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Practically Perfect in Every Way by Jennifer…

Practically Perfect in Every Way

by Jennifer Niesslein

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The author tries a bunch of different self help methods. The first chapter on clutter cracked me up. I emailed Jennifer Niesslein about a recipe she mentioned. She wrote back the next day with the recipe! It was very delicious! ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
I'm torn about how to review this book. For me, it started weak, got almost to the point of unbearable, and came back strong at the very end.

The conceit here is that Niesslein, a basically content person, sets out to apply the principles of popular self-improvement to her life.

Some reasons most of the book didn't work for me: I'm not in the same demographic as Niesslein and in fact am one of the people she repeatedly slams throughout the book, we apparently don't share many core values, I live quite frugally without feeling denied, and I am someone's fourth wife. (This quote annoyed me mightily: "Or, if I had a different upbringing, I might have become any number of things -- an identity thief, a tightrope walker, someone who would consent to be somebody's third wife. I shudder.")

It wasn't nearly snarky enough to suit me on the one hand, and far too smug on the other. I get that there are people with plenty of everything and the leisure to feel discontented about what seem to me to be insanely small issues, and which seem to them to loom large- but I am hard-pressed to empathize with them.

The strongest chapter for me was the last one, where Niesslein tackles spirituality and religion from the same disbelieving ground upon which I stand.

The weakest parts include such wince-inducing passages as this: "The people who shop here are not rich, and the people who shop here at one o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon have all the class markers of being working people or their spouses-- they have perms, drive older cars with Redskins bumper stickers, wear sweatpants in public."

In sum, Niesslein is a good writer, but she and I stand so far apart on so many issues that I found little to identify or sympathize with, and I couldn't get past the smugness that infuses the majority of this book.

( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
I’ve been thinking about happiness since last summer. I’ve read books on happiness and taken notes on happiness and tried out happiness theories. Jennifer Niesslein has spent the same time and energy on what to me seems like a bigger idea: virtue. Can I become better? she asks herself in this book.Niesslein spends no time attempting to define virtue for the larger society nor does she spend any time plotting out the best ways to become more virtuous. Instead she focuses strictly on trying to improve herself.She spends little time trying to discover the best ways to improve herself, either. She seems, rather, to just pick up and try whatever is closest at hand.She fails. Yes, she fails, over and over again. She doesn’t become tidier. She doesn’t save money for retirement. She doesn’t lose much weight. Worst of all, she doesn’t become much happier; instead, she becomes filled with anxiety and fear, begins to suffer from panic attacks, and starts sleepwalking. She flat out writes, “It’s hard to change who you are, if it’s possible at all.”She admits this, but nevertheless seems to find the entire experience worthwhile. When she hit rock bottom, she ran across a guide to Zen. Something in the book helped her. So she leaves us with the thought that it was all worth it.I am not really sure that Niesslein’s book should be taken as anything more than one person’s adventure with self-help. From the start, she was trying to change too many things too fast using too unfocused a method. Oh well. It is not a book that changed my life, but I did enjoy reading about a person trying to become better even if it was just to publish a book about the process. ( )
  debnance | Jan 29, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The self-improvement memoir had a brief moment of popularity and bookshelf saturation. I found this version funny and full of personality. Ultimately it didn't leave a huge impression on me, but it was a quick read and enjoyable in the moment.
  freckled | Oct 31, 2009 |
About two thirds of the way through this book, I found myself wanting to befriend the author. Her style is personable and inviting and she tells an appealing story about reading several different self-help books she tries out over the course of a year and a half. She examines several areas of her life, including taking care of her home, parenting, marriage, finances, and spirituality. Some of her attempts are more half-hearted than others, and I didn't agree with all her conclusions, or all her reviews (for those self-help books I had also read). But I enjoyed her description of her experiences, and found I was racing through this book faster than most. ( )
  ChickLitFan | Oct 22, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399153918, Hardcover)

A wry, perceptive, and witty examination of our relentless need for self-improvement by the admittedly imperfect founding coeditor of the award-winning quarterly Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers.

Jennifer Niesslein-writer, editor, mother, and flawed human being-spent two years taking self-help advice in an effort to become a better, happier person. Fulfilling her goal of enlightened self-improvement begins with the relatively mundane (her house), moves on toward progressively larger themes (money, marriage, motherhood), and ends up with karmic insights into the burning issues of life (spirituality and meaning). As she allows an array of self-help experts-from Dr. Phil to the Fly Lady, pediatrician William Sears to holistic health guru Dr. Andrew Weil-to copilot her life, Niesslein sometimes finds herself in terra incognita. She runs through her house throwing items away. She communicates with her husband in three-minute speeches. She encourages her first-grader to dream up revenge fantasies. She searches for holy water. At one point, she is even possessed-briefly-by the spirit of a conservative talk-radio host. Although the road to self-help Nirvana is fraught with peril, she discovers that there is such a thing as the good life. It's just a question of how perfect you have to be to get it.

With her irreverent sensibility and uncanny insight into the Zeitgeist, Jennifer Niesslein takes on our uniquely American preoccupation with the perfectibility of man and turns it squarely on its ear.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:09 -0400)

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In a lighthearted examination of the self-help phenomenon, the author describes her personal self-improvement journey, an endeavor marked by the contradictory and trendy advice of high-profile experts and perilous perfectionist standards.

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Jennifer Niesslein's book Practically Perfect in Every Way: My Misadventures Through the World of Self-Help--and Back was available from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

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