What If This Were Enough?
By the author of the New York Times Love and Relationships bestseller How to Be a Person in the World, an impassioned and inspiring collection about the expectations of modern life and the sweet imperfections of the everyday.Heather Havrilesky's writing has been called "whip-smart and profanely funny" (Entertainment Weekly) and "required reading for all humans" (Celeste Ng). In her work for New York, The Baffler, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic, as well as in her advice column for The Cut, "Ask Polly," she dispenses a singular, cutting wisdom--an ability to inspire, provoke, and put a name to our most insidious cultural delusions.What If This Were Enough? is a mantra and a clarion call. In its chapters--many of them original to the book, others expanded from their initial publication--Havrilesky takes on those cultural forces that shape us. From the enforced cheer of American life to the celebration of survivalism, from the allure of materialism to our misunderstandings of romance and success, Havrilesky deconstructs some of the most poisonous and misleading messages we ingest today, all the while suggesting new ways we might navigate our increasingly bewildering world.Through her incisive and witty inquiries, Havrilesky emphasizes the importance of locating the miraculous within the mundane. In these timely, provocative, and often hilarious chapters, she urges readers to embrace the flawed--to connect with what already is, who we already are, what we already have. She asks us to consider: What if this were enough? Our salvation, Havrilesky asserts, can be found right here, right now, in this imperfect moment.

What If This Were Enough? Details

TitleWhat If This Were Enough?
Author
ReleaseOct 2nd, 2018
PublisherDoubleday Books
ISBN-139780385542883
Rating
GenreWriting, Essays, Nonfiction, Self Help, Philosophy, Humor, Psychology

What If This Were Enough? Review

  • Kristy K
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 StarsHavrilesky’s aptly named book of essays examines and critiques materialism, consumption, and our obsession with consumerism and the pursuit of happiness. Pulling largely from pop culture and current trends and fads, she delves into the world of foodies, 50 Shades, Disneyland, The Sopranos, romance, and so much more. Each essay is strong in their own right and collectively they make a small tome that packs a punch and causes one to examine their own lust for such things.
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  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    January 1, 1970
    Heather Havrilesky is an advice columnist and also known for her previous memoir, How to be a Person in the World. The essays are a mixture of advice for living and pop culture, sometimes in strange combinations. (One compares Selin in The Idiot by Elif Batuman to Mozart, which I didn't really think worked all that well, and I've read a lot about Mozart and loved The Idiot.) As per usual with this kind of book, some of it didn't interest me at all (often pop culture type essays of things I haven Heather Havrilesky is an advice columnist and also known for her previous memoir, How to be a Person in the World. The essays are a mixture of advice for living and pop culture, sometimes in strange combinations. (One compares Selin in The Idiot by Elif Batuman to Mozart, which I didn't really think worked all that well, and I've read a lot about Mozart and loved The Idiot.) As per usual with this kind of book, some of it didn't interest me at all (often pop culture type essays of things I haven't watched) and I did a fair amount of skimming. Towards the end I found myself really enjoying a few of the essays. So while I'm giving it three stars overall, I will say I think there are a few that are stellar. Part of my issue with the book overall is that Heather Havrilesky comes across as overly didactic. I prefer to draw my own conclusions from information presented to me and I don't like being told what to do. I suppose this is her advice columnist background really shining through. But something about this tone also makes her sound like she is around retirement age, and I get the impression she's a few decades younger than that. Kids these days, get off my lawn, etc.The first chapter I really liked is Haunted, which yes, I noticed is number 13. It starts with a focus on author Shirley Jackson, zooms through female characters in tv, and refocuses on Lena Dunham and her HBO show Girls. A quote near the beginning sums it up:"For headstrong women who knew their own desires, growing up in conventional society sometimes feels like inhabiting a haunted house.I found it to be even more relevant within the #metoo movement, and of course she does reference the Stanford rapist's victim's letter, which had a pretty significant place in the larger discussion. Another favorite is Bravado, a chapter which looks at women and ambition. It discusses the ridiculousness of the men (or others in power) who think of themselves as idea generators but do zero work and how they get the credit and focus while there are armies of "capable" women making it happen. (hashtag makeithappen for my library peeps) It questions why we downplay people who are capable, people who aren't necessarily making bold moves but are solid and productive. She ends with a call to belief in oneself, and in the idea that our words matter. A little dramatic, but I had to agree. I'm not ashamed to say I will be adding some quotations from this chapter to my planner at work.I also liked the chapter called True Romance, which makes a capable and productive argument for the mundane parts of longlasting relationships.I received a copy of this book ahead of publication date from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. It came out 2 October, 2018.
