Walter's Reviews > What Should I Do With My Life: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

What Should I Do With My Life by Po Bronson
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's review
Jul 13, 2009

really liked it
Read in July, 2009

This book is actually a meaningful read in the end, but there are certainly some rough patches along the way. This being noted, I urge others to read on, as the early uneveness of the book gives way to far more consistently insightful passages in its second half. Simply put, some of the early stories are not particularly revealing (or, even more acutely put, do not evidence clearly why Bronson chose to include them), but by the end they are a tiny minority of many riveting, important narratives. So, slog through the first half of the book and you will be rewarded richly by its conclusion.

The style of the book is to share vignettes about particular individuals (or, in a few cases, couples) who have effectively asked and answered what the author describes as the ultimate question (which is the title of the book). Along the way, we learn a good deal about what lead them to ask themselves the question in the first place, how they have gone about answering it and what the results have been. A parallel and similarly important narrative theme is the author's own journey, which he chronciles alongside the other subjects'. We also learn some other important things like that our expectation of experiencing a eureka moment when we discover our purpose is mistaken (it turns out that it's typically a far more faint feeling or realization), that the journey is usually long and hard (so keep looking), that you have to have the courage to find out who you really are and then live the life that this suggests (despite what trusted others and your circumstances or background may compel), etc. Not to spoil it for others, but this is not a tome with dozens of get-rich-quick secrets; in most scenarios, the protagonists actually walk away from the gilded life to find something much more meaningful (and usually less materially remunerative). In fact, the author is the poster boy for this trend (though he does, in the end, experience material abundance in additon to greater fulfillment by having the guts to pursue his passion - writing - professionally).

In summary, this is a very worthwhile read, as most of the vignettes feature protagonists whose stories are compelling, insightful and transferable. It will not likely give you an answer to its titular question, but it will point you in the right direction to discover your own.
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