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The Wrong Way to Save Your Life: Essays

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,230 ratings  ·  203 reviews
From an important new American writer comes this powerful collection of personal essays on fear, creativity, art, faith, academia, the Internet, and justice.

In this poignant and inciting collection of literary essays, Megan Stielstra tells stories to ward off fears both personal and universal as she grapples toward a better way to live. In her titular piece “The Wrong Way
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Harper Perennial
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Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book snuck up on me: I was enjoying it and then suddenly I was loving it. I am so very glad that this was the 100th book I finished this year.

Megan Stielstra writes about a variety of topics: academia, feminism, her pregancy and marriage, her struggle with post-partum depression, the story of her mortgage drowning her, gun control, and many more things. The essays are loosely structured around themes of fear but are so much more than that. It is fearless and honest and stylistically wonderf
Rachel León
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, read-in-2017
Oh man, this book.

The five biggest stars for this brilliant essay collection that is so real, true, and important. It tackles so many issues: motherhood, education, prejudice and white privilege, gun control, happiness, fear, love, writing, the current political climate, etc. etc. Seriously, it's so sharp and raw and the writing is phenomenal. I will definitely be rereading this one several times. I highly recommend this book!
Jason Diamond
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The title is a bit misleading because Stielstra's certainly helped me through a rough week. Maybe the book didn't save my life, but it could. I could see it. It's a light in the darkness.

If everybody put a quarter of the passion, care, and empathy that bleeds out of every single sentence in this book, I feel like the world would be a much better place.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I have a lot to say about this but I'll have to come back Monday or Tuesday to do it.

I WASN'T EXPECTING A MEMOIR. OK, wait, let me backtrack a few... BACK, back back, back in the day when I first moved to Chicago, this cool organization 2nd Story put on a two-week festival in I think the spring (April or May maybe) where every night for two weeks, you could go see four people read/tell a story and get a wine flight (1 wine for each story!) at the same time. I bought tickets for a few nights,
Megan Prokott
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Love Megan Stielstra. Very passionate writer who has a relatable story for everyone. Language is a bit dramatic at times, so if you're prone to eye-roll, note that.
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Stielstra is a powerful story teller. I was drawn in by each of the essays. I was lucky enough to get this book on sale and had read the great reviews given to it on GR (which is why I bought it). Weather Stielstra is discussing post-partum depression, the great recession of 2008 or white privilege, she is always thought-provoking and engaging. I feel like both my heart and my mind were expanded by this book.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I often think of Chicago as my third parent and this book made me sob with nostalgia. I lived in those neighborhoods. I went to that writing program. I have my own stories about it all. This book found me in the middle of a writing drought and by the time I finished reading the last page 3 days later, I knew exactly where to start again.
Oct 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, wow, wow. These essays are powerful in so many ways. Throughout so much of this collection I was choking back tears because, with such delicacy, Stielstra puts to words the frustrations and insecurities resulting from all of the unfair things that happen in life. Never before have I seen the notion of white privilege handled with such care and self-awareness.

"We were at your house for Thanksgiving. The boys wanted to play in the front yard with plastic swords and squirt guns. My son did
Tony Snyder
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-reads, essays
Please read this book. It will help you understand the power of personal stories that are told with wit, grace, and astonishing candor. It was amazing to read of relatives on different sides of the political spectrum that respected each other enough to keep reaching for understanding of the other side and each other. The most captivating part of this book were the stories about how art can reach us and make our lives better, as I've found this to be true. As for faith in God, Megan doesn't buy o ...more
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mfa, 21st-centurylit
With the pink spine and obnoxious blue cover, I honestly didn't know how collection of essays would work for me. There's nothing inherently wrong with these colors, but seeing them together on this book is almost garish, not to mention that plastic heart on the cover. The title, however, intrigued me so I chose this as one of the books I had to read last semester. I was trying to find very personal essays, and while didn't know anything about this book or the author, it showed up on more than on ...more
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was at a bookstore for an event and the friend I was with recommended buying this, so I did. Seeing Megan Stielstra speak at that event made me sure it was the right decision: she was talking about her favorite books and she was so full of love for the authors she knew and passion for words and the labor of writing. And she was funny.

The book holds up - reading it felt like listening to an old friend, one who's no longer embarrassed by caring too much about things like she maybe was in high s
Bonnie G.
It took me months to get through this book. I picked it up bc Samantha Irby had given it such high regards and I wanted to like it so much. She can write, her topics are amazing, I’m sure she’s a great story teller but I just couldn’t connect emotionally with her book and felt it was a bit waste of my time. More of blogs sewn together than a cohesive book of any sort?
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A combustible, heartrending, beautiful mix of family, artmaking, teaching, triumph, tragedy, and being a woman today, yesterday, tomorrow.

More -
