WSIRN Ep 102: A new way to think about fictional characters

I’m excited readers, because this week we’re hearing a familiar voice—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and, most recently, The Four Tendencies, a new personality framework in which she investigates how different people—or in today’s case, fictional characters—respond to internal and external expectations.  Gretchen joined us on the show last Fall in Episode 52 for KidWeek, because she is a VORACIOUS reader of children’s literature. But today we’re broadening our horizons and talking about books for all ages —and books where we see specific “tendencies” on display. (Curious yet? Take the Four Tendencies personality test here!)

If you’re a personality geek like me, this episode will be right up your alley. And if you’re not? We’re still talking about some great books today, plus literary obsessions, teen historical fiction, human nature, and Gretchen’s specialties—habits, happiness, and human nature.

Let’s get to it.  

What Should I Read Next #102: A new way to think about fictional characters with Gretchen Rubin

Connect with Gretchen Rubin: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Podcast

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here.

Power Money Fame Sex: A User’s Guide, by Gretchen Rubin (Amazon | IndieBound)
The His Majesty’s Dragon series, by Naomi Novik (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
The Life of Samuel Johnson, by James Boswell (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
Essays, George Orwell (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• author Tana French
An Autobiography, by Agatha Christie (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• Lawrence of Arabia, by Alistair MacLean (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• Scrappy Little Nobody, by Anna Kendrick (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• Open, Andre Agassi (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• Stella by Starlight, by Sharon M. Draper (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• The War I Finally Won, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• Goodnight Mr Tom, by Michelle Magorian (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)
• I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez (Amazon | Barnes and NobleIndieBound)

Have any examples to share of the tendencies in literature? What do YOU think Gretchen should read next? Tell us all about it in comments. 


Leave A Comment
  1. Audrey says:

    I LOVE that you mentioned Andre Agassi’s book, Open!! That really was such a good book. I recommend it all the time! I really enjoyed the podcast. I look forward to reading The Four Tendencies!

  2. Susan in TX says:

    Such a good episode – you have to love Gretchen’s enthusiasm! Gotta say, I was almost screaming at the car, but wait! 🙂 I get that mystery is not her thing, which makes this all the more of a recommendation for her…Louise Penny! Penny’s books are more about the people and the relationships than they are the mysteries. The mysteries become kind of secondary as you move through the series? Am I right, or is it just me? So, if she likes Tana French, she needs to try Penny – with the caveat that you have to give her a few books to really pull you in to Three Pines. 🙂
    Love that you went with children’s books for her, though – so appropriate. Again, great episode!
    (And have to admit, listening to Gretchen made me want to go back and reread through the Happiness Project and Better than Before before I read the Four Tendencies…may not happen since Four Tendencies is already on the nightstand, but a reread is definitely called for.)

    • Deb says:

      I second Susan’s comments on Gamache (Penny’s Three Pines mysteries) . . .not sure if they will be up Gretchen’s alley, but YES – the mysteries are secondary to the enjoyment of her stories. Took me a few books to really get what others rave about and I think much of my passion is listening to the amazing Audible narrator, but they are definitely addictive.
      Very good episode today and Gretchen’s enthusiasm was so infectious! Now I must add her books to my TBR and I’ve already subscribed to her podcast.

  3. Brittany Ericson says:

    Gertrude Bell: Queen Of the Desert, Shaper Of Nations. Recommended for both of you ?

    Also, love this show, but also am kind of upset because after listening to the show with the two friends I finally picked up Wuthering Heights and read it all. That is such a messed up book! Why did I read it!!!??? At the same time I’m glad I did and I do understand it’s classic status… I’m mostly disturbed why the sort of people who love it now ??

    • Louise says:

      Wuthering Heights is one of the very few books I have HATED. I have read it twice, thinking maybe I’d enjoy it more a second time, but nope! still hate the book!

  4. Gretchen, Your work sounds fascinating. I’ll have to check out your books. They sound perfect for teaching theatre. I’m ecstatic that you mentioned Naomi Novik’s book series beginning with HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON. I loved the series and learned a great deal about the Napoleonic Wars at the same time. I don’t have any suggestions for you because I know how it is when you have an extremely long TBR list. Thanks for letting us listen into a fun podcast.

  5. Jenni says:

    In recent episodes, you’ve mentioned how many guest submissions you receive. I’m wondering, since that’s the case, why you repeat guests? As someone who has listened to every episode, I’d love to hear some new, fresh perspectives on your show!

  6. Claire says:

    I’m really interested in Gretchen’s work, as I love love love anything that promotes happiness, and her energy on the podcast was absolutely fabulous. I also completely get her comments about the challenges of immersing herself into a new world when starting a new book. When I’m the middle of a book, I covet every other book on my shelves but when it’s time to embark on some new territory, I find it really difficult. I’m usually a little way in before I feel like I’m really enjoying it. That’s why returning to familiar authors and series is so brilliant – it feels reassuring.

    Her framework sounds something I could so get into – like Anne, I’m a personality framework geek. I’d be so interested to start applying some of it to characters – I’m in the midst of Vanity Fair at the mo and it’s rich with characters who I’d love to type!

  7. Laura says:

    Whaaaaat?! I’m so excited to learn that there is a sequel to The War That Saved My Life, because the only thing wrong with that book was how abruptly it ended! Can’t wait to read it! Thank you for the tip!

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