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  • David Yoon
    January 1, 1970
    I've been a fan of Heather Havrilesky since the prehistoric days of the internet when she was writing for Suck.com. An ancient past when my pre-work routine would consist of reading long form stories called blogs, back when paragraphs weren't so intimidating. Thankfully our modern era, sensitive to our time constraints, has since concentrated my mornings to scrolling memes, instagram pics and 140 character tweets. Heather is smart and acerbic and I love her voice - she writes like I imagine I on I've been a fan of Heather Havrilesky since the prehistoric days of the internet when she was writing for Suck.com. An ancient past when my pre-work routine would consist of reading long form stories called blogs, back when paragraphs weren't so intimidating. Thankfully our modern era, sensitive to our time constraints, has since concentrated my mornings to scrolling memes, instagram pics and 140 character tweets. Heather is smart and acerbic and I love her voice - she writes like I imagine I one day could, wry observations heaped with the gloss of 10 dollar words. Unfortunately I fear I've started with the wrong book. It's still her erudite and cutting wit applied to the mundanity of everyday life, but it veers too close to earnest screed. It's easy pickings decrying the capitalist fantasies of Fifty Shades or the insufferability of foodies, Disneyland and Crossfitters. To claim we need to get out more, and online less. But unfettered by the constraints of blogging and fleeting online attention - free to truly flex in book form, the chapters can tend to the baggy. Things used to have to be tighter, or maybe my attention has just shrunk. Maybe in this environment I need my reasonable edicts to be delivered as precise, ranting screeds, eviscerating polemics that point and laugh at the misguided other in 1000 words or less. ...insert appropriate gif meme here.
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  • Renata
    January 1, 1970
    DNF after a few chapters. I was willing to give this a chance after her weird library Twitter kerfuffle--I do generally like Ask Polly--but the first few essays were soo very "remember what it was like before we all used our PHONES so much?" that I felt free to just nope on out of this and return it to the library from whence it came. the last essay I read before I quit was about how she used to be very grumpy about the concept of Disneyland because it's so fake, but then she took their kids the DNF after a few chapters. I was willing to give this a chance after her weird library Twitter kerfuffle--I do generally like Ask Polly--but the first few essays were soo very "remember what it was like before we all used our PHONES so much?" that I felt free to just nope on out of this and return it to the library from whence it came. the last essay I read before I quit was about how she used to be very grumpy about the concept of Disneyland because it's so fake, but then she took their kids there and had a good time, but then she was grumpy again afterward because it was so fake. okay Heather! cool story I guess!
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  • Alexandra
    January 1, 1970
    I was so excited for this but in the end I couldn't even finish it. I felt like I got permission after the author's bizarre anti library comments on twitter. I get that wasn't the point she was trying to make, but much like this book, it came across convoluted, entitled, and annoying. I didn't even finish the last quarter, I couldn't do it.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 rounded upAn overall incredibly solid collection of essays, focusing mainly on pop culture (celebrity, tv, books and movies) and the author's life (mostly revolving around her family).The pop culture essays remind me - at times - of the better essays in They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us. Havrilesky covers topics as wide ranging as The Sopranos, Elif Batuman's The Idiot, Girls, Entourage and Marie Kondo. While the essays were a little overly didactic at times I found myself enjoying and g 3.5 rounded upAn overall incredibly solid collection of essays, focusing mainly on pop culture (celebrity, tv, books and movies) and the author's life (mostly revolving around her family).The pop culture essays remind me - at times - of the better essays in They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us. Havrilesky covers topics as wide ranging as The Sopranos, Elif Batuman's The Idiot, Girls, Entourage and Marie Kondo. While the essays were a little overly didactic at times I found myself enjoying and getting something out of almost all of them, and they were all thought provoking. Recommended!
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  • Charly
    January 1, 1970
    Last night, after watching the first episode of Babylon Berlin, I fell asleep to the police scanner.A spurned ex, also a sex offender, had abducted and blown a bullet through the brain of a University of Utah student and dumped her body in a parking lot.I work at the University of Utah.My brother goes to the University, and texted me the alerts from New Orleans.Heather Havrilesky understands this cultural moment — the way that, at its worst, we can pipe in our worst nightmares directly to our fr Last night, after watching the first episode of Babylon Berlin, I fell asleep to the police scanner.A spurned ex, also a sex offender, had abducted and blown a bullet through the brain of a University of Utah student and dumped her body in a parking lot.I work at the University of Utah.My brother goes to the University, and texted me the alerts from New Orleans.Heather Havrilesky understands this cultural moment — the way that, at its worst, we can pipe in our worst nightmares directly to our frontal lobes until we collapse from exhaustion — at a spiritual level.As I finished this essay collection on the bus, going up Highland Drive, then 1300 East, a rainbow appeared out the window, which is definitely not a sign from God that now we'll pass sensible gun control laws (because this nation hates women more than it loves guns, to quote BoJack Horseman S4), but was lovely nonetheless.And below it was a billboard.For Fat Boy ice cream sandwiches.With the hashtag:#YouDeserveItYou deserve it, you worthless collection of sentient nuclei, every moment of anxiety and self-doubt and nagging sense if you log into Tinder that you could be bludgeoned in an alley and someone, somewhere would wonder what you were wearing.Hooray cardboard-like "ice cream" "sandwiches!"I looked at the Smokes & Vapors shop to my right, the Nielsen's frozen custard shop to my left, and suddenly everything seemed pointless and ugly, in a way I think Havrilesky would recognize as valid.Then, I came to her final essay, with its highlight of Angle of Repose as among the accomplishments that make life feel worth living.And it came together, why