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What Now?

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  1,562 ratings  ·  249 reviews
Based on her lauded commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College, this stirring essay by bestselling author Ann Patchett offers hope and inspiration for anyone at a crossroads, whether graduating, changing careers, or transitioning from one life stage to another. With wit and candor, Patchett tells her own story of attending college, graduating, and struggling with the i ...more
ebook, 112 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published April 7th 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Alonna Shaw
Jan 26, 2013 Alonna Shaw rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone wondering about life and what to do. Graduates, quarterlife crisis, midlife crisis.
Recommended to Alonna by: found on internet
A very quick and inspiring read. Originally a commencement speech at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence, Patchett describes how life continuously presents new "What Nows." F. Scott Fitzgerald had a similar way of dealing with life in "This Side of Paradise" by having his character "Do the next thing." Both sentiments are applicable to the new graduate and anyone on the planet... because when faced with obstacles or doldroms we all wonder "What Now?"

Favorite excerpts:
"Sometimes the circumstances at h
...more
Lauren
I really enjoyed this speech-turned-essay. So many wonderful morsels of wisdom to "chew on". She shares a few personal anecdotes, but does not make the speech about herself. It is inspiring and contemplative, encouraging her audience to look inward for happiness; and then sharing it with the world.

Because it was a commencement speech that she have at her alma mater, it is almost guaranteed that it will remind you of your college/university days. Unfortunately, I don't remember anything about th
...more
Heather
A great way to start 2012.

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Ann Patchett's writing in Bel Canto, and I am excited to rediscover her and plan to read several of her novels this year.

"What Now?" is a short Commencement Address that she gave at her alma mater - Sarah Lawrence.

It is full of good advice for anyone.

My favorite passages:

"And sometimes, we don't realize what we've learned until we've already known it for a very long time."

"I never stop having to learn: to pay attention to the thing
...more
Cynthia McCloud
I liked what Ann Patchett has to say very much. I am giving my copy to a young person graduating this week from a "second-chance" military-style program with his GED. He is struggling mightily with "What now?" I highlighted several places in my copy where I want the recipient to pay attention -- phrases that I think will comfort if not instruct him.

What I did not like about this book is the way it is put together. Apparently Patchett's text alone, even double-spaced, would be no more than a bro
...more
Kieran Walsh
Not particularly Rocket Science but nice to read something assuring by an author that I've liked for years. Typically I don't take much interest in Commencement Speeches (though I did really enjoy watching Barbara Kinsolver's speech at Duke) but there's something rather refreshingly positive about telling students to seize the day, enjoy the undecidedeness of decision making and to savor youth and its (almost)career innocence. It probably wasn't something I'd have run out to buy but a friend gav ...more
Joanne Guidoccio
Having recently discovered Ann Patchett’s wonderful novels, I was pleasantly surprised to discover she had also written a stirring essay based on her commencement address at Sarah Lawrence College.

Less than one hundred pages in length, What Now? can easily be read in one sitting. Using anecdotes from her own life, Patchett offers many simple truths and life lessons that will inspire anyone at a crossroads, not just newly-minted graduates.

As a recent retiree, I recall facing the What Now? quest
...more
Antony Antoniou
I really cannot find any meaning for the existence of this book. It is a constant self-appraisal monologue that goes on for ever. (where is humility and so on..) Recommended for church school list of books. Even the photographs although some interesting by themselves (black and whites, abstract e.t.c.), they are shuttered between the pages in a very childish over explanatory manner. For instance she writes something about two paths to follow in life, the next thing you see is a very good picture ...more
Ruby
Dec 19, 2008 Ruby rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ruby by: found it at the library
(Essay)-What now? Good question. One I have been asking myself since my junior year in high school. I've never felt very good at finding the answer. Once I married and had children, I felt it was answered for a good, long time but now that three of mine are young adults and I only have a very responsible 12-year-old at home, I'm back to "What now?" again. Unfortunately, despite all my life experience, I don't have any clearer answers than I had in high school. Patchetts' ponderings didn't provid ...more
Cecilia
I read this little book just because it is by Ann Patchett and you know by now how much I love her. This is the commencement address she gave at Sarah Lawrence College some years ago and it was nice but not super inspiring at least not like Jim Carey's recent speech at the Maharishi School of Management - now that is a speech. Ann Patchett's speech was a little too much about her own life and experiences which when I was a student about to embark on my life's journey, would have sounded like an ...more
Jacoba
Here is something you may not know about me. I love commencement speeches. I love graduation. I especially love graduation time in the college town I live in because I love seeing all the proud parents and annoyed students posing for pictures :)

