cover image 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

Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer. HarperCollins, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-295719-1

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.)