THIS BOOK ROCKED MY WORLD!!! Sheila Heti’s voice and her themes are definitely not for everyone, but if you like poetic, mostly plotless, and memoir-tinged writing you might like this. (if you aren’t sure message me, I can tell you.) this book is her journey to deciding if she wants to be a mother, “whether I want kids is a secret I keep from myself.” I read it furiously in one day, and I’m pretty sure I underlined 85% of it.
“Having children is nice. What a great victory to be not-nice. The nicest thing to give the world is a child. Do I ever want to be that nice?”
Going to begin by embracing the collective you: In most books you read there’s probably something, small or large, you don’t morally agree with. But it’s likely you don’t feel the need to distance yourself from it or acknowledge it. I’ve never heard someone say, “read this book, but watch out, they steal something in chapter three and that’s uncool.”
Typically the things that are uncouth, that don’t mesh into polite society or our specific worldview, are described in a sanitized way, and especially when you’re talking about affairs, or desire, or sex in general, they’re often described from a male perspective. This book is different. It’s a little bit shocking, it’s supposed to be. But if you are disgusted by it, you’re sort of proving her right.
But really, this book is about a lot more than that. it’s about women, as people existing in the world. It’s about literature and art. It’s about marriage and affairs, and it’s about desire. It’s one of the books that strung together a lot of broken pieces that were already floating around my brain, and I think pretty much everyone should read it.
“This presumes that there’s something inherently grotesque, unspeakable, about femaleness, desire. But what I’m going through with you is happening for the first time.”
“I want to own everything that happens to me now,’ I told you. ‘Because if the only material we have to work with in America is our own lives, shouldn’t we be making case studies?'”
I love Shauna, and, simultaneously, I acknowledge that everything she writes is basically the same thing. It’s always exactly what you need to hear, though, so we can’t fault her.
This is my favorite of her books, every chapter tells the story of a meal with the recipe at the end. She managed to teach me how to make salad dressing (and that it was even possible to make salad dressing) and how be less neurotic in a single swoop. Any time I host in any capacity I perform a Shauna Niequist Mental Wellness Check: am I letting the ‘performance’ cloud the event? Am I making food I can’t pronounce the name of? Have I yelled at Caleb simply for being a living being in my spotless home? She always lets me know when I’ve gone too far.
“I’m not talking about cooking as performance, or entertaining as a complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I’m talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day.”
Rating: 8/10 (Actual sticky notes for actual meals I flip back to consistently)
I would probably adopt this book as a political manifesto, but maybe I shouldn’t talk about that in my new, impartial, internet space.
“But I have to say this in defense of humankind: In no matter what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody just got here. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were already all these games going on that could make you act crazy, even if you weren’t crazy to begin with. Some of the crazymaking games going on today are love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and credit cards, golf, and girls’ basketball.”
I, like you, have read 1,000 ways to Be On Your Phone Less. I have switched it to greyscale, I have really thought hard about turning off notifications, I have snuck off to the bathroom to check it for the 30th time to appear less rude than I was actually being. But then came this book!!!!!
It is maybe made of witchcraft, but it is witchcraft that has changed my life. All of the sudden I, who’s thumb automatically swung to Instagram every ten minutes, on the second, is sleeping with my phone in another room, has turned off all my notifications (besides messages and phone calls), and forgets that I even have a phone for large swaths of a day! The book is structured in two parts, the first part explains why you’re so addicted to your phone and why it’s so important that you become less addicted, and the second part is a 30 day plan with a small task each day that get you to Phone Freedom. I have hours on my hands that seemingly sprouted from nowhere, I feel more focused and less spacey literally all the time, I have sprouted wings and I now use them to travel instead of my car. This is sounding more and more like an infomercial, but they’re not paying me or anything.
Oh last thing! She does a very amazing job of addressing the benefits our phones bring to our lives. She’s not trying to get you to never be on your phone, or delete all your apps permanently. The goal is to get you in a relationship with your phone that is healthy and that you control.
I think I set a personal record for taking photos of pages of books with this one. She says things about marriage that we can’t even admit to ourselves, and things that we need to whisper to ourselves every morning when we wake up. “‘The hardest lesson in a marriage,’ says my friend Asia, ‘is understanding the truth of the other person, believing in your heart that they are as real as you are, and their feelings matter as much. We all think that when something is wrong it will feel wrong to us, but that’s the biggest lie. So many things that your partner will see as betrayal will feel to you like nothing. One of the biggest challenges of marriage is to acknowledge that your own feelings aren’t the end of the story. We have to hold so many realities at once: here’s me, here’s you, here’s us, here’s the rest of the world.”
As repellent as it is when someone declares a book “required reading,” this book is?
“When the journalist asked me about my body, it was like she was asking me to awaken her from the most gorgeous dream. I have seen that dream all my life. It is perfect houses with nice lawns. It is Memorial Day cookouts, block associations, and driveways. The Dream is tree houses and the Cub Scouts. The Dream smells like peppermint but tastes like strawberry shortcake. And for so long I have wanted to escape into the Dream, to fold my country over my head like a blanket. But this has never been an option because the dream rests on our backs, the bedding made from our bodies. And knowing this, knowing that the dream persists by warring with the known world, I was sad for all those families, I was sad for my country, but above all, in that moment, I was sad for you.”