488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan, Review: Sage humour

Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life: The thankless art of being correct is a wittily wise take on the self-help and personal development book. Read on for our full review.

488 Rules for Life Book Synopsis

488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan, AudioBook Review

The thankless art of being correct

2020 ABIA General Non-Fiction Book of the Year

488 Rules for Life is Kitty Flanagan’s way of making the world a more pleasant place to live. Providing you with the antidote to every annoying little thing, these rules are not made to be broken.

488 Rules for Life is not a self-help book, because it’s not you who needs help, it’s other people. Whether they’re walking and texting, asphyxiating you on public transport with their noxious perfume cloud, or leaving one useless square of toilet paper on the roll, a lot of people just don’t know the rules.

But thanks to Kitty Flanagan’s comprehensive guide to modern behaviour, our world will soon be a much better place. A place where people don’t ruin the fruit salad by putting banana in it … where your co-workers respect your olfactory system and don’t reheat their fish curry in the office microwave … where middle-aged men don’t have ponytails …

What started as a joke on Kitty Flanagan’s popular segment on ABC TV’s The Weekly, is now a quintessential reference book with the power to change society. (Or, at least, make it a bit less irritating.)

(Allen & Unwin – October 2019)

Genre: Non-fiction, Humour, Memoir, Aussie, Audio

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Regular readers will know self-help and personal development books just are not my thing…. they never have been. But, I very much enjoyed Kitty Flanagan’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek response to this publishing juggernaut, her latest book 488 Rules for Life: The thankless art of being correct.

The book started out as a five-minute segment on ABC TV show The Weekly and was inspired by the bestselling book 12 Rules for Life.

It was a joke. I took issue with the fact that author Jordan Peterson only had twelve rules. Twelve? For life? That’s madness, I have more than twelve rules just for the bathroom.

The type of stand-up comedy that most strikes a chord with me is observational humour, and more specifically the wry and dry variety. In Kitty Flanagan you get a master in this style of comedy, with a dose of GenX feminism (and good-natured snark) on the side.

But, can a list of rules be entertaining?

Yes, it can. But the entertainment factor more often stems from Kitty’s delivery and discussion of the rules, rather than the rules themselves. A title designed to dip in and out of as the mood takes you, the book consists of rules grouped together by theme, e.g. Health and Lifestyle, Language, Food, Parenting, Fashion, etc.

Each of 488 Rules for Life‘s themed chapters begins with an introductory passage and then the numbered rules relating to that area of life are delivered in conversation style. Flanagan contextualises her rules with amusing anecdotes from her own life and that of her friends, and wry segue ways from one rule to the next.

A couple of my personal favourites:

#6 – Don’t complain about your cleaner

Having a cleaner is one of life’s greatest luxuries and if you can afford one you should be extremely grateful. And no matter how lax you might think your cleaner is, remember, it’s still better than mopping your own kitchen floor or scrubbing your own bathroom and pulling your own disgusting hair monster out of the plughole.

#77 – Don’t refer to your wife as ‘the boss’

As in ‘I’ll have to check with the boss.’ Apart from anything else, it’s almost always disingenuous and only ever cited by men who would overrule their ‘boss’ in a heartbeat if she said something that didn’t suit them.

488 Rules for Life would make a great gift. I listened to the 5hr audiobook version narrated by Kitty Flanagan over the festive season, laughing-out-loud on many occasions, at the countless ‘SNAP’ moments and her trademark deadpan delivery. For me, right now it was the next best thing to seeing Flanagan do her stand-up live.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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More of Kitty Flanagan’s fabulous rules

#88 – Assume that people know what you mean

Unless you are explaining the solution to a quadratic equation, or you happen to speak in riddles worthy of a cryptic crossword, then it’s safe to assume that most people will be able to follow what you’re saying. So there’s really no need to keep checking in and saying ‘know what I mean?’ every couple of sentences.

#138 – Taste your meal before you salt it

This is a rule for the old people who habitually reach for the salt and shake astonishing amounts of the stuff all over their food before they’ve even tasted it. Honestly, I could serve sea-water to my parents and they would still go at it with the salt. And I’m not saying you can’t add salt, I’m saying you should do whoever has cooked the meal the courtesy of tasting it first, just one mouthful to consider the flavours and the subtle seasonings, then tip your salt all over it.

About the Author, Kitty Flanagan

At school, Kitty was a small, stick-like child with very large front teeth and fuzzy hair. Nothing much has changed. After several attempts at university, studying things as diverse as Spanish, poetry and PE teaching, the government introduced HECS and the free ride was over. Advertising beckoned because it seemed like the job that paid the most money for the least amount of qualifications. And for five years she masqueraded as a copywriter. Then she tried doing stand-up. And then she got a job on Full Frontal (a sketch show, not a nudie mag). And then she moved to London and did stand-up … heaps of it.

There was another sketch show, an English one this time, cryptically titled The Sketch Show. And there was a short film that won a few awards. After that, she wrote stuff for the BBC and Channel Four with writing partner Julia Davis of Nighty Night fame. Then Kitty moved back to Australia where she is now probably best known for her regular appearances on The Project and her role as Rhonda in Working Dog’s Utopia. She also had a segment on Charlie Pickering’s show The Weekly. Aware that stand-up is like a sport that must be practised, Kitty tours constantly. Check out her website.

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2020, the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge and the 2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge.