For What It's Worth

Thursday, June 8, 2023

How to Be Fine: What We Learned Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg , Kristen Meinzer

A humorous and insightful look into what advice works, what doesn’t, and what it means to transform yourself, by the co-hosts of the popular By the Book podcast.

In each episode of their podcast By the Book, Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer take a deep dive into a different self-help book, following its specific instructions, rules, and advice to the letter. From diet and productivity to decorating to social interactions, they try it all, record themselves along the way, then share what they’ve learned with their devoted and growing audience of fans who tune in.

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. Thanks to the show, Kristen penned the Amish romance novel she’d always joked about writing, traveled back to her past lives, and she broached some difficult conversations with her husband about their marriage. Jolenta finally memorized her husband’s phone number, began tracking her finances, and fell in love with cutting clutter.

In How to Be Fine, Jolenta and Kristen synthesize the lessons and insights they’ve learned and share their experiences with everyone. How to Be Fine is a thoughtful look at the books and practices that have worked, real talk on those that didn’t, and a list of philosophies they want to see explored in-depth. The topics they cover include:

Getting off your device
Engaging in positive self-talk
Admitting you’re a liar
Going outside
Getting in touch with your emotions
Seeing a therapist

Part memoir, part prescriptive handbook, this honest, funny, and heartfelt guide is like a warm soul-baring conversation with your closest and smartest friends.from Living 

Source: Library Audiobook via Hoopla

The Bookpusher: Lauren from Shooting Stars blog after seeing her Instagram post about the book.

Review: Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer host the By the Book (& now the How to Be Fine) podcasts where they follow a self help book for 2 weeks then break it down and discussing the pros and cons of each book.

Personally, I am not a fan of self-help books. I find most authors make too many promises like - THIS IS THE ONE BOOK TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE. If that were the case there would not be approximately 1 bajillion diets and self-help books. And most authors, if successful, end up making a franchise out of whatever slogan they're selling. Which again, to me, if it works so well why am I still spending more money to make it work? It is a multi-million dollar industry after all. If you don't have a problem - they don't make $$. 

Having said that, I have been reading more about my anxiety and have found several books, podcasts and youtuber's that have been an enormous help. I also believe that what doesn't/does work for me might not be the same for someone else. So, I was really curious to read about two women who were going into this endeavor open minded and from differing backgrounds.

How to Be Fine is broken down into three sections:

Part 1: Thirteen Things That Worked (acts of kindness, positive self talk, get off your device...)

Part 2:Eight Things That Didn't Work: (meditation, wake up early, forgive...)

Part 3: Eight Things We Wish Were More Books Included (stop comparing yourself to others, do things in chunks, make friends with your body...)

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The authors have a nice casual, talking with friends vibe. They were (very) open with their personal stories to show how the different advice either did or didn't work for them. Each subject ends with a letter from a listener disagreeing with or questioning their outcome to which they address. Basically, their response was always - you do you Boo 😜 They were never pushy about anything - this was just their experience. 

For example, things that required self pampering alone time were horrible for extroverted Kristen - who derives restoration and energy from spending a lot of time with people. While Jolenta, an introvert, reveled in self care. 

It was funny because Jolenta is more of the "believer" going in and, honestly, got the most out of the advice from what I can tell, but ended up more skeptical of self-help books, overall. 

They bounce around the different books (& their POV'S) and I found that to be a bit of a bummer. There was kind of shorthand in discussing some of the books as if the reader has read or knows the rules of them all. I haven't read any of them so I didn't always understand the basic premise of the books they were discussing - even though I'm aware of several like - Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus, Marie Kondo, Rachel Hollis. They do dig deeper into some more than others. 

It's a nice way to learn about the various books and authors though if you wanted to read them later. 

What I didn't love as much was Part 3 where they discuss what they wish self-help books did include. I absolutely agreed with each of their points but this is where they let loose the most and spent more time slamming books/methods or basically giving their own self-help advice. Again, there was not one thing I didn't agree with them on but this section felt more like a rant.

