How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books (Paperback)
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
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.
About the Author
Jolenta Greenberg is a comedian, podcaster, pop culture commentator, and self-proclaimed reality television historian. As a performer, her stand-up and storytelling have been featured all over NYC. She's a Moth StorySLAM winner and from 2014-2016 she held a comedic residency at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn. Her credits include hosting Stitcher's By The Book; story editing for Risk! Hosted by Kevin Allison, and producing for Freakonomics Radio. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Kristen Meinzer is a podcast host, producer, and former director of nonfiction programming for Slate’s sister company, Panoply. Her hosting credits include Stitcher/Panoply’s By the Book, Stitcher’s We Love You (And So Can You), CNN’s Decades of Movies podcast, Panoply’s When Meghan Met Harry, and WNYC/PRI’s Movie Date. Her producing credits include Happier with Gretchen Rubin, The Sporkful, Food 52’s Burnt Toast, Girlboss Radio, and other award-winning shows. Kristen’s work has been celebrated in Time, the Washington Post, Bust, Buzzfeed, the Evening Standard, Real Simple, Indiewire, and dozens of other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
[A] grounded, large-hearted work . . . 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.
— Publishers Weekly
“A hilarious, charming, and totally unique take on life, friendship, and self-help.”
Kristen Johnston, Emmy-winning star of 3rd Rock From the Sun, and author of Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster
“Read this book, take a breath, and feel fine. Jolenta and Kristen are so forthright, funny, and wise that you can’t help but be won over by them. Plus, there is honest-to-goodness practical advice here that can help you live a better life.”
— Celeste Headlee, host of Retro Report on PBS and author of We Need to Talk
“Jolenta and Kristen are the mythbusters, guinea pigs, and guides you can trust to sort the Big Self-Help trash from treasure. Now they’ve created a hilariously relatable how-to for navigating the sprawling world of self-help and trends with equal parts hope and skepticism. Whether you’re looking for an entertaining route through the genre, or just reassurance that you’re not the only one who falls apart sometimes, How to Be Fine will make you feel better.”
— Caroline Ervin and Cristen Conger, founders of Unladylike Media and authors of Unladylike: A Field Guide to Smashing the Patriarchy and Claiming Your Space
“The great tragedy of my life is that Jolenta and Kristen have solved all the problems, and there are none left for me to fix!”
— E. Jean Carroll author of What Do We Need Men For? and Elle magazine’s Ask E. Jean column
“Calling all skeptics and true believers—Jolenta and Kristen live and learn so we don’t have to! Seriously, they are the dreamiest tour guides one could have on a self-help journey. So much humor, heart, and honesty throughout—you’ll be rewarded with tons of concrete tips and heart-stopping moments of genuine soul -searching.”
— Michele Siegel, producer of the podcasts Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert and Dear Sugars
“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!”
— Kate Manne, author of Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny
As someone who is both deeply skeptical of the self-help genre and also in need of . . . so much help, this book was perfect for me. Jolenta and Kristen are doing God’s work, and I’m an atheist!
— John Early, comedian
Greenberg and Meinzer know something about self-help books. . . . The two have dedicated two weeks each to the advice of more than 50 self-help books. . . . They are honest about the lessons they learned as well as the ones they just couldn’t fit into their lives. . . . Even newbies to the genre will enjoy their humorous, clear-eyed views.
Greenberg and Meinzer offer up universal foibles with a sense of humor and encourage readers to explore an array of avenues to self-improvement. . . . Funny and wise, this will be particularly helpful to aficionados of the personal growth genre.
— Library Journal