Book Review: Better Than Before

40 hours in California with Justin


I remember first hearing about Gretchen Rubin from Jess Lively’s podcast The Lively Show. I appreciated her perspective, and she talked about this new book in the podcast. Her first book, The Happiness Project, didn’t sound interesting to me at all.

This book on habits, though, was really enticing. I picked it up at the airport before a 4 hour flight and immediately jumped in.

My quick take: The first half of the book is really interesting. The second half I found myself skimming more than anything. It was more her dialogue between herself and her sister than actually evaluating one’s habits. So, just my two cents.

I assumed I was an Obliger and this book confirmed it. It also helped reveal that Justin is a Questioner and a Rebel. There are so many specific examples of where those personality traits are evident in our lives. At times I laughed out loud because the book would describe one of us perfectly.

When I got to the section on Loopholes I was really stunned to see that I used almost every single one of them. And I think Gretchen even points out that Obligers are most prone to Loopholes because unless someone else is holding us accountable we can easily come up with an excuse. I’m the queen of “I’ll start on Monday, when the week is fresh” or “I worked really hard so I deserve it” or “I’m spread too thin, I can’t be expected to do THAT too”. I was nodding my head to EVERY SINGLE LOOPHOLE, guys. But if someone else is counting on me, I will do my best.

Here’s a perfect example. I’m absolutely rigid about timeliness. I hate being late. My heart rate increases immediately at the sheer thought of being late. There is no loophole that I could ever pull if I’m about to be late for a meeting or an appointment. If someone else is counting on me, I’m there. And I’ll be on time. But if it’s something just for me that affects no one else? I’m sure I’ll come up with some other factor that affects the lateness.

If you are looking for an easy read, that may be rather insightful, I’d check out Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin.

For more random recommendations & things I’m currently loving, check out my recent Cubicle Convos.


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Bethy says · 02.23.16

Oh my, I have no idea what the author means by an Obliger, but based on your description, I am one. Ever read the 5 Love Languages? That’s another one that can smack you in the face with the truth about yourself. In a lighthearted “I didn’t realize I’m so predictable” kind of way. Anyway, I’m definitely going to pick up this book. Next Monday, when the week is fresh.

Jesse says · 02.23.16

Gretchen Rubin came to my office just a couple of weeks ago to speak about the 4 tendencies. She was an interesting speaker. It sounds like the book is similar to the presentation from what you said (I have not read the book).

I had a difficult time putting myself in just one of the four tendencies. I found traits in a couple of them. I’m not sure if this is just my experience or if others have felt this was as well. Overall, it’s definitely an interesting theory!

Lauren says · 02.23.16

I read this and felt the same way- the first half was informative, but the second half was a little rambling and hard to read. BUT I will say, a lot of what she said stuck with me and have been helpful in building better habits since I read it. The Happiness Project is probably her best read though!

Sydni says · 02.23.16

I love hearing your perspective on a book! Great post. I love how objective you are in your reviews, it’s so real. Just an idea though – might be helpful to explain some of the background of the book because I didn’t understand what the terminology meant because I haven’t read it yet.

Charitie Martino says · 02.27.16

I second this, a quick synopsis is always beneficial. I *love* the idea of book reviews and would delighted to see more on your blog!

Vis à Vis

Sarah says · 02.23.16

I bought the book because I’ve been enjoying listening to her podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. I haven’t gotten a lot out of the book though because all the information in the book, she’s already talked about on her podcast! I wish I would have saved my money since the podcast is free! If you listen to episodes 35-38 those are the ones that go over the four tendencies. Also – the link to the quiz can be found on her blog here

Rachele says · 02.24.16

Sarah, thanks for the heads up on the podcast episodes! After reading the reviews on Amazon for this book, as well as a sample of the book,, I was interested in the topic, but a bit turned off by the author’s style. Perhaps the podcast will give a better tone to her and her message (if that makes sense?)

Amy says · 02.23.16

That sounds really interesting, I love books like that! Have you ever heard of Carol Tuttle? She is the author of The Child Whisperer and talks about how everyone is a certain “type” and there are four types (and you are born with it, it’s your nature). Her perspective on this is so unique though because she relates each type to your facial features! So someone who is a type 2 and more emotional and sensitive has a downward movement that’s distinct in their facial features and body language, and so on for all the types. It’s almost eery how right on it is! Changed my life as a mother when I figured out the types of each of my three kids and can parent and honor them at their level.
Thank you for sharing your book, I’ll have to check it out 🙂

Gina says · 02.23.16

I’m reading this now and only in the first “informative” part but realized that I’m an “underbuyer” and a “finisher” I’m happy when I have used something up and rarely replace it until I absolutely have to. I did not use to be this way – says the person who loved a well-stocked pantry and had an abundance of “just in case” supplies. Oh my.

Holly McLoughlin says · 02.23.16

This seems so interesting, I’ll have to get my hands on it next time I go to town x

Evelina says · 02.23.16

I really enjoyed The Happiness Project and while I can’t say that it totally changed my life, it definitely altered how I view many things. I would definitely love to read another book by Gretchen Rubin!

Alicia @ Turquoise Grace says · 02.23.16

This sounds like a really interesting read! Based off your description, I’d venture to guess that I’m an obliger as well. I’ll have to check it out!

sisilalala says · 02.24.16

I am so interested in the book after reading your post and I will find the book and read it.

Heather MacKenzie says · 02.25.16

I loved both books – The Happiness Project and Better Than Before! Both are great reads. I, too, found that the second half of BTB dragged on a bit and was less engaging. I have only listened to a couple of Gretchen’s podcasts. I keep meaning to listen to more and it never happens. Like the author herself, I am an Upholder and my husband is an Obliger/Rebel….so I was laughing out loud, too, as I read different scenarios that either sounded like my husband or me to a tee!! Great books – Highly recommend both.

Michelle says · 02.27.16

I loved this book, it was so telling, I also had moments where I went “oh my gosh, I do that to a T!” I’m a questioner, now I feel like I understand myself and my weird tendencies a little better.

Katie Sumner says · 03.02.16

I was looking for a new “personal development” book to listen to during my commute, this is perfect, thanks!

Giselle D says · 03.13.16

I recently read the book too. I have enjoyed her podcast with her sister, though it is somewhat repetitive from what she talks about in the book. What other books have you read recently?

amaliabrooks says · 05.15.23

The book is amazing