“Better Than Before” by Gretchen Rubin

In stores now
In stores now

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit,”

states Will Durant in a summary of Aristotle’s thoughts

I read that quote earlier this year and it made me feel as if I’m lacking in some way. Often I spend my weekends doing nothing except stare at white walls, trying to invent creative ways to rouse myself to do something from my lengthy to-do list, much of which consists of ways to increase my knowledge of art and literature or improve my writing. Excellence, then, would not come my way soon if I continue in this way. So my interest was piqued when I saw an ARC giveaway for Gretchen Rubin’s recently published Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. I immediately sent a request, wondering if I would enjoy the book or cast it aside as a major bore. After all, how could a book on habits be entertaining?

I doubt entertainment is anyone’s foremost reason for reading this book, and it wasn’t mine, but I worried if I’d be able to stick with it to the end. I didn’t have much to maintain an interest in the book other than a drive to change my bad habits and my friends’ expressed enjoyment of Rubin’s bestseller The Happiness Project. I’ve never read anything by her prior to this book. Despite these meagre sources to drum up interest, I immediately began reading soon after receiving the book and barely put it down.

Quick summary:

At the heart of Better than Before is a quest for self-knowledge. That’s what latched my attention. Rubin reasons that we must first know ourselves — our wants, needs, and drives — before we can change. With that, she begins her book by stating that we’re driven by expectations. There are two types, she states, outer (deadlines and company goals) and inner (personal goals). We tackle these expectations in various ways but Rubin lists four ways we tend to approach them. She presents them as groups: upholders, who respond well to both outer and inner expectations; questioners, who resist outer expectations but meet inner expectations; obligers, who meet outer expectations but resist inner expectations; and rebels, who resist both types of expectations. Rubin confesses that she’s an upholder, which becomes more apparent the more I read. Likewise, I became convinced that I’m a rebel by the end of the book.

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From Around the Web: Wheel of Time companion to E-books and health

The following are links to articles and announcements that I found interesting and thought you might too. Some are recent while others were posted back in December (yep, weeding through my emails again) but all are book/reading related.

To be published November 2015
To be published November 2015

First up is this post on Tor.com that is sure to excite all Wheel of Time fans. Tor plans to publish a Wheel of Time companion in November of this year. YEAHIEE!! According to the post on Tor.com, “Only a fraction of what author Robert Jordan imagined ended up on the page, the rest going into his personal files.” I hope this WOT companion will make us privy to what went into Jordan’s personal files. The post included a short list of what will be included in the book. I’m looking forward to detailed character descriptions, a chronological historical recount of the world (if possible), and lots of maps. I also hope that the art will be superb. I love the art in the A Song of Ice and Fire companion and the historical recount in it is not bad either though I wish they had waited until the series is complete to do a companion. Anyways, I’m only on book 5 of the WOT series but I’ll grab the companion as soon as it’s published!

To be published September 22, 2015
To be published September 22, 2015

Riverhead Books has revealed the cover of Elizabeth Gilbert’s upcoming book on creativity, slated to be published on September 22. It’s titled Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. It’s quite colorful. I’m more excited about fact that Gilbert is writing a book on creativity (I wasn’t aware) than about the cover. But it looks like the kind of cover that will grab my attention from across the room. According to Gilbert, the book is “basically a manifesto. It contains everything that I believe about creativity.” GalleyCat has more on the announcement.

I don’t do well with challenges. I certainly believe I’m behind on my Classics Club Challenge. But when I saw this challenge in my Book Riot e-newsletter, I couldn’t help wanting to join. I like how diverse it is. I will partake in Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge. Here’s a bit on the creator’s—Rachel—intention: “I’ve included 24 tasks, averaging out to two per month, that will hopefully inspire you to pick up books that represent experiences and places and cultures that might be different from your own. We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try.” Haven’t started yet but I’m looking forward to it!

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