What If This Were Enough?

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 N...

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Title:What If This Were Enough?
Author:Heather Havrilesky
Rating:

What If This Were Enough? Reviews

  • Rose

    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.

  • Christopher Farnsworth

    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.

  • Charly

    Last night, after watching the first episode of

    , 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

    , 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:

    #YouDeserveIt

    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

    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

    that like

    , 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

    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:

    #makesmewhole

    I mean can an apple galette solve this? Probs not, but it did look tasty.

    "The piano player's playing 'This Must Be the Place'

    "

    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:"

    is at the Park Building.

    I'm reading those last pages of

    , and I can't stop the tears.

    I think Heather would understand.

  • Kristy K

    3.5 Stars

    Havrilesky’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.

  • Clara

    I “discovered” Heather Havrilesky through her “Ask Polly” column in

    . Her new book of essays,

    , 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

    . Her new book of essays,

    , 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?

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    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

    . A quote near the beginning sums it up:

    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.

  • Alexandra

    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.

  • Perceptive

    "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.

  • Renata

    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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