What Now? is an extended version of a commencement speech Ann Patchett gave at Sarah Lawrence. I loved it because I love commencement speeches and I love Ann Patchett. It gives a lot of reassurance for not knowing what you're going to do in life, and a lo
...more
Kim
This was a very short little book, but very good. It emphasizes the importance of being open to what happens to us versus the emphasis I think we more commonly put on what we should be doing with ourselves. In the end, she advocates for a balance between the two, but the book - actually an expanded commencement speech - is a good reminder that many of our most valuable experiences are not expected or planned.
Mary
This bright and beautiful essay makes the wandering (and sometime frantic) search for one's own path through life seem like the best and most exciting adventure of our lives (I hope it is!). The writing was fresh and fast-paced and felt like a comforting embrace from a beloved friend. Don't miss this quick read with funny pictures, too!
Tatra
I loved her voice and her message, but I want to reread this book to see if I can absorb more. But, this was recommended to me by someone and I would suggest this to all of my writerly friends.
Mark
Commencement address at Sarah Lawrence. It contains personal details about her time there and about her writing, such as that the house in “Bel Canto” is based on the school president’s house, which she ended up at while searching for a working oven when making chocolate chip cookies. The advice is good, and at the end, she tells about creating the speech, where a professor told her her first attempt was horrible and so she started over from scratch. If you like her writing — and I do, a lot — t ...more
Kevin Brown
This is a really good book for students graduating college (it was originally a commencement address). Patchett does a good job of laying out what's important for her as a writer and, she argues, for living life. What I like best is that her path to being a writer was not as direct as one might think. Most students believe one graduates from college and immediately finds what they should do. That doesn't happen for most of us, and it's always good when one more person shares a story that illustr ...more
Wendy
If you or someone you know is looking for career inspiration and hope right about now, this is the book for you. The questions “what now?” or “now what?” have often been used in association with career transition, but never as eloquently as in the new book, What now? by Ann Patchett. The book, a slightly longer version of a commencement speech she gave at her alma mater this past June, is about her own experience with facing the question of, What now? and what she learned along the way.

It doesn
...more
Jen
This book is basically Patchett's commencement address at Sarah Lawrence University, fleshed out to make a short 80-page musing about the nature of transition and choosing your own direction in life. It's a small book, almost a coffee table type book in the way it's packaged. It could be mistaken for one of those cheesy 'inspirational quotes' types of book - except it's not cheesy because it's Ann Patchett (and therefore insightful and witty and a joy to read. HELLO.)

Like I said, it's short - I
...more
Courtney
An uplifting and encouraging book for recent-grads. Some of my favorite passages:
"Sometimes the circumstances at hand force us to be braver than we actually are, and so we knock on doors and ask for assistance." pg.20
"It was for me the start of a lesson that I never stop having to learn: to pay attention to the things I'll probably never need to know, to listen carefully to the people who look as if they have nothing to teach me, to see school as something that goes on everywhere, all the time,
...more
Hayley DeRoche
*2.5 stars. The commencement speech reprinted here is sweet and simple (nothing to write home about, squarely ok), with an overarching theme of urging the reader at the crossroads to be quiet, listen, and stare at the world, and reminding the reader that "Sometimes the circumstances at hand force us to be braver than we actually are, and so we knock on doors and ask for assistance." Learning to follow plays a part in some on the best advice here, rather than the standard be a leader talks the re ...more
Heather
This is a short read with many great nuggets:
Two excerpts:
Sometimes the best we can hope for is to be graceful and brave in the face of all the changes that will surely come. It also helps to have a sense of humor about your own fate, to not think that you alone are blessed when good fortune comes your way, or cursed when it passes you by. It helps if you can realize that this part of life when you don’t know what’s coming next is often the part that people look back on with the greatest affect
...more
Holly
This book is based on a commencement address the author gave at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College.

