BIRTW: Vol 37, Oct 14

Oct 14, 2017 | Books I Read

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin | The Beauty and The Blacksmith by Tessa Dare | The Trouble with Harry by Katie MacAlister


Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives

Author: Gretchen Rubin

Series: N/A

Tags: nonfiction, self help, habit breaking, personality types

Format: audiobook

Rating: yay!


I don’t normally yay nonfiction books, but I liked this one!

Take it for what it is first: a pop-science nonfiction written by a non-scientist. A writer by trade, she researched extensively on the subject, but has no accreditation in a particular scientific field.

If I had looked at the cover more carefully, I would have been far more skeptical and probably would have hated the book (because of the weight loss aspect: “give up sugar”). However, I heard about this book through a Smart Bitches Trashy Books post, so I was acquainted with the context.


The most useful thing I learned from this was more of an “unlearning”. Unlike other nonfiction books on the subject, Rubin makes it clear that there is no one “best” way for everyone to make or break a habit successfully. So, all those should’s and supposed to’s weighing me down, all the “right” way to do things that don’t work for me can be let go. Figure out what helps you make a good habit and go from there.


Rubin shows difference in personality by creating four different types or tendencies, according how they best keep themselves accountable.

I took the quiz, and GUESS WHAT, I’m a Rebel. Everyone who knows me will not be surprised.

I feel like rebels are the most misunderstood group. There are ways for me to create new habits, but those ways are constantly being revised, and are often misunderstood by the people around me. I drive people nuts by not going along with what they do. I’m not an exercise buddy, I don’t faithfully follow a predetermined plan, logic has no hold over my emotional mind, and having to be accountable to a person of authority may just make me crack under pressure. Doctors, therapists, dietitians, friends, and family members go, “why can’t you just do this?” The answer is always, “I don’t know.”


In the book she said that dietitians are almost always upholders. I agree. I would add that addicts are almost always rebels.

I used to be in Overeaters Anonymous and here is what I have noticed from my time in an anonymous program.

Accountability works only to a point. Pushing yourself works only to a point. But if you believe that people are judging you and if you believe that are not worthy of love neither of those work for you. There is a shortage of unconditional love in this world, and if you believe you can fuck up to the point of losing the love of someone, you will be in constant fear of fucking up, and inevitably fuck up.

That’s what worked for me most in OA. A community that loves and supports you no matter what, so that you have the freedom to work on your stuff on your own.

There are also reasons I left OA, but I won’t get into that at the moment.


I absolutely hate the carrot on stick programs, which is why I think religion has no place in recovery or transitional programs. “We will support you IF you believe in so-and-so” is a great example of conditional love. If there is a hint of expectation, of conditions, the accountability averse will surely tail spin eventually.


It is so refreshing to read something that takes personality into account. I have often felt vaguely ashamed of my own rebel nature, especially when it comes to habits I am trying to change. This book focuses on finding different solutions to fit different people.

Rubin’s rebels don’t like to answer to themselves or others. They like choice, free will, and wiggle room. They hate trends and much prefer to go their own way.

Rubin suggests that the way to use this nature to build healthy habits is to:

  • Make it personal: tie it in with some fundamental belief that is truly you.
  • Make it yours: personalize it to fit your needs specifically
  • Go against the flow: pick a habit technique that is specifically against the trend, to give you an extra boost in feeling original.
  • Plan spontaneity: remember that you only have a limited supply of will power. Minimize the risk of overtaxing yourself by predetermining decisions, and then planning a section of time to be spontaneous. If you walk into the break room everyday not sure if you are going to eat what’s there, that’s taxing to your will power. However, if you decide to give yourself freedom to eat break room food at 10 am, you have all but one hour decided, with some wiggle room.

This cleared up a lot of my habits that are hard to break. I am being treated for binge eating disorder, and I have been hitting my head against the wall for so long trying to figure out why I continue to binge.

Some of it are situational habits: going to grocery store A means I get candy B.

