It pains me to say it, but I listen to podcasts more than I listen to music. Sure, I LOVE music and there are times I just want to belt it out with the best of them, but when I’m at work, I need some talking in my ear. And one of my newest discoveries is By the Book. Is it a podcast about books?! The ultimate thing we’re looking for here at That’s Normal. Sort of…
By The Book
By the Book is a podcast about self-help books. I can see your mouse slowly tracking up to the X button on this tab, but hear me out.
I am not a fan of self-help books. If they work for you, more power to you, but I find them to be a load of malarky. In this podcast, the hosts – Kristen Meinzer and Jolenta Greenberg explore them from both sides – optimistic and staunchly scornful. Each week they pick a self-help book, read it, and have to live by the book for two weeks. They have to follow the rules, repeat the mantras, and ~better themselves~. And at the end, they tell listeners if they would recommend it or not. Kristen finds most self-help books to be nonsense, and Jolenta is usually enticed and optimistic about a book’s impact. Their banter makes for fun conversation, and it usually leads to some insightful observations about self-worth, confidence, and being true to your beliefs.
Here are a few of my favorite episodes to start you out.
Girl, Wash Your Face
In one of their most recent episodes, Kristen and Jolenta take on Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis. To start: that’s way too long of a title. I haven’t read this book, but I have read about this book, and I am not a fan. Rachel Hollis is an author, speaker, blogger, runs a party-planning company (or something to that effect), and an Instagram account full of “curated imperfection” (this term coined by Laura Turner in her really interesting article about this book for Buzzfeed. Read it!) I don’t buy any of it.
In this book, she encourages readers to stop lying to themselves. Apparently, we’re all lying to ourselves all the time! Who knew! Kristen and Jolenta take this book down and call out some of the privileges that Rachel Hollis speaks with. She’s a rich, white woman, and it shows. That’s not to say she hasn’t faced hardships, but it’s a little condescending to essentially say that lies are what are holding us back.
For example: “You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are.”
Ok, sure I can decide to be happy in the face of strife, blah, blah, blah, but there are some precursors that belie being happy. Do I have a roof over my head? Am I healthy and cared for? Do I face racial bias every single day? A lot of us don’t have to answer to these questions, so happiness comes easier. But there are still a lot of others who do, and just deciding to be happy won’t change that. The idea just reeks of privilege, and Kristen and Jolenta address that.
It’s a divisive book, and worth the discussion it can generate. This podcast helped me sort through it.
The Five Love Languages
I’m a member of Bachelor Nation, so I’ve been intrigued by this book for a while. I haven’t actually read it, because of my own personal shame, but this episode made me want to. If you’re unfamiliar, there are apparently five ~love languages~ or ways in which we give and receive love (quality time, gifts, acts of service, touch, and words of affirmation). The book includes a quiz to figure out what your language is and how to interpret it and the other four languages you might encounter in the wild. Like I said, I haven’t read the book, but my guess is that my language is quality time and my boyfriend’s is touch. In theory, we could read this book and better understand each other. Will I get him to read this? Doubtful, but can I make him listen to me talk about it thirdhand for a good hour? I can talk and he can pretend to listen – works for me.
Out of all the books that the By the Book gals have reviewed, this one received a pretty good response. Trying harder to understand where your partner is coming from can never be a bad thing.
The Curated Closet
This is a book I hadn’t heard of before listening to By the Book, and now I’m considering seeking it out. The title explains it pretty well – think of your closet as a museum of you. Is it representing you well? The Curated Closet helps you to define your style goals and achieve them. It claims that your style is your own, and there’s no wrong style, but what’s important is making sure your style is an extension of yourself.
Kristen and Jolenta both loved this book, which I think is a first for the episodes I’ve listened to. They both wholeheartedly recommended it and planned to continue their ~style journies~. I’m someone who considers myself passably fashionable, but even just listening to other people discuss this book had me thinking I might be wrong. The goal of the book is to define your style, for instance, 70s Glam Minimalism, or The Technicolor Rainbows of Zooey Pillsbury, or anything in between. Right now, I don’t think I could do that…there isn’t one overarching theme to my style. Some days I put in a decent amount of effort…and others I try to pass leggings for pants at my office job. I’m thinking I need this book…
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
This is another self-help book I’ve been curious about since I first heard about it. I’m not the tidiest person ever, – more like one of those organized chaos types of people – but I try to be. I’m an interior designer, so I should definitely be better about this because I do care a lot about what my space looks like. That being said, I live in a shared apartment so I don’t have all that much control.
Well, after listening to this episode, I can assure you this is a book I will NOT be reading. I love purging old clothes, things I don’t use, or that take up too much space, so I’m into the idea of paring down what you own and keeping only the things that make you happy, but it’s the rest of Marie Kondo’s KonMari theory that I can’t get behind. Keep your sponge and all other kitchen trinkets in drawers until you need them? Empty your purse every night only to refill it in the morning? Not happening. I want to be tidy, but I also want the things I own to be convenient for me. Because I know I will spend a half hour looking for my purse the next morning when I inevitably forget where I tucked it away.
Living by this book seemed to add strain to both Kristen and Jolenta’s marriages. Turns out, we all want sponges to be right there when we need them. Being tidy isn’t worth all the stress and annoyance to me. I’ll stick with my cleaning ritual where I go crazy cleaning, and then watch it all crumble around me as I do other, more important things like go to work and then come home and watch Shark Tank for four hours…
Whether you live by self-help books or think they’re all codswallop, this podcast is fun. Who knows, it could lead you down a road to self-discovery and you could become an amazing person. Not that you’re not already.
But as they say, new year, new you. While your resolutions are still on your mind, it could be fun to find your new mantra, discover that you’ve been constantly lying to yourself or learn how to live in a minimalist sanctuary. Or, you can just listen to all these crazy ideas and laugh. That’s my usual reaction.