Cover image for How to be fine : what we learned from living by the rules of 50 self-help books
How to be fine : what we learned from living by the rules of 50 self-help books
1st ed.
Physical Description:
xii, 239 pages ; 22 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Things that worked -- Things that didn't work -- Things we wish more books recommended.
A humorous and insightful look into what it means to transform yourself, by the co-hosts of the popular (and industry favorite) By the Book podcast. --


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 158.1 GRE 0 1
Book 158.1 GRE 0 1
Book 158.1 GRE 0 1
Book 158.1 GRE 0 1
Book 158.1 GRE 0 2
Book 158.1 GRE 0 1

On Order



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.

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

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.

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

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Greenberg and Meinzer distill what they learned from following the advice of 50 self-help books for the By the Book podcast in this grounded, large-hearted work. Greenberg, who admits a long-standing fascination with self-help titles, and Meinzer, who has more skepticism, adhered to the rules of each book for two weeks and then shared the outcomes with listeners. They open with 13 pieces of advice that improved their lives, including positive self-talk, making concrete and direct apologies, finding time for emotional recharge, and actively preparing for death. As they describe the self-help books, they provide just enough detail to convey what the authors of each preach. Their criticism of eight tactics that made them anxious or frustrated contains typical beefs about dieting and surprising inclusions such as meditation and unlimited forgiveness. They also rightly question self-help authors who suggest a trick that worked for them would apply universally. To close, they outline eight lessons they wished they had found more of among the books they selected, including recognizing the power and beauty of one's body and being willing to enter therapy or use medication. Greenberg and Meinzer craft a welcoming tone and strike a perfect balance between sharing their traumas and folding in amusing anecdotes. This will delight fans of self-help books and encourage even the hardest cynics to reconsider the genre. Agent: Liz Parker, Verve. (Mar.)

Kirkus Review

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. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Greenberg and Meinzer know something about self-help books. As hosts for the podcast By the Book, the two have dedicated two weeks each to the advice of more than 50 self-help books. These include many best-sellers, such as Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus (1992) by John Gray, The Secret (2006) by Rhoda Byrne, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2014) by Marie Kondo, and French Women Don't Get Fat (2004) by Mireille Guiliano as well as lesser-known titles. They cover a wide range of topics, from relationships to clutter, money management, meditation, saving the world, and preparing to die. In alternating chapters, Greenberg and Meinzer sort the advice into three categories, "Things that worked," "Things that didn't work," and "Things we wish more books would recommend." They are honest about the lessons they learned as well as the ones they just couldn't fit into their lives. Coverage of the individual books is by necessity brief, so this will be easier to follow for listeners to their podcast or devoted self-help fans. But even newbies to the genre will enjoy their humorous, clear-eyed views.

Library Journal Review

Building on the premise of their podcast By the Book, in which they fully immersed themselves in different self-help books, then shared what works and doesn't, coauthors Greenberg and Meinzer report on their findings. Comedian Greenberg wanted to believe in the promises made in the various how-tos, while Meinzer, former director of nonfiction for Panoply Media, was more skeptical. They present their findings in a mix of memoir and prescriptive handbook-style writing, discussing advice that worked--committing acts of kindness, decluttering, engaging in positive self-talk--and ideas that didn't--waking up early, meditating, and defining people by gender. Greenberg and Meinzer offer up universal foibles with a sense of humor and encourage readers to explore an array of avenues to self-improvement. VERDICT Funny and wise, this will be particularly helpful to aficionados of the personal growth genre.