I did like how they acknowledge that most self-help books are about gaining more *things*, are targeted at people who mostly are doing ok but are still unhappy, and don't take into account the real bias's or disabilities. And as sexual abuse survivors - they call out how so many of the books want you to forgive and take on the blame for any of the bad things in your life as a way to move forward but I agree - a lot of these books don't take into account real trauma.
The book is very short (I think about 200 pages in paperback?) - I listened to it in just a few hours so it's fun for it's intended purpose. It would probably mean more if you read self-help books but it did help me to find their podcast, which I love!

Good for fans of self-help books or those who aren't but are still curious about some of them really do have any value.


  1. I'm not a fan of self-help books either, and I think the people they "help" don't really need help. My son took a class about stress. It wasn't about reliving stress; it was a biology class about what stress is and how it manifests itself in different groups of people. He said the class should be mandatory for every college student. I helped him study for tests and I wholeheartedly agree. That class would put a lot of self-help authors across a lot of self-help categories out of business. 😏

    I'm happy to hear this book called out the "it's your own fault" authors. πŸ‘

    1. I think every person has what works for them. I know several people that were helped by and love self-help books but, for me, learning the science of anxiety was life-changing and did more for me than any yoga/mediation, just breathe stuff.

      And now I get the why of deep breathing and all that because I understand the science it's based on - not a character trait or flaw of not relaxing right or whatever.

      The bigger problem I have with self-help books right now is that most are influencers not really living with they preach or portray and people feel like failures if they can't do the same. Which this book calls out.

  2. This sounds very interesting. I'm always skeptical about self-help books and the people who write them. Some things should not/cannot be forgiven and I choose to thrive on spite.

    1. I don't mind them, mostly. I've listened toa few about anxiety that have been very helpful BUT I'm wary of any that propose to be THE answer to life's problems. People are so different in how they process things and they never really know the readers background. So to just make blanket statements and if it doesn't work for you - you're doing it wrong - pisses me off.

      Then you find out so many of these people are not living these perfect lives either.

      If forgiving helps you fine but to say that's the answer...I don't think so. I think you have to come to some place where you can move on but people who hurt you don't deserve it IMO. I know it's for me, not them, but I do better cutting them out and moving on lol

  3. It's interesting that the authors chose to spend time critiquing other books. Seems like a waste to me. Glad you mostly enjoyed this

    1. That's their whole podcast. They follow a self help book to the letter for two weeks then discuss. The book is kind of summary of those books broken down into what worked and what didn't.

  4. My mom had self help books like Norman Vincent PEale or whoever growing up. I always wonderee but am naturally skeptical of such things. This sounds really interesting though although I found the other comments super interesting as well! Is forgiveness overrated? Very possibly. The older I get the more I realize- some toxic people just need to be let go.

    1. My dad had that one! lol It's a great discussion question - I think hanging on to anger isn't good for you but I also don't think it means you have to forgive anyone (especially in abusive situations) in order to heal or move on. Realizing the toxic person is bad for you and cutting them out works just as IMO lol

  5. Arghhh did blogger ate my comment!?
    No self help of or me is the short answer lol

    1. You are here! I'm not a fan either. Especially anything that pronounces themselves as the *one cure* for whatever problem.

  6. I'm glad you liked this one overall. I do wish they'd explained more about some of these books too. I like some self-help books because I find them fascinating, but I don't necessarily follow the advice. Learning the science behind certain things is really cool though!

    Lauren @

    1. Thanks for the rec Lauren! I did like how their personalities influenced the outcome. I'm horrible with anything that requires lists and organizing, like Kristen. It has the complete opposite effect on me. But it's helpful for so many and they respected each other for that.
      I've been reading about the science of my anxiety and it's been life changing so I do appreciate when they delve into those aspects in self-help books.

      I'm just mostly wary of ones that describe their methods as the only one and if it doesn't work it's because you aren't doing it right. Which these two addressed.