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What Now?

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,981 Ratings  ·  310 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

Hardcover, 112 pages
Published April 15th 2008 by HarperCollins Publishers (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 it was amazing  ·  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
“Just because things hadn't gone the way I had planned didn't necessarily mean they had gone wrong.”

This was a very powerful and moving essay that I feel like came in my life during the perfect time, considering I just graduated high school and that question seems to be suffocating me. It really offered me a new perspective and made me feel a lot more comforted. I needed this in my life, and I think that I will be re-reading it any time that nagging question pops in my head again. I'd recommen
Jul 12, 2008 Lauren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, audiobooks
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
Jan 02, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Kieran Walsh
Mar 28, 2009 Kieran Walsh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 25, 2015 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joanne Guidoccio
Apr 24, 2013 Joanne Guidoccio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Antony Antoniou
Mar 27, 2014 Antony Antoniou rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 19, 2008 Ruby rated it liked it  ·  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
Mar 28, 2016 Earl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I've been on an Ann Patchett kick recently. This commencement speech asked "What now?" It tells her story of life after college, life as a grown-up, and how seemingly insignificant experiences actually laid the way to her current life. Life is just a string of nows.
Una Tiers
A very short story about following your dreams. One remarkable phrase: I couldn't write words big enough to ask for so much.
Oct 30, 2015 Theresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened-to-it
This author was invited to give the commencement address at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College. This short book is based on that speech. In it, she tells the story of her education and career as a writer. She credits her Catholic education, talking to a Hari Krishna at the airport and working as a waitress at Friday's (even after getting her Master's in Fine Arts) as teaching her some of the best lessons she ever learned. She talks about the value of listening, even to strangers. I listened ...more
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
I just absolutely loved this. I probably should re-read this about once a month. Because I need the reminders that listening is a great kindness to others, and that being still, free from distraction and open to listening to yourself is the best gift to yourself.

"People need to talk, and often a willingness to sit and listen is the greatest kindness one person can offer to another."
"We are taught to be suspicious, especially of anyone who might not look like us or share our beliefs. By the t
Mar 30, 2016 Gwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography-memoir
Ann Patchett, I may not love your novels, but your commencement address to Sarah Lawrence was beautiful. Patchett captures the confusion and lack of direction that graduates often face, and shares useful advice and thoughts about how to navigate the world—also good for people far out of college.

On the importance of listening:
"...people need to talk, and often a willingness to sit and listen is the greatest kindness one person can offer to another. One of the first lessons of childhood is to be w
Apr 30, 2014 Jacoba rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2013 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 03, 2016 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admire Ann Patchett's talents as a novelist. I became a fan of her when I heard her speak at the Free Library of Philadelphia in November, 2013 ( and found that she is also a lovely person. What Now is based upon a commencement address Ms. Patchett gave at Sarah Lawrence, her alma mater. It contains wonderful advice for the graduates, as well as for the rest of us. I plan to give it to my children.

Favorite quotations: "How much sadness could be averted
Jan 21, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Oct 27, 2011 Tatra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 16, 2016 Kathe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
"There are too many forces, as deep and invisible as tides, that keep us bouncing into places where we never thought we'd wind up. Sometimes the best we can hope for is to be graceful and brave in the face of all of the changes that will surely come."

I'm not usually a fan of speeches, especially graduation speeches. But I love Ann Patchett, so I was delighted to find out that she revised and expanded a commencement speech she gave at Sarah Lawrence. She discusses unbaked cookies, Hare Krishnas,
Mark Robison
Apr 05, 2014 Mark Robison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This book was recommended by my fabulous NYC therapist to read after our sessions ended. It reminds us - through Patchett's commencement speech for her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence - that life is an ongoing process and that all the things we think we're supposed to do often end up being left behind (and that's ok). A quick read with a little gem of a side story about Patchett's relationship with the university president. A good gift for a graduate this spring or anyone who is always afraid they're ...more
Aug 04, 2015 Fiona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-reading
It was a very quick read but I loved it all the same. It was really inspiring and made me feel a lot better about taking MY next steps and figuring out what to do next.

I love the part where she talks about meeting new people. That was really easy to relate to, since I recently had a similar experience to her airport experience and wound up making a great new friend out of the whole thing.

I agree with everything she says wholeheartedly, and I'm really glad I read this book, I love how it was wri
Kevin Brown
Oct 19, 2014 Kevin Brown rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 10, 2009 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jen Holman
Jun 08, 2009 Jen Holman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 22, 2012 Courtney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
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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
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“Just because things hadn't gone the way I had planned didn't necessarily mean they had gone wrong.” 157 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.” 69 likes
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