Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “What Now?” as Want to Read:
What Now?
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

What Now?

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,810 Ratings  ·  284 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

Kindle Edition, 97 pages
Published (first published April 7th 2008)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about What Now?, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about What Now?

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Alonna Shaw
Jan 26, 2013 Alonna Shaw rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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.
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.
"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,
Apr 05, 2014 Mark 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
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,
Hayley DeRoche
Jan 10, 2013 Hayley DeRoche rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
*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
Feb 03, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 16, 2011 Holly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2008 Kevin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 04, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 09, 2011 Ahf rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 29, 2014 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • How to Change Anybody: Proven Techniques to Reshape Anyone's Attitude, Behavior, Feelings, or Beliefs
  • The 10 Women You'll Be Before You're 35
  • How to Study
  • Friendship Crisis
  • The Science of Influence: How to Get Anyone to Say "Yes" in 8 Minutes or Less!
  • The People Code: It's All About Your Innate Motive
  • The Triple Bind: Saving Our Teenage Girls from Today's Pressures
  • My Formerly Hot Life: Dispatches from Just the Other Side of Young
  • It's Not Just Who You Know: Transform Your Life (and Your Organization) by Turning Colleagues and Contacts into Lasting, Genuine Relationships
  • Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal
  • Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion
  • The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America
  • World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down
  • Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book
  • Study in Perfect
  • The Best Cigarette
  • The Best American Essays 2009
  • Rock Your Revisions: A Simple System for Revising Your Novel
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 about Ann Patchett...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Just because things hadn't gone the way I had planned didn't necessarily mean they had gone wrong.” 151 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.” 63 likes
More quotes…