Book Review: Better Than Before

UnknownI loved both of Gretchen Rubin’s “project” books (The Happiness Project, Happier at Home) and Better Than Before is a fantastic addition to the collection.  Here, Rubin explores the question, “How do we make (and keep) habits that work for us?” She shares her research and personal experience after trying pretty much every habit making/breaking technique out there. The results are funny, wise, sometimes poignant, and interesting.

My favorite part of this book is how she continues to personalize the research – she tries everything and is candid about the many ways her experiences deviate from expectation. A life rule she came up with in her first book is “Be Gretchen,” and that gets plenty of play here as she realizes that what works for others doesn’t necessarily work for her. One of my favorite quotes:

“Before I started researching habits, I’d assumed I was fairly average; in fact, I’d come to realize, I’m fairly freakish. Not everyone is like me.”

Most of us are surprised to realize that people we like and respect can be so very different from us; Rubin does a great job describing that dynamic and how it’s softened her approach to conversations about things like how to be happy and how to form or break certain habits.  And as a reader, it’s nice to see that she doesn’t expect all of us to approach these things as she does.

One thing to note: this is more of a memoir than a “how-to” book. It is filled with personal anecdotes and reflections, and readers will be happiest, I suspect, if they approach it as a chance to share in the author’s adventures rather than a place to find specific help with improving habits.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.