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My Misspent Youth: Essays

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  2,348 ratings  ·  227 reviews
Meghan Daum is one of the most celebrated nonfiction writers of her generation, widely recognized for the fresh, provocative approach with which she unearths hidden fault lines in the American landscape. From her well-remembered New Yorker essays about the financial demands of big-city ambition and the ethereal, strangely old-fashioned allure of cyber relationships to her ...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published March 2nd 2001 by Grove Press, Open City Books
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  2,348 ratings  ·  227 reviews

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Whitney Atkinson
DNF at 129 pages.

I bought this book because the preview I read of the first essay and tbh that was the only good one. I just don't like Daum's attitude. Her essays are very opinionated and I disagree with a lot of those opinions. Literally one of her essays was about a family of polygamists, which is interesting and I would love to learn about, but she posed it from the position of "haha look at these nerds who are geeky sci-fi lovers and fuck multiple people" and it was just disturbing. The re
Jun 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
UGH. this book makes me so glad that i left new york. why? because i'd have to deal with people like meghan daum all fucking day. people who feel the need to write 1000+ word essays on things like their hatred of carpet (although i know you carpet-haters like to pontificate on that subject), people who think that their neurotic/workaholic tendencies are funny and interesting as opposed to boring and draining, people who make hardly any money yet rent apartments in fancy neighborhoods and then wr ...more
Julie Ehlers
Meghan Daum and I are around the same age, and I'm sure I would've related more to My Misspent Youth if I'd read it back when it was first published in the 1990s. In the 2010s, however, this book is dated, dated, dated. Take the essay where Daum gets a job with a publisher and complains about having to work on popular books rather than literary ones. With the economy and the state of publishing being what they are currently, I think most editorial assistants now realize that popular books are th ...more
May 07, 2009 rated it liked it
So although I was initially irritated by Ms. Daum's class-consciousness and the pretentiousness of it, on the other hand I really identified with her need to analyze why she was where she was by examining the contextual details, the outer trappings. Her speciality is finding the "ness" of all kind of nesses, something that is a bit of a personal hobby of mine as well. Like analyzing the upper class behaviors of middle class kids who to go to school with upper class kids to explain why she as a s ...more
May 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I don't know why I identified with Daum. Maybe I'm also obsessed with the trappings of life rather than its substance. I, too, pick my dreams based on a material understanding of things -- I strive for a life of hardwood floors, intellectual conversations -- a life of doing things for the sake of living. I related to all of her essays, even the snarky, supercilious ones -- especially those. It's too bad that so many of GR reviewers vilified the snobbishness in the writing -- because that's what ...more
Aug 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: writers, women, people into NY
I first read and really liked Meghan Daum's essay, "Variations on Grief" in my non-fiction class. Also, I really like the essay, "On the Fringes of the Physical World." The essay, "My Misspent Youth" after which the book was titled is making me feel a lot better about the amount of debt I'm in, which seems to be less than the debt she was in at the time, and it's good to read a book of non-fiction by someone who wasn't like 88 years old when she decided to write it.

Daum has an engaging voice, a
Nov 12, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes funny, sometimes clever, rarely particularly insightful. These are three-star essays, with the exception of "Inside the Tube" (a five-star read, even if it's a piece of journalism masquerading as essay): nothing too crazy, nothing too mundane, amusing enough, and Daum stays pretty damn honest. Her prose is pitch-perfect, but these are essays you'd read in magazines on planes. There's an audience here for Daum's brand of everywoman. It's just not me. ...more
Feb 03, 2021 marked it as dnf
This book, what I read of it, is fine but it’s 20 years older and it shows.
These essays' strengths are the author's skill in the writing craft - structure both in the macro (narrative) and micro (sentence) level. Damn can she pull an essay together. It's always nice to read someone who knows how to handle an ending.