Some of it is a matter of will power: it is already established that store A means candy B, but will power is needed to stop the habit and replace it with…what? I am reluctant to make a plan. I tax my will power by not deciding it until the moment.

Some of it is rebellion against a strict plan: I think of my boring food at home and last minute stop to get something fun.

Some of it is emotional: I have a pathway in my brain that jumps straight from anxious to cookies.


And the answer, I have already established, isn’t diets or gym buddies or meal plans or pills or anything else anyone suggests to me mostly because I’ve tried them all but partly because I don’t take suggestions well.


I don’t know how much validity to give to Rubin’s personality types, but that is not the point. Types should be used as a lens to look through the world differently. It reminds you that people think differently than you do.


Another great thing I gleaned from the book is the phrase “a treat is anything that makes you feel good and you recognize it.”

That’s so interesting. I like the second part best because how many times do I recognize how truly delightful things I do are? I am always hard pressed to find healthy self care treats for myself. I can usually only think of sweets. But if I were more mindful of my life, perhaps I could find more.

And how many times have I had a “treat” that doesn’t fit that definition? The food I scarf down numbly, or the TV show that bores me? Or the food I enjoy but end up feeling sick and depressed afterwards?

I would expand the definition to say that all treats can be defined as above, but the best treats “make you feel good, and you recognize it, both during and after the treat.”

The calm feeling I have after yoga. My pretty nails and soft feet after an at home mani-pedi. Still smiling while driving home from a friend. Those are good. Those are very good.


I will say, though, that as far as the lose weight aspect goes, it is not great. She researches, but largely talks about anecdotal evidence: success stories from friends and family. Lots of problems with that as a source, not the least of which is that they share successes only, not what doesn’t work. I wish she had left behind the weight loss angle completely, since it is such a complicated and emotional subject, but whatever. Spoiler: Rubin has lost weight because she is on a strict low starch diet.

A good companion to this book could be Making Habits Breaking Habits that WAS written by a scientist and has more concrete advice and steps. It gives some good advice, but I kind of hated that book, personally. Mostly for its one-size-fits-all treatment of habit creation.


That’s probably because I’m a rebel.


The Beauty and The Blacksmith

Author: Tessa Dare

Series: Spindle Cove #3.5 (novella)

Tags: regency romance, opposites attract, he’s lower in class, blacksmith, asthma

Format: ebook

Rating: yay!


Better than I expected!


I wasn’t expecting much. It’s a novella, after all. Still, better than other novellas. I seem to like Dare’s novellas over others.

The other reason I was reluctant is the set up of the heroine in the other novels. The series is about a town full of lady misfits, and I’ve never liked her character as The Only Pretty One.

But her character filled out!

The book opens on a lengthy description of her checking out the blacksmith while he worked. I mean, how can you NOT relate to a woman who enjoys a good sweaty blacksmith scene?
The blacksmith was not very filled out. Except in the bicep region, tee hee! He seemed like a nice, well spoken guy in touch with his feelings that happens to be a blacksmith.
But whatever. Hooray!


I love the Spindle Cove series. I want to revisit them, especially the one about Thorne, and the one about Minerva.


Can’t wait to read the latest Tessa Dare!



The Trouble With Harry 

Author: Katie MacAllistar 

Series: Noble #3 

Tags: regency romance, widower, spinster, 40+, forthright female, ad in the paper, spy, wacky blended family, glasses, erotica writer 

Format: ebook 

Rating: yay! 


I may or may not have read a MacAllister before. It looks like she mostly does cheerful vampire series (not to be confused with angsty vampire series, of which there are many). I might have read one of them. 


This one was pretty cute. Humorous! Our heroine is always saying absurd and imaginative things. She reminded me of a less extreme Alexia Tarabotti from Carriger’s Soulless. Her niece is equally, if not more, absurd. She has a charming conversation with who she thinks is a thief. 


The hero is just kind of a nice guy. His wife died and he has unruly children! Then he falls in love with her and remains surprisingly virile for a man in his forties.


Pretty much it. Yay!



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