Podcast Review: By the Book

The Hosts

The By The Book Podcast is hosted by stand up comedian Jolenta Greenberg and podcast producer Kristen Meinzer. It is produced by Panoply.

The Premise

The hosts describe the By The Book Podcast as “half reality show, half self-help podcast, and one wild social experiment.” Each episode, the hosts pick one self-help book and commit to living the book for two weeks. They must follow every instruction, guideline and recommendation to the letter, regardless of consequences on their lives, careers and marriages.

Listen to my podcast interview with By the Book host Jolenta Greenberg.

What you Need to Know

Jolenta and Kristen approach the self-help genre with differing attitudes, which creates the tension that makes the podcasts fun. Jolenta wants to believe that each book will change her life. Kristen approaches each book more skeptically. Their even more skeptical husbands play supporting roles in the podcasts through audio diaries that the hosts record with them.

This is a new podcast. The hosts have approached two books to date: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

Key Takeaway

After two episodes, the main takeaway seems to be that blindly following any self-help formula is probably the wrong approach. While both books center around fundamental truths that can improve our lives, they also have drawbacks.

The Secret’s message about the power of optimism resonated with both hosts, but neither loved the book’s claim that people attract and are responsible for anything bad that happens to them. Likewise, de-cluttering can improve our lives, but Kondo takes it to the extreme, causing domestic tension for both hosts.

Worth Listening?

Yes! The By The Book Podcast is a fun way to learn about important books in the self-help cannon and will appeal both to those who embrace the genre as well as more skeptical listeners. I’m looking forward to the next episode, though it’s worth noting that because each experiment takes two weeks, it’s not clear how frequently they will appear.

Update: I interviewed Jolenta Greenberg on the My Instruction Manual podcast. Give it a listen!


Leave a Reply