it. Perhaps the audiobook is altered to sound like a podcast? Both authors read clearly and insert inflections that make their personalities come across clearly.
The content is broken into three sections: what self-help advice worked, what didn’t, and what they wish authors would cover in self-help books. Greenberg and Meinzer take turns reading chapters, narrating the ones that cover more about themselves, such as when Meinzer followed French Women Don’t Get Fat and completely fell back into disordered-eating behaviors from which she suffered as a teen and young woman. Greenberg covered a chapter about comparisons and expectations when she described her pretty-princess wedding, which made her feel like a fraud because she and her now-husband had such an unconventional beginning to their relationship: years of friends with benefits and on again/off again commitment.
In fact, it was only in Greenberg’s description of why her relationship is so messed up that I regretted listening to. After she explains a transaction that I found so disgusting I went and dry-heaved in the bathroom for ten minutes, I had to chug Pepto and think happy-fluffy-bunny thoughts to get it out of my head. Had I read the text version, I would have immediately skipped Greenberg’s evidence for why her relationship is so messed up, but I didn’t — it’s an audiobook and I didn’t realize how bad it would get.
You may ask why people don’t listen to the podcast instead of reading or listening to How to be Fine. Chapters are broken into topics, like gratitude and mediation, and the authors are able to synthesize what they learned from different books and comment on one concept in the self-help community as a whole, noting where some authors got it right and where others failed. What you get is a sort of “greatest hits” of self-help instead of a detailed exploration of the maxims in one self-help tome.
Overall, I was glad I listened to How to Be Fine (other than the part of which I shall not speak). As someone who thought all self-help books are a scam, it was reassuring to hear about ways people demonstrate gratitude, kindness, and learn more about what they don’t want to do through reading books that tell them what to do. Even more interesting, the authors cover why people seek out self-help books and explore how they gained empathy by trying out the varieties of lifestyles and advice.