*A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018*
*A Bustle Best Nonfiction Book of 2018*
*One of Chicago Tribune's Favorite Books by Women in 2018*
*A Self Best Book of 2018 to Buy for the Bookworm in Your Life*
By the acclaimed critic, memoirist, and advice columnist behind the popular "Ask Polly," an impassioned collection tackling our obsession with self-improvement and urging readers to embrace the 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 "Ask Polly," her advice column for The Cut, 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. We've convinced ourselves, she says, that salvation can be delivered only in the form of new products, new technologies, new lifestyles. 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 to navigate our increasingly bewildering world.
Through her incisive and witty inquiries, Havrilesky urges us to reject the pursuit of a shiny, shallow future that will never come. These timely, provocative, and often hilarious essays suggest an embrace of the flawed, a connection 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 says, can be found right here, right now, in this imperfect moment.
These incisive essays by New York magazine columnist Havrilesky (How to Be a Person in the World), some previously published in shorter versions, invite readers into the contradictions of upper-middle-class American life. She's interested in "how we ingest and metabolize" the "broader poisons of our culture," yet cannot "figure out why we're sick." She relates these poisons endemic distraction; determinedly amoral entertainment; the dominance of corporate culture, as represented by the ubiquity of Disney with a combination of anger, dismay, and ambivalence. She calls out the hypocrisy of the "foodie movement," with its self-congratulatory "heroic sheen," for failing to prioritize making "healthy food more affordable to the poor." Her social criticism is keen, but her best writing is personal. There's a beautiful essay on being unable to extricate herself from a failing relationship, because "I was more at home with longing." Her goal is to encourage readers to ask of themselves, as she asks herself amid Disneyland's overcontrolled banality, "How did we get here? Who stood back and let this happen to our world?" She wants Americans to "wake up to the unbelievable gift of being alive," even though it means facing anomie, despair, and all the scary emotions that are easier avoided. It's a message she relates with insight, wit, and terrific prose.
Heather Havrilesky points out so many dangerous themes we overlook and take as reality. I love this collection of essays and it ends so beautifully.