she got it.I knew from her Ask Polly column and How to Be a Person in the World that like Wallace Stegner, like me, she had lost a parent in her mid-twenties.That changes you. I've hit year six of the After, and I see every day the subtle ways it shapes your consciousness.At its best, it can make you more open hearted, more attuned to life's fragility and therefore its beauty.At its worst, it can crush you in your loneliness, in how lost you feel at 25, 26, 30 on a road where you feel largely alone.I realized my bus was on a road Stegner himself traveled often, and yet again, I felt so lucky.I got off at my stop for my writing group, took the Draw as they call it under 1300 East from Sugar House Park to the shopping center. And this park, Hidden Hollow, which when I was a child was mostly known for drug paraphernalia, felt storybook beautiful.The late afternoon sun broke through the golden leaves, and kids were playing on the bridge, and I thought, prompted by the sum total of Heather's philosophy:What if these are in fact the best conditions in which to write? What if being a writer is what I was meant to be all along?As if to hammer home the book's points, a sign in the Hollow referenced "Appreciating messiness," and a quote by City Parks Idealist R. E. Sleater from 1922 laid out its vision for"natural rather than artificial beauty." This didn't feel like empty Rousseauian nonsense to me at that moment. It felt like women have been routinely silenced, ignored, even slaughtered, and I was connected to a smart, funny, and weird one through something she invented in her mind.Stegner was from a poverty-riddled background. He spent time in an orphanage in Seattle. He didn't seem destined for literary greatness. He worked his way through the University of Utah in a tile store.He thought he might just sell tile the rest of his life; it was the belief of a handful of professors who believed in him that set him on his path.He wasn't particularly religious, but had an unwavering faith in himself.I emerged from the Hollow to my well-trod corner of suburbia, specifically Whole Foods, which I frequent because it takes Apple Pay and I like it and it was on the way.My notes for this review were stained with pepperoni grease, and "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor was piped in.It felt like second-wave feminism was giving the finger to the forces trying to destroy women before death inevitably comes for us all.We can't crumple, we can't lay down and die.Another dessert, another hashtag:#makesmewholeI mean can an apple galette solve this? Probs not, but it did look tasty."The piano player's playing 'This Must Be the Place' And it's a miracle to be alive."No angel came and told Stegner or Havrilesky they had to write, to avenge the injustices of unstable childhoods and dead parents through spilled ink.It feels even more noble, in a way, that they just did it.I'm glad they did.Stegner wrote this in "It Is the Love of Books I Owe Them:"I am coming along Thirteenth East on my way to an eight o’clock class. It is a marvelous morning – it is always a marvelous morning, whether the air is hazy with autumn and the oakbrush on the Wasatch has gone bronze and gold, or whether the chestnut trees along the street are coned with blossoms ... I am enveloped in a universal friendliness. I turn at the drugstore on Second South and start uphill toward the Park Building at the head of the U drive.Laura McCluskey's vigil is at the Park Building. I'm reading those last pages of All the Little Live Things, and I can't stop the tears.I think Heather would understand.
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  • Angela Pineda
    January 1, 1970
    1.5 stars that I’ll round up because it takes A LOT for me to give a book one star. Reading this I wondered if essay books aren’t for me since this is the second one this year I’ve immensely disliked.. but then I remembered how much I loved “Not That Bad” by Roxanne Gay and I realized that this book is just bad. The author sounds entitled and elitist. She was also really annoying.I read this book because it was my book club’s November pick. My library didn’t have it so I paid $16 on Amazon. This 1.5 stars that I’ll round up because it takes A LOT for me to give a book one star. Reading this I wondered if essay books aren’t for me since this is the second one this year I’ve immensely disliked.. but then I remembered how much I loved “Not That Bad” by Roxanne Gay and I realized that this book is just bad. The author sounds entitled and elitist. She was also really annoying.I read this book because it was my book club’s November pick. My library didn’t have it so I paid $16 on Amazon. This was my main motivating factor to not abandon it since I paid FULL PRICE. The only positive part was the beautiful artwork on the cover. Unfortunately, what was inside of it wasn’t worth what it was printed on, in my opinion. Pass.
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  • James (JD) Dittes
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the best books of 2018 by a brilliant American woman.I found so much to like in this book. I even ended up re-reading three or four chapters out loud to my wife, who was similarly impressed. There is much that is quotable, and even more that is insightful.Considering the intellectual firepower she's working with, Havrilesky is remarkably down-to-earth here, relating embarrassing anecdotes from her marriage and past, along with many references to pop culture. I have been reading Ha This is one of the best books of 2018 by a brilliant American woman.I found so much to like in this book. I even ended up re-reading three or four chapters out loud to my wife, who was similarly impressed. There is much that is quotable, and even more that is insightful.Considering the intellectual firepower she's working with, Havrilesky is remarkably down-to-earth here, relating embarrassing anecdotes from her marriage and past, along with many references to pop culture. I have been reading Havrilesky since she was a columnist for Salon.com, and I have to say that I enjoyed her pop culture insights despite never having had a subscription to HBO, which seems to make up 60% of her references.If you're just browsing--and who doesn't with a book of essays like this--I would recommend the following essays: "Scourge of Gurus," an epic takedown of the Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins crowd; "True Romance," a lovely look at marriage and long-term desires; "Stuffed," a look at the Marie Kondo-ization of stuff; and "Lost Treasure," a lyrical look at the things that matter.For those who absolutely loved the book like me, Havrilesky sums up her concepts in the final essay, "The Miracle of the Mundane," one of several essays I read twice.I'm not sure if I have enough: enough salary, enough Twitter followers, enough time with those I love. But I'm sure that WITWE was enough to fill my mind with ideas that I will carry with me into 2019.
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  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    Over the past few days, I've been reading the new collection of Heather Havrilesky's essays, What If This Were Enough?It's a subject I've talked about before here, the tension between sufficiency and lack. With the rise of Marie Kondo's tidying-up empire, it seems like everything is about asking whether the things in your life spark joy, and to unload them if they don't. Not a bad thing entirely, in our consumption-driven world. After all, if you've read as much 19th century literature as I have Over the past few days, I've been reading the new collection of Heather Havrilesky's essays, What If This Were Enough?It's a subject I've talked about before here, the tension between sufficiency and lack. With the rise of Marie Kondo's tidying-up empire, it seems like everything is about asking whether the things in your life spark joy, and to unload them if they don't. Not a bad thing entirely, in our consumption-driven world. After all, if you've read as much 19th century literature as I have, you know that consumption is deadly in all its forms.Havrilesky's book could have a slightly different title, though. In many of her essays it seems as though she's asking, What if you were enough? In a world driven by clicks and likes, where it's easy to feel isolated and ignored because everything moves so darn fast, sometimes the vortex pulls you down. It's especially true for creative types. At our best, we're laying open our wounds to the world or trying to spin beauty out of our daydreams or our day to day existence. When the universe yawns and moves on to the Next Big Thing with nary a glance . . . well, that raises some questions about meaning. About life choices, and whether we maybe should have gotten a 'useful' degree and some of those sweet, sweet corporate dollars.There are essays in What If This Were Enough? that remind me of Anne Lamott's wry spirituality, and others that take a more polemical tone. But the quiet musings about little things--her marriage, her childhood home, the importance of having a sense of adequacy--really struck home for me. She writes:We are called to savor the process of our own slow, patient development, instead of suffering in an enervated, anxious state over our value and our popularity. We are called to view our actions as important, with or without consecration by forces beyond our control. . . Here is how you will start: You will recognize that you are not headed for some imaginary finish line . . . You will see that you are as much of a miracle as Mozart was. (p. 217)
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  • Jana
    January 1, 1970
    So in a perfect world we would enjoy our lives (or not!) without the nonstop social commentary. We would see the total eclipse of the sun in our back yards without constant FB/IG narration and sharing with the planet. We would understand that the perfect world is NOT a perfect world. Things are not meant to be always happy and we don’t have to continually strive to be better, more organized, more fit, and more fabulous than we were yesterday. I like all these ideas. And yet I just finished the b So in a perfect world we would enjoy our lives (or not!) without the nonstop social commentary. We would see the total eclipse of the sun in our back yards without constant FB/IG narration and sharing with the planet. We would understand that the perfect world is NOT a perfect world. Things are not meant to be always happy and we don’t have to continually strive to be better, more organized, more fit, and more fabulous than we were yesterday. I like all these ideas. And yet I just finished the book and opened GoodReads to document it. I have much to learn. I bought this book from the staff recommended table at Elliott Bay Book Co when my husband was in the hospital last year. I’ve been dipping into it over many months. An essay every once in awhile. For what my opinion is worth, I recommend that approach.
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  • Jessie
    January 1, 1970
    While I really enjoyed Heather Havrilesky's last book of essays, this one left me scratching my head as to what the point of these essays was supposed to be. The book's jacket informs us that many of the essays have been expanded, so that might be the first major problem, as many of these essays go on too long and often deviate from the main topic. The title of this book led me to believe the essays would be focusing on being more appreciative of the things we have, yet most of it is made up of While I really enjoyed Heather Havrilesky's last book of essays, this one left me scratching my head as to what the point of these essays was supposed to be. The book's jacket informs us that many of the essays have been expanded, so that might be the first major problem, as many of these essays go on too long and often deviate from the main topic. The title of this book led me to believe the essays would be focusing on being more appreciative of the things we have, yet most of it is made up of stories meant to criticize and judge the world around us without bringing up anything new or enlightening towards each subject ("Disneyland is fake and commercial,""self-help gurus are in it for the money and self-promotion" -- gee, you don't say?). I didn't find any of the humor and sharp observations from her previous essays, in fact, this one makes the author come off as unrelatable and entitled. I was planning on giving the book three stars, but as I write this, I find myself struggling to come up with anything to recommend about it.