It would be easy to dismiss this book as a typical commencement speech. It is typical in how it details some of the pivotal events and people who influenced and changed the author's life at Sarah Lawrence and beyond. The message is typical as it questions the future and as the author asks the predictable questions such as what and who will I become?

But the book reaches deeper as the author de
...more
Kevin
You will recall that I am a sucker for short books. My life has become quite hectic with two small children and a job that is unpredicatable. Throw in the normal distractions and commitments to church, friends, etc. and it gets harder and harder to make the time for a long read. I still do it on occasion because I love the experience, but I also love short books that I can read in one sitting or a couple of night's bedside reading.

It is for this reason that I first picked up What Now? while at t
...more
Linda
This short book is a somewhat expanded version of a graduation speech that author Ann Patchet gave at Sarah Lawrence University, where she got her undergraduate degree. I have read it a few times and given it to graduates from high school and college. It is full of good advice given through stories about her own experiences. At times it is funny -- always good to have some levity in a speech! Mostly, however, it is just good advice about how to approach live so that it is meaningful.
Ahf
Commencement address by Ann Patchet I just read. Its name was What Now? One of the most original points she made was that her education in Catholic school (which she hated at the time and derided as irrelevant and useful for many years after) actually gave her the gift of following. She points out that much of life is about teaching us to lead, but that few are actually called to lead. One General to thousands of Privates.... Following happily, being "good at following" is a blessing. She points ...more
Cindy
What Now? is based on Ann Patchett's commencement speech given to graduates of Sarah Lawrence College a few years back.
Great book for students who are looking out the window to the future after high school or college and asking themselves, What Now?
Also great for parents as a nice reminder to back off a bit and allow our children to explore, fail, change directions and learn about the excitement of sometimes not knowing at all but just enjoying the journey.
Peggy
While I am way past the age of graduation, I find I still ask "What Now?" As we pass through the various stages of adulthood we are always assessing where we are and whether or not we should be doing something else. I found this little book to be very inspirational and it helped me justify the restless feelings I've had on and off most of my life. Keep living life and see where it takes you...after graduation and beyond.
Sara
I'm in a state of wondering "What now?" and this speech made my heart swell and my eyes glisten with gratitude that Ann Patchett is an author. I'm so grateful for her prose, insight and hope.

Listened to on the Overdrive media app read by the author herself; rented from the library; all done online from the comfort of my chair. I'm going to sit and stare for a bit.
Melissa
A delightful, quick read. This book was something I found in the airport and read the entirety of the text before landing.

The book builds upon a commencement address Ms. Patchett gave at Sarah Lawrence College. But I found it a thoughtful narrative to anyone starting a new moment in their life. Ms. Patchettt is both witty and candid. She tells her own story and offers a clarity to the reader.

One of my personal favorites: "Sometimes the best we can hope for is to be graceful and brave in the fa
...more
Jessica
This is a short book based heavily on a commencement address Patchett gave at Sarah Lawrence. It's full of a lot of unnecessary pictures depicting decision making or feeling lost, but the actual content is good. Patchett gives some good advice, including embracing the question "What now?" instead of using it to express how we feel lost and unsure.
Jess
Oct 03, 2010 Jess rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jess by: Grandma J
Shelves: z_10, essay
Sweeter than I expected. Pratchett tells a story of writing a graduation speech, believing it perfect, sending it to a former teacher, and being surprised when he told her to scrap it and start over. When she completed her second attempt, what became this book, she knew without asking it was right.

It's a good metaphor for her overarching point that listening and learning go hand in hand. Sometimes we're not ready the moment someone else expects it, and that's OK.

The speech isn't life altering,
...more
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Patchett was born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother is the novelist Jeanne Ray.

She moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was six, where she continues to live. Patchett said she loves her home in Nashville with her doctor husband and dog. If asked if she could go any place, that place would always be home. "Home is ...the stable window that opens out into the imagination."

Patchett attended hi
...more
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“Just because things hadn't gone the way I had planned didn't necessarily mean they had gone wrong.” 138 likes
“Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours--long hallways and unforeseen stairwells--eventually puts you in the place you are now.” 54 likes
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