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What If This Were Enough?
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What If This Were Enough?

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  246 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Doubleday Books
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Kristy K
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, 2018, essays, netgalley
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.
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
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
Oct 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
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.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Lexi Wright
Nov 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
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.
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
"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
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help, philosophy
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
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Heather Havrilesky's collection of essays explores millennial culture in a way that did not make me roll my eyes. A lot of these essay topics I've seen before, particularly "Delusion at the Gastropub," about foodie culture (such a good title right?) but Havrilesky's take on them was refreshing and insightful. There was a fair amount of criticism and advice, but in a way that was much less condescending than Mark Greif's essay collection Against Everything. Greif's collection kept coming to mind ...more
Oct 19, 2018 marked it as dnf
I can’t afford to buy this book, so I had to DNF it.
Timothy Haggerty
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.
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The anti-self-help book for the misanthropic nerd. I have been reading the advice column Ask Polly for years and would therefore pay money for anything that Heather writes, but this exceeded all expectations.
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Timely thoughts on how to live well and purposefully at this particular moment.
Savannah Wooten
Oct 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hard-copy, favorites
The book we need - always.
Michael Smith
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book of essays is very ‘right now,’ tackling topics so definitive of the modern American experience. Definitely worth the read.
Jt O'Neill
Oct 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this collection of essays. Heather Havrilesky is a sharp writer who can tie together various facets of pop culture. I think she is spot on with her criticism of the consumer society and cultural fascination with all things technology. She makes a good case for questioning much of the message that comes through the media and is a master at exploring that message via current TV/movie trends.

My favorite essays were the ones that featured a more personal perspective. In the short essay Lost
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was prepared to love this book as much as I love Heather Havrilesky's advice columns and related writing, and I think that's my problem because this is about very different subjects. Her overall project is the same, but these essays - especially the first half - focus on consumerism and luxury/best-self/status-seeking self improvement and personal brand culture, topics that I feel very disconnected from. The implied audience, or at least subject, of some of these essays feels more moneyed or a ...more
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5/5 stars

I had mixed feelings on nearly every one of these essays. I appreciate what Havrilesky explores in these essays -- the manufactured happiness of Disneyland, the role of gurus like Tim Ferris, what social media and ideas of success are doing to our culture -- and her main ideas on consumerism and capitalism and the cult of positivity really resonate with me. But each of the essays starts out with pop culture criticism and kind of meander to her point. I was tempted to skip a few essays
Victoria Wood
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Full Overview, Review and Commentary over on my blog -

WHAT IF THIS WERE ENOUGH? by Heather Havrilesky is an extremely thought provoking collection of essays. This book made me question what happiness really is…especially in today’s world. There were a few essays I loved. One that stuck and I was talking to a friend about just recently was entitled “the happiest place on earth”.

This collection tackles cultural messages, some of which have been passed down
Angela Pineda
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
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
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
“The sky is gray. A fly lands on your hand. Your cocktail is lukewarm. And still, for some reason, if you slow down and accept reality enough, it starts to feel right. Better than right. You are not comparing reality to some imagined perfect alternative. You are welcoming reality for what it already is.”

I was about to discontinue reading after the first two essays because I wasn’t enjoying the negative tone, but after reading the book I realize that part was intended as sarcastic wit. And wow ho
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
A smart collection of essays that looks at the failings of our culture. Whether she's talking about feminism, pop culture, literature, or the self-help movement, Havrilesky brings razor-sharp analysis and insight. Her analysis of Shirley Jackson and her work and its relevance to our contemporary situation is brilliant. Another particularly strong essay examines the connections between our fascination with apocalyptic scenarios (GoT, Walking Dead), our politics, CrossFit and the Pioneer Woman (ye ...more
Stephanie  Dixon
Oct 17, 2018 rated it liked it
The first half of these essays contained mostly bleak cultural criticisms with each chapter wrapping up hastily as soon as any glimmer of positivity began to shine through. However, the second half showcases a lot more of Havrilesky's humor and humanity and gives the reader more room for their own opinions and reactions to the post-post-post modern world we're living in. If you're looking for a self-help book to hand you the answers to the questions of modern life, this book will not do that—how ...more
Nov 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Overall enjoyed it, some essays were better than others, I found that all of them had a corny/cliche ending and think they would have hit more powerful had Havrilesky put more nuanced effort into the essay endings. It was kind of repetitive at times and at other times I wish she could have taken her insights a little farther, deeper, etc. I like everything she said, but I didn't have any type of emotional reaction or transformation while reading it---which is why I read personal essays.
I found about a third of these essays fresh and insightful. “Adults Only” is terrific, as is “Survival Fantasies.” Also good: “The Miracle of the Mundane,” “The Smile Factory,” and “To Infinity and Beyond.”

Most of the rest of the essays are just interesting or thought-provoking enough to keep you going, hoping that the next essay will really hit home. I’d skip the introduction, which is bland and earnest and somehow made want to give up on the book altogether.
Nov 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent, like all her work. The essay, “Romance” was particularly striking. Her cultural criticism remains precise and wise. But it is in her humanism and compassion that sets her apart as a commentator.
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HEATHER HAVRILESKY is the author of How to Be a Person in the World and the memoir Disaster Preparedness. She is a columnist for New York magazine, and has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and NPR's All Things Considered, among others. She was Salon's TV critic for seven years. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a loud assortment of dependents, most ...more
“Brilliance doesn't depend only on talk and flair, even though we're sometimes tempted to believe so. Brilliance depends on believing in the hard work you're capable of doing, but it also depends on believing in your potential, believing in your minds, believing in your heart. Brilliance sometimes relies on believing in your talents before you have any evidence that they're there. What a luxury, to take such an enormous leap of faith, without hesitation!
Because even as I've worked hard year after year for more than twenty years now, as I've polished my work and demanded steady improvement from myself and asked myself to do better, I realize that for all of the concrete skills I've gained, nothing takes the place of truly believing that my ideas and words have a right to be taken seriously. And if I believed enough in my talents years ago to own them, who knows what I could've created?”
“Being capable and productive feels somewhat beside the point these days. Either you're popular, and therefore exciting and successful and a winner, or you're unpopular, and therefore unimportant and invisible and devoid of redeeming value. Being capable was much more celebrated in the 1970s when I was growing up. People had real jobs that lasted a lifetime back then, and many workers seemed to embrace the promise that if you worked steadily and capably for years, you would be rewarded for it. Even without those rewards, working hard and knowing how to do things seemed like worthwhile enterprises in themselves.
"Can she back a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?" my mom used to sing while rolling out pie crust with her swift, dexterous hands. Sexist as its message may have been, the modern version of that song might be worse. It would center around taking carefully staged and filtered photos of your pretty face next to a piece of cherry pie and posting it to your Instagram account, to be rewarded with two thousand red hearts for your efforts. Making food, tasting it, sharing it, understanding yourself as a human who can do things - all of this is flattened down to nothing, now, since only one or two people would ever know about it. Better to feed two thousand strangers an illusion than engage in real work to limited ends.”
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