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What Now?

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  3,398 ratings  ·  477 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
Hardcover, 102 pages
Published April 15th 2008 by Harper (first published April 7th 2008)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Ann Patchett’s What Now? was inspired by the commencement speech she gave at Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. It’s a short read, in which she explores the inevitable question of “What now?” that we are all often asked at pivotal turning points throughout life: post graduation, post championship, post career change, and at many other milestones. There are numerous TBD moments in life - Patchett reminds us to embrace them.

”It was for me the start of a lesson that I never stop having to lea
Alonna Shaw
Jan 26, 2013 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
Dec 25, 2020 rated it liked it
An extension of her commencement speech @ Sarah Lawrence College, Patchett tackles the meaning of life and how to attain satisfaction, specifically after graduation, but also much further down the line.

Short and sweet as far as books go, great for the coffee table or the obvious graduation gift.

Valuable for some quotes if nothing else.

Audio version would be stirring.

Nothing in it blew me away, but certainly offered insights of value.

Ann Patchett has some excellent published works in both th
Jul 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“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 recomm
Una Tiers
Aug 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Second reading. It was a huge disappointment after other Patchett books. I took the audio out from the library. A ten dollar price tag for a short book is shameful.
robin friedman
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it

I found Ann Patchett's short essay "What Now?" in the library and wanted to give it a read. Patchett is the author of the successful novel "Bel Canto" and several other books. "What Now?" is an expanded version of the commencement address Patchett gave in 2006 at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence University. Far from graduating and setting out to work, I have just retired from a lengthy career of over 30 years. Thus, although not part of the specific audience for Patchett's essay, I am agai
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I listened to the audiobook What now? written and read by Ann Patchett, a favourite author of mine. This book is based on a commencement address she made at Sarah Lawrence College.

I love listening to her voice! She offers inspiration and hope and stresses the importance of listening and staring.

With humour and honesty she tells about the twists and turns in the path she followed to reach her goal of becoming a novelist - college, graduating, cooking, teaching and waitressing, demonstrated how s
This makes for a long commencement speech, but a short audiobook. I can see how many people would find it inspiring and reassuring, despite its cliche flavor.

I like that it's not necessarily geared specifically at new college graduates; Patchett emphasizes that we reach many different intimidating crossroads throughout our lives. And that these unsure times should be cherished rather than rushed. But, damn, as always, it's a whole lot easier to say that once you're older and already know that yo
Emily Hicks
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My father gave me this book as a gift when I graduated high school, eager to start undergrad at none other than Sarah Lawrence. I have reread this book more times than I can count. I carried it in my purse until it started to fall apart. I have come back to this book over and over for guidance and comfort in all those times in life when I have found myself asking that title question once again.
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, own, essays
I ended my 2016 year of reading with Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet." Wanting something short and inspirational to end 2017 I remembered this tiny book I picked up at a book sale. Patchett's wisdom is potent and I will carry it with me in the new year. ...more
★★★✰✰ 3.5 stars

A short and inspiration essay (or talk). I guess I just enjoy the way in which Patchett narrates: whether it is fact or fiction, there is just something in her style that I find immensely readable.
This piece also 'found me' at a right time since I am about to graduate and I find myself frequently thinking 'What now?'

Read more reviews on my blog
Aug 18, 2020 added it
Fantastic--and even better read as the audiobook with Patchett as narrator.
Sheila Callahan
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Ninety-seven pages, Ann Patchett's Sarah Lawrence commencement address takes about a half hour to read. Actually, I have no idea how long it took me to read, but when I looked up after finishing it, the sun had risen outside my window, and I felt clarity as to the answer to the question: What Now?
Thank you, Ann.
Jan 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, own-read
“Just because things hadn't gone the way I had planned didn't necessarily mean they had gone wrong.”

I often really enjoy graduation speeches - I would think it's because I am a recent graduate, who is filled with "What Now?" questions and uncertainty. I picked this up at a secondhand store, and it's timing could never be so relevant.

I've been interested in her books for a while now, but haven't yet picked one up - and I thought this book would be able to give me a taste into the heart and style
Jan 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Mar 20, 2016 rated it liked it
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. ...more
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Would that all graduation speeches were this engaging. :)
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Ann Patchett has a way of pulling you into her story. She explores what many college graduates face as they get ready to step out into their vocation. . . what now? Some have a set track to run on while others are still figuring it out. She relates her own experience after graduating, and while we do not share the same philosophy of life, I did appreciate some of her thoughts. I especially enjoyed her talking about her 12 years of Catholic school and how at the time she didn't think it worth muc ...more
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
i was lucky enough to meet Ann Patchett, and she signed this book for me, so it will have lots of meaning for me from here on out! I really enjoyed this commencement speech because she talks about her life as a writer. She is so accessible and authentic, and it feels like she has worked so hard to build her craft. I will definitely add this book to my list of graduation or transition gifts for people. The photos are a bit odd, but don't hold it against it.


Sometimes the circumstances at hand
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lisa by: Jennifer
Shelves: i-own
"What Now?" is a short Commencement Address that Ann Patchett gave at her alma mater - Sarah Lawrence.

It is full of good advice for anyone. I received a signed copy as a gift from Jennifer for my 50th birthday. I think the advice given is just as good for a 50 year old as it is a college graduate. I will definitely keep this book in mind as a graduation gift. I really enjoyed the story of the chocolate chip cookie baking and how her first draft was scrapped because of feedback from her college
Cassidy Menard
Jan 03, 2020 rated it liked it
This didn't say anything I haven't already heard about how to temper your anxiety when you feel directionless, but Ann Patchett has become a favourite since reading Commonwealth and I was able to justify one of these (overpriced) hardcover commencement speeches you see in bookstores now and then, if only for the comfort of a familiar writer's voice. ...more
Oct 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
The prose (and even more the postscript) is luminous and inspiring. The only thing holding back the fifth star is the terrible, ugly physical fact of the book itself. Never has clip art sinned so poorly.
Sarah at Sarah's Bookshelves
[3.5 stars]
Oct 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
2.5 stars
A nice little read with some cute anecdotes. Wasn’t anything spectacular, but I liked it regardless.
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Patchett’s commencement address and afterword are good words and perspective even for those not striking out for the first time, but instead considering “what now?” at any stage, any moment. I found this to be an empathetic and instructive piece in taking the opportunity to watch and listen and keep and open mind. And - trust that the path ahead is clear and varied, even when you can’t see it ahead of time.
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good little book to start the year thinking.
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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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