These essays' weaknesses are in the author's seeming inability to acknowledge her own failings without trying to justify those failings, in a backhanded, narrative-structure kind of way. I mean, good on her for actively acknowledging when she expresses idea
Nov 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
This was recommended as a good warning against living beyond one's means. Sometimes essays elucidate issues, and sometimes they show a much deeper view at the writer themselves, and I'd say that for this collection, it was the latter. I found myself making sour faces at the book as I was reading at just what a neurotic, snobbish, self-obsessed person she was. Also, her investigative journalism was really, really lacking as you could hear her condescension dripping off the page, especially in the ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it liked it
quick&dirty: Meghan Daum is great; this is a volume of essays that hasn't aged well. Read the highlights featuring her signature radical honesty and skip the rest.

Daum's voice in this 2001 book of essays has since come to constitute the dominant tone for borderline thinky online journalism with presumptions towards literariness. Her influence can be readily detected in places like the Hairpin, the Awl, the Believer, and Grantland, that peer into pockets of unrepentant oddity, narrative voice st
May 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This was pretty good and I'm sure I'll go back to re-read some of these essays.

What struck me is how DATED some of these essays feel (published in 2001, I think?). Some of the observations are kind of like, no kidding. Oh, conducting a romantic relationship through e-mail is fraught with peril and involves projecting fantasies upon the other person, while also projecting an inauthentic version of yourself? Good heavens, you don't say. Flying in an airplane is quite possibly the most fake, ar
Feb 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
I Hated this book. Which is a funny thing to say, seeing as how the thing that bugged me about the book was how relentlessly negative and judgmental Daum was about almost every subject she undertook. By the end, I was just so weary of her hating/being better than everything, I couldn't wait for it to be over. Which was a shame, because the last essay was written (formatted?) really interestingly and appealingly, but the emotions involved were just so repulsive, that after the whole book of appro ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really liked this, disappointed in her recent work and politics.
I have mixed feelings about these essays. I like the way she writes but I found the content to be boring at times like the airlines essay or the Ravenheart essay (my two least favorite ones).

My addiction to PFSlider’s messages indicated a monstrous narcissism. But it also revealed a subtler desire that I didn’t fully understand at the time. My need to experience an old-fashioned kind of courtship was stronger than I had ever imagined.

I have recently woken up to the frightening fallout of m
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Meghan Daum is definitely one of my favourite American essayists that I have read.

She has a hilarious and sharp writing voice, and is able to relate her opinion clearly and discuss the events within her writing very concretely. It kind of doesn't matter what topic she is discussing because she seems to map out the story for you has you go along (as any good essayist should) and you will never feel lost or confused about "what's the point" in her writing. I always get excited when/if the writing
Margo Littell
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first read this collection over twenty years ago, and I'm glad I revisited it. These essays are prickly, snobby, self-absorbed, insightful, mean-spirited, openhearted, heartbreaking--all of these. The most memorable for me are the ones that showcase a youthful arrogance--"Carpet Is Mungers," "Music Is My Bag." "My Misspent Youth" should be required reading for every twenty-something, but I'm not sure if I'd recommend it as a love story or a cautionary tale. Not all of these essays stand the te ...more
Feb 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Readers who enjoy having the point of the essay beat over their heads
Shelves: memoir
2.5 star rating

I really liked the beginning of this book. The essays were really well put together and she made her point without taking out her nerf bat and beating the reader over the head with it, like she did in some of the essays towards the back, which I didn't particularly care for and why it took me so long to finish this darn book.

The essays that I would recommend reading the book for are:

1. Publishing and Other Near-Death Experiences
2. Toy Children
3. Inside The Tube

The others I would j
Halley Sutton
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very well-written essays that sometimes irritated me by the late 20sish (yes, I'm aware I'm 28) inability to accept passion or enthusiasm as anything other than "uncool." God forbid anyone should be engaged by anything in life other than being the TYPE of person who listens to NPR and prefers hardwood floors. But then, perhaps that was more about my own personal prejudices as a reader. Anyway, gets four stars because the last essay about grieving her friend is really, truly, deeply, complicatedl ...more
Dec 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-books
I started this book with the promise that it would make me say "Finally, someone gets how I feel".
What was delivered was a mixture of "Yes, that's exactly it" but also sheer wonder and fascination to topics I had thought about, found repelling and not investigated further. With witty confusing and yet intriguing titles, some essays made me go "yes" and some others "oh.
Erica Clou
An interesting essay collection that makes you think about single life in New York City and life in general.
Feb 19, 2020 rated it liked it
A curious little book of essays whose style has resonated deeply in the 20 years it was published, kicking off the Personal Essay boom of someone looking witheringly within and reporting back what they saw, damn what the reader (or the other people perhaps affected by its publication) would think. Daum is a great writer - sparse and precise - and she is also an asshole (I don't know if she'd use that exact term but I also doubt she'd mind too much either) and she's also fine telling you about it ...more
bro do NOT text me
Feb 24, 2021 rated it it was ok
completely inane non-commentary which unsuccessfully attempts to quell "am i cool, guys?" class anxiety -- n. rochefort's monologue on irish girls in a certain groundbreaking youtube video could function as this review tbh. it's like 100% "my parents' 6-figure salaries are, in many ways, similar to my classmates' parents' 7-figure salaries" and then laying out, in unadorned list-style, what those reasons are -- pathetic, boooooooring, resonant for similarly status-obsessed striver lib girls with ...more
Sep 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Really interesting essays, she has a really unique way of expressing herself and talking about her life. In this case her misspent youth!
Jonathan Norton
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Superb reprint of essays from the 90s, which are bearing up well. Only the one about on-line relationships (via email, rather than "social media", which wasn't yet a thing) is dated, and not terribly. In a new Foreword, Daum happily admits that the title essay got her flak at the time, with accusations of entitlement, narcissism etc. and she'd be attacked even more for a gross display of white privilege if she wrote it today. Essentially Lena Dunham made it into a sitcom. But she's simply being ...more
Sarah Paolantonio
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A slim collection of essays originally published in 2001, I read these for their craft and not their content. Meghan Daum complains a lot and I see that in the reviews listed here. She is a writer that gets to the point but her ability to whine is impressive.

The topics she wrote about were interesting but dated, so they read like a time capsule (see: flight attendants and polyamorous lovers). Having spent only a year working in publishing myself, her take on it was the same it always is for peo
Leslieann Santiago
Jul 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book was interesting to say the least. I read it because I want to write a book of essays myself and read some really good reviews on it. However, I would not recommend this book to anyone. I did not like the author's personality or the tone of the book. I felt like she was judgmental and gave me the impression she thought she was better than a lot of people. My next issue was some of the pointless, ineffective chapters. Such as her chapter on carpets, which was basically shaming people who ...more
Mariah Kelly
Oct 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Although Meghan Daum is by far an incredibly talented writer, she is a superficial, miserable sod and a bully. This book left a bad taste in my mouth.

Hooked from chapter one to three, her clever knack of writing had me devoutly turning pages. Unfortunately, for me, her storytelling and way with words was spoilt by her judgement and perspective. It doesn’t take long for Daum’s true colours to appear subtly through her various negative accounts of “mediocre” people she encounters.
Daum is painfull
Josh Friedlander
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary, essays
If you've ever been captivated by the romance of the Manhattan publishing world and wished yourself to be living in an oak-floored pre-war brownstone, smoking and discussing art, literature and life with similarly-minded people, this book will give you a vicarious thrill while simultaneously disabusing you of those ideals (unless you have a trust fund, you will end up in horrendous debt, because NYC publishing jobs don't pay NYC publishing rent. Also, there are no jobs in publishing in 2014 anyw ...more
Adam Armstrong
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this for a second time, the portions I enjoyed before were equally--if not more--worthwhile, yet the sections that I once found dull, or less engaging, were heightened, and I was kind of trudging through them. With that said, Daum is so fantastic at mining her life for truths most people are afraid to admit to themselves, let alone out loud, and for that she has always remained an inspiration in my own writing. "On the Fringes of the Physical World," "Publishing and Other Near-Death Expe ...more
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Meghan Daum is the author of Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, a personal chronicle of real estate addiction and obsessive fascination with houses, as well as the novel The Quality of Life Report and the essay collection My Misspent Youth. Since 2005 she has written a weekly column for The Los Angeles Times, which appears on the op-ed page every Thursday. She has contributed to publi ...more

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