The Four Tendencies – Gretchen Rubin

In this groundbreaking analysis of personality type, bestselling author of Better Than Before and The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin reveals the one simple question that will transform what you do at home, at work, and in life.

During her multibook investigation into understanding human nature, Gretchen Rubin realized that by asking the seemingly dry question “How do I respond to expectations?” we gain explosive self-knowledge. She discovered that based on their answer, people fit into Four Tendencies: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Our Tendency shapes every aspect of our behavior, so using this framework allows us to make better decisions, meet deadlines, suffer less stress, and engage more effectively.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was a non-believer of Gretchen Rubin for a long time. She became famous with her book The Happiness Project, in which she realized she was unhappy and so spent a year investigating and doing things that would make her happier. Theoretically this sounds like a nice pursuit until I learned that she basically had it all already – a beautiful family, a loving and handsome and wealthy husband, a posh home in New York City, etc. I still respected her pursuit of happiness because I wasn’t about to begrudge anyone of that, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t roll my eyes at her “woe is me” situation.

BUT. Then she wrote Better Than Before, which examines habits and sorts people into four different types of personalities, and I read an interpretation of myself that completely answered some questions that have tortured me since I was a child.

Let me back up a little here. While Better Than Before is the OG book that covers a lot of ground,The Four Tendencies is a deeper dive into just the personality types themselves: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel. I’m an Obliger, which means I’m primarily motivated by external accountability and do excellently in anything relating to completing requests/satisfying others, but can’t keep any promises to myself for shit. THIS WAS REVOLUTIONARY TO ME! My entire life, I’ve always hated myself for being lazy and a procrastinator, someone who can’t work up the internal motivation to learn or do anything for herself. And then this book comes along and tells me it’s ok that I’m the way I am – actually a large portion of the population is the same way, and it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me.

When I read this, I felt the same way as I did after reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts. It was like someone finally understood me and my life was validated. Which sounds dramatic, but it is what it is.

The solution to Obliger problems is to have external accountability for anything that’s important to me. For example, if I’m training for a half-marathon, tell people about it so that I can’t play off missing workouts, or join a running group. If I’m invited to movie night with friends but know I won’t want to change out of pajamas after dinner, offer to pick up a friend on the way there.

I’m still working on doing this more, but honestly this book was eye-opening to me. I don’t think everyone will benefit from it as much as I did, but if you suspect you might also be an Obliger or Rebel, it might be really helpful.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon

Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America – the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is probably one of the most underrated books I’ve ever read! I rarely hear it discussed anywhere, and think I only discovered it via NPR’s Book Concierge, which is an amazing tool and everyone should check it out (it’s also a lot of fun). The scope is enormous – from Joe’s origins in Nazi Europe to joining his cousin Sammy in New York City to create popular comic books, to their involvement in World War II, and finally ending with them as adults with families.

Most of the book centers on their creative years as comic book writers, following them from complete newbies in the comic world who got paid pennies at a time, to seasoned pros who dreamed up some of the best-selling superheroes of their day. Sammy and Joe are like day and night – Sammy is a goofy-looking quick talker with endless ideas for content (would be a great influencer in this day and age 😆), while Joe is shy and tall, a talented magician and artist both. I can’t say good enough things about both characters because they were so wonderfully developed. I liked spending time with each of them and learning their dreams and secrets and heartaches, and the sense of boyish bravado and optimism really shines through. Even the secondary characters were satisfyingly fleshed out too. It’s a pretty long book so there’s a couple of slow sections, but Chabon is such a brilliant, zany writer that I chugged through those anyway. I just had a feeling that he wouldn’t let me down with the ending, and he definitely pulled through.

If you think it’s not the book for you because you’re not into comics, don’t worry! I’m not either, and almost let that stop me from picking it up, but I’m really glad I gave it a chance. It was worth the long haul, and I wish there were more writers like Chabon.