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  • Lisa Carr
    January 1, 1970
    Nothing is beyond scrutiny in this book. Some of it I was ready to let go of -Disneyland chaos, 50 Shades of Grey twistedness. But Havrilesky also challenges our infatuations with Marie Kondo, Mad Men, the Pioneer Woman, and foodie culture. Uh oh. And yet, I hear her. I need her perspective, her honest truths. And I find myself proud of some of my choices after reading “Bravado” in which she challenges our insatiable appetite for instagram likes with the more satisfying faith in oneself, faith i Nothing is beyond scrutiny in this book. Some of it I was ready to let go of -Disneyland chaos, 50 Shades of Grey twistedness. But Havrilesky also challenges our infatuations with Marie Kondo, Mad Men, the Pioneer Woman, and foodie culture. Uh oh. And yet, I hear her. I need her perspective, her honest truths. And I find myself proud of some of my choices after reading “Bravado” in which she challenges our insatiable appetite for instagram likes with the more satisfying faith in oneself, faith in a calling. Not a light read. The essays take time and consideration- but what else do we have in the first weeks of 2019, when we’ve resolved to give up practically everything?
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  • Erin
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes essay collections can be a little tricky - I find that often there are some really good pieces, but that I might not connect to all of them. This was exactly how I felt about Havrilesky's work. I was completely into some of the essays, and then felt a little blah about some other ones. She covers a huge range of topics - everything from Disneyland to "The Sopranos," with my favorites touching on popular culture and entertainment. I also felt like I had a harder time with some of her wr Sometimes essay collections can be a little tricky - I find that often there are some really good pieces, but that I might not connect to all of them. This was exactly how I felt about Havrilesky's work. I was completely into some of the essays, and then felt a little blah about some other ones. She covers a huge range of topics - everything from Disneyland to "The Sopranos," with my favorites touching on popular culture and entertainment. I also felt like I had a harder time with some of her writing style choices - her syntax forced me to concentrate really hard, instead of the reading feeling effortless (although this probably has more to do with me than her). I would be interested in reading more of her essays in the future if the topics were intriguing to me.
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  • Julie
    January 1, 1970
    This book is truly delightful. It is a series of stand-alone essays. At first, they seem a bit repetitive, but over the course of the book they branch out a bit. The overarching theme is that our society is organized into a superficially sunny facade, which is also built on the message that rather than enjoying what is, we always need to be reaching for what could be. This is required by the capitalist economy, because if we believed that what we have is enough, then it would be hard to sell us This book is truly delightful. It is a series of stand-alone essays. At first, they seem a bit repetitive, but over the course of the book they branch out a bit. The overarching theme is that our society is organized into a superficially sunny facade, which is also built on the message that rather than enjoying what is, we always need to be reaching for what could be. This is required by the capitalist economy, because if we believed that what we have is enough, then it would be hard to sell us more goods and services. It is also fueled by the individualistic character of American society, which puts self-actualization above community concerns. So the gluten-free yoga enthusiast who is also really into Ayn Rand is a symbol of a certain upper-middle class ethos that many people can instantly recognize. That sounds preachy. But rather than being a series of lectures on the evils of capitalism and individualism, the book is a series of observations of a sort of upper-middle class lifestyle mixed in with a lot of pop culture criticism. The author takes some well-deserved shots at virtue-signaling foodies; life-style bloggers who promote an off-the-grid lifestyle for profit; CrossFit and other exercise enthusiasts who believe that it is not enough to do something good--you must do it to an extreme; and self-help guru Tim Ferriss, who surveyed a bunch of people purportedly to get diverse opinions, which ended up all being variations on his own message. A few of the essays that stood out were "adults only," "stuffed," "the land of heroic villains," and "survival fantasies." "Adults only" deals with what a drag it is to have to attend corporate or similar functions. As she says: "Let's be honest, some days, sensible middle-aged urban liberal adult professionals are the most tedious people in the world." No one really wants to be in a situation where you "can't go to a party and act like you're at a party. You're too old for that. You might speak out of turn or contradict yourself or offend someone. That's not how adults do it." Anyone who has been to a law firm event knows exactly what she means. "Stuffed" deals primarily deals with Marie Kondo, and the notion that although she has been able to sell her perspective using over-the-top language and nutty claims that objects have feelings, her underlying message is profound: "The poetic subtext that turned Marie Kondo into something akin to a globally recognized religious figure, the Dalai Lama of decluttering, is that we *don't* need more stuff. More, in fact, is a sickness. Kondo's message is, and has always been, that we should work with what we have instead." (p. 75) "The land of heroic villains" deals with the rise of pop-culture charismatic villains who are celebrated as heroes, starting with Tony Soprano. As she writes: "It's not just a void of ethics that we are witnessing; it's the celebration of that void. Many of our most popular narratives sidestep unwieldy talk of values . . . in favor of a recurring struggle to dominate, or else avoid domination. Brutality, mercilessness, lack of concern for principles--these are painted as prerequisites." (p. 108) And yes, she makes explicit that this--more so than the politically correct "economic anxiety"-- explains how we got Trump. If your culture celebrates entertaining sociopaths, you can't be too surprised if you are led by one. Finally, "survival fantasies" also mentions Trumpism in passing, but is really about our cultural love of apocalypse porn. At its core, a lot of this genre romanticizes individualism: "The allure of hard work and self-reliance, when paired with distrust of modern institutions, can curdle into an impulse to divest from society altogether. . . . this dream of purity and separation feeds the delusion that isolation is the most honorable choice, that dropping out is somehow more valiant than working slowly to reform the system and help those who are truly in need." (p. 180)My main criticism of the book is that, although I am fairly tuned-in to pop culture and I watch a lot of prestige TV, even I had not seen or read many of the materials that were referenced. I could follow the gist of the argument, but I think being familiar with the materials being referenced adds another dimension to things. Setting aside that one criticism, on top of everything else, this was a short and easy read. I give this book my highest recommendation.
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  • Zara
    January 1, 1970
    I’m halfway through but I’m calling it. I’m just bored and frustrated. Havrilesky isn’t saying anything new, and she’s cynical in a way I don’t find amusing or useful.
  • Nicole
    January 1, 1970
    It wasn't.
  • Jenna
    January 1, 1970
    Really disappointed with this one, having also read Havrilesky's How to Be a Person in the World, and as a fairly regular reader of her Ask Polly column. I was really irritated by the tone of these essays - she has a complaint about nearly every group of people (foodies/minimalists/intellectuals/yuppies/smartphone users/people who visit themeparks/adults who host parties/wealthy young people/millennials generally) but not much insight or originality. I was looking to like this collection, but th Really disappointed with this one, having also read Havrilesky's How to Be a Person in the World, and as a fairly regular reader of her Ask Polly column. I was really irritated by the tone of these essays - she has a complaint about nearly every group of people (foodies/minimalists/intellectuals/yuppies/smartphone users/people who visit themeparks/adults who host parties/wealthy young people/millennials generally) but not much insight or originality. I was looking to like this collection, but the author comes across as bitter and closed-minded.
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  • Rose
    January 1, 1970
    I found this collection of essays to be well written. This would be great for fans of the authors column. I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
  • Abby
    January 1, 1970
    “Living simply today takes work. It takes work to overcome the noise that has accumulated in our heads, growing louder and more pervasive since we were young. It takes work to overcome the illusion that we will arrive at some end point where we will be better—more successful, adored, satisfied, relaxed, rich. It takes hard work to say, ‘This is how I am,’ in a calm voice, without anxiously addressing how you should be. It takes work to shift your focus from the smudges on the window to the view “Living simply today takes work. It takes work to overcome the noise that has accumulated in our heads, growing louder and more pervasive since we were young. It takes work to overcome the illusion that we will arrive at some end point where we will be better—more successful, adored, satisfied, relaxed, rich. It takes hard work to say, ‘This is how I am,’ in a calm voice, without anxiously addressing how you should be. It takes work to shift your focus from the smudges on the window to the view outside. It requires conscious effort not to waste your life swimming furiously against the tide, toward some imaginary future that will never make you happy anyway.” — “The Miracle of the Mundane”Fresh, insightful, funny: This book stands boldly against so much of the greed and distraction and soul-crushing malaise of modern life. I wanted this to be twice as long. It is rare that I finish an essay collection and feel sad that it’s over, but Havrilesky is a rare oracle for our time. Warmly recommended.
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  • Lexi Wright
    January 1, 1970
    I was two-thirds done with my library copy, when I found a sizable crumb in the gutter as if it were some potent marginalia. I thought, "Thank god someone else has read this."Reading this felt like holding a mirror up to my face and finally feeling at peace with the muddle looking back.
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  • Jeffrey
    January 1, 1970
    I really, really liked the idea of this essay collection since I believe it to be an incredibly important and relevant topic of conversation, especially in this day and age. However, it felt like the author lacked depth in her overall argument, since a lot of what she explains in the introduction isn’t actually explored much further. It seems to me that her only argument was that the rise of technology and digital media has led to the general population, especially young people who have come of I really, really liked the idea of this essay collection since I believe it to be an incredibly important and relevant topic of conversation, especially in this day and age. However, it felt like the author lacked depth in her overall argument, since a lot of what she explains in the introduction isn’t actually explored much further. It seems to me that her only argument was that the rise of technology and digital media has led to the general population, especially young people who have come of age with social media, to feel inadequate and even depressed because it feels like nothing will ever be enough to satisfy us and our unrealistic expectations and/or goals. I agree 100%. But she really doesn’t take the argument much further than that. A lot of the essays seem to be about an underlying theme that capitalism controls our lives and convinces us we need materialistic commodities to keep us sane in an increasingly consumer-driven world. Okay, cool. The idea that capitalism has put a spell on society and convinced them they need to buy things they don’t need to feel good about themselves is nothing new, ask anyone. If you’re going to make such a sweeping generalization about society at large, you’re gonna have to take it a lot further than that. Insipid anecdotes from your personal life and your own observations of pop culture and feminism are not enough to bring it all together.It’s very well written, well rounded, and well researched. The first few essays really make you feel like this will be the book that will explain everything you haven’t been able to articulate. But then it feels like the author didn’t have much else to say about all that, and she decides to fill the rest of her word quota with analyses of pop culture and HBO television series. Congrats, you can analyze a cultural text. Just figure out how to bring it together with what you brilliantly put together in your introduction, and then your next book will probably be a lot better.
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  • Clara
    January 1, 1970
    I “discovered” Heather Havrilesky through her “Ask Polly” column in The Cut. Her new book of essays, What If This Were Enough?, displays the same smart, thoughtful perspective that makes “Ask Polly” so compelling.As a unifying thread, Havrilesky explores the cultural messages that regularly infiltrate our lives. These include some—say, for example, the sub-movements related to food—that may seem to be in our best interests, but that have other, less salutary, implications. She tackles topics fro I “discovered” Heather Havrilesky through her “Ask Polly” column in The Cut. Her new book of essays, What If This Were Enough?, displays the same smart, thoughtful perspective that makes “Ask Polly” so compelling.As a unifying thread, Havrilesky explores the cultural messages that regularly infiltrate our lives. These include some—say, for example, the sub-movements related to food—that may seem to be in our best interests, but that have other, less salutary, implications. She tackles topics from the philosophy of Disneyland to the spate of television series that feature immoral, amoral, or unethical protagonists—e.g., “The Sopranos” and “Billions”—and insidiously solicit our sympathy for them. Havrilesky employs the critical faculties that we’re usually too mentally lazy or too stressed to apply.The author’s writing is bracing, intelligent, and invigorating. Havrilesky doesn’t hesitate to call herself out when she’s been taken in, but then does what the rest of rarely do: walks into the weeds to examine what lies beneath the surface. The messages we receive, she notes, are often about needing to be better than we are (there’s much money to be made from people in need of perpetual improvement), and about needing the best and latest. The question to ask, she suggests, is “what if this were enough?” What if we embraced our own and life’s imperfections with compassion and humor and humanity? What if we accepted the inevitability of our flawed lives and found beauty in the reality?
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  • Perceptive
    January 1, 1970
    "Havrilesky takes on those cultural forces that shape us" but she has no idea libraries are under siege? This is why Trump won, Heather.Don't worry, I won't get your book at the library. Because I'm not buying it, period.
  • Christopher Farnsworth
    January 1, 1970
    Reading this collection of Heather Havrilesky's essays, I had the same feeling as when I read Carolyn See's MAKING HISTORY or when I first heard Patton Oswalt. I saw someone saying what I thought and felt, but expressing it better than I ever had, or could.
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  • jeremy
    January 1, 1970
    everything cheerful seems to have an ominous shadow looming behind it now. the smallest images and bits of news can feel so invasive, so frightening. they erode our belief in what the world can and should be. heather havrilesky's what if this were enough? collects 19 essays, mingling culture criticism and personal anecdote. with incisive insight and compassionate consideration, havrilesky confronts the insidiousness of our 21st century milieu. decrying the excesses of capitalism, materialism, a everything cheerful seems to have an ominous shadow looming behind it now. the smallest images and bits of news can feel so invasive, so frightening. they erode our belief in what the world can and should be. heather havrilesky's what if this were enough? collects 19 essays, mingling culture criticism and personal anecdote. with incisive insight and compassionate consideration, havrilesky confronts the insidiousness of our 21st century milieu. decrying the excesses of capitalism, materialism, and the relentless onslaught of america's excesses, havrilesky autopsies a culture which exploits individuals for capital gain and leaves so many frightened, forlorn, and feeling forever inadequate. with empathy, acute observational skill, sardonic humor, and a gift for linking disparate subjects, the how to be a person in the world author inspects, indicts, assuages, assures, and ultimately aims to inspire and enable both a different way of thinking and a different way of being.while what if this were enough? betrays a restless dissatisfaction with the status quo (and its seemingly unalterable trajectory), as well as the predatory, consumptive nature of our modern moment, havrilesky envisions and encourages a return to simpler, more beneficent values. smart, funny, and thought-provoking, havrilesky's essays prove to be a salve for our bewildering, uncertain, and perilous present. we're now, more than ever before, bombarded by hidden and overt messages about our personal worth. in spite of the growing uncertainty and anxiety of our current moment, we are meant to sidestep inconvenient emotions and fearlessly conquer the future. the slightest hesitation dooms us to the ranks of failures and losers. no wonder our capacity for nuance and subtlety has been lost, as our opinions and ideals increasingly take the shape of fundamentalist religions. poetry and art, nuanced intellectual discourse, the odd unfiltered moment—these are either misinterpreted as moral litmus tests or else they're upstaged by bold claims and extremist rhetoric. the blustery overstatements and exaggerations and lies of talk show hosts, pundits, social media firebrands, and politicians drown out all attempts at refinement, restraint, and grace, and seep into our everyday discourse. thoughtfulness is misread as uncertainty; melancholy is misunderstood as a stubborn refusal to play nicely with others. a century ago, survival was the main event. longing was accepted as part of existence. today, the inability to achieve happiness or fit in with the herd is treated as a kind of moral failure.
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  • Timothy Haggerty
    January 1, 1970
    Well worth the read.I saw the title and I was sure I had to read it. I had been thinking about the same thing for a few days. I always wonder what it's all about. There are some very good insights and criticism at social media, TV and direction of our culture that rang true to this reader.
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  • Alena
    January 1, 1970
    A book about never being happy, satisfied, or willing to believe you are enough. For the author, Disney is depressing - but she goes to Disneyland. Romantic love is an illusion - but she’s married. This book is exhausting and full of grievances and I only survived three chapters. I’m reminded of Dennis Leary who said, “Nobody is happy. Happiness comes in small doses like a cigarette butt or a chocolate chip cookie or a five second orgasm.” Except here you can’t smoke, the cookie is stale, and th A book about never being happy, satisfied, or willing to believe you are enough. For the author, Disney is depressing - but she goes to Disneyland. Romantic love is an illusion - but she’s married. This book is exhausting and full of grievances and I only survived three chapters. I’m reminded of Dennis Leary who said, “Nobody is happy. Happiness comes in small doses like a cigarette butt or a chocolate chip cookie or a five second orgasm.” Except here you can’t smoke, the cookie is stale, and the bedroom is cold.I’m off to have a cookie.
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  • Janine
    January 1, 1970
    Heather Havrilesky's essays really capture this present moment for me - this endless sea of distractions we live in, this age of Instagram influencers and hack gurus, of Marie Kondo and self loathing, of "follow your passion!" and the shiny-screened phone that perpetually dings at us, all day long, subtly telling us all the ways in which we're not good enough, the ways in which the world is on fire, and eroding, always, our ability to be in the present moment. The way that these distractions bli Heather Havrilesky's essays really capture this present moment for me - this endless sea of distractions we live in, this age of Instagram influencers and hack gurus, of Marie Kondo and self loathing, of "follow your passion!" and the shiny-screened phone that perpetually dings at us, all day long, subtly telling us all the ways in which we're not good enough, the ways in which the world is on fire, and eroding, always, our ability to be in the present moment. The way that these distractions blind us to the bigger systemic problems underway, blind us to our neighbors and fellow citizens who so desperately need our engaged minds, right here and right now, if we are to try and not be obliterated by climate change and economic inequality and the other horrifying problems we face. (Like, for instance, the fact that if you're alive in 2050, you might well get to watch Miami die. I can't wrap my mind around it.)These essays are so smart that they are occasionally infuriating. I found myself getting frustrated with Havrilesky at first, having arguments with her in my head, before I understood that she is swimming in this sea just as much as the rest of us are, and she's trying to help. She's trying to show us that aspiring to "live your best life," sleek modern (Instagram) appearances and all, is basically a guaranteed way to suffer and feel like a failure. And more than that, it'll harm more than just you."Our anxious age erodes our ability to connect to the purity and magic that we carry around inside us already, without anything to buy, without anything new to become, without any way to conquer and win the shiny luxurious lives we're told we deserve. So instead of passionately embracing the things we love the most, and in so doing reveal our fragility and self-hatred and sweetness and darkness and fear and everything that makes us whole, we present a fractured, tough, protected self to the world."This book made me power off my phone - a temporary respite, no doubt, but a immensely pleasurable one, never the less - and for the first time in ages, I didn't opt to listen to a podcast while I did the dishes this morning. I wanted, instead, to delight in the pleasure of my own thoughts, in thinking. God, we have so much work to do. I'm grateful we have Havrilesky and her fierce intelligence to help light the way.
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  • William
    January 1, 1970
    Do you know people who are quite clever, slightly funny, who like to sit together and complain- about people, things, places, trends, and whole generations? They don’t provide much explanation and certainly no evidence, but anything is worth complaining about if they can make a punchy and whiney complaint. If you do, and if you like that sort of thing, check this book out. If complainers, kvetches, or whiners annoy you, then do not waste your time with this book. Because that’s what it was: a wa Do you know people who are quite clever, slightly funny, who like to sit together and complain- about people, things, places, trends, and whole generations? They don’t provide much explanation and certainly no evidence, but anything is worth complaining about if they can make a punchy and whiney complaint. If you do, and if you like that sort of thing, check this book out. If complainers, kvetches, or whiners annoy you, then do not waste your time with this book. Because that’s what it was: a waste of time. Throughout the book I felt like a math teacher, wanting to write “show your work” in the margin, or a Wikipedia editor, wanting to insert a “citation needed” note. Havrilesky makes broad complaints with nothing to back them up and bald assertions that become infuriating to a curious reader as they stack up without evidence. The book is made up of chapters; each one sounds like it started with one clever tweet that was expanded into a chapter of several pages for no good reason by adding bullshit, conjecture, and logical fallacies. Some examples:Havrilesky conflates a trend (foodies) with the biggest generation present during the trend. This is bullshit. No one would say that millennials are the greatest equities investors ever because of the current record run of the stock market. The stock market is not the economy. Havrilesky writes as if they are the same. There are fascists in the White House and babies in cages, and Havrilesky identifies Instagram as the real cause of injustice in her world. She complains about a boring party where people were crossing their legs like Europeans. What the fuck is even supposed to mean?Even when she complains about something that I also dislike, I can see her complaint is bullshit- no argument, no evidence, no explanation. At her very best, she grasps toward points that the Buddha and Mary Oliver write much more clearly, convincingly, and beautifully. Read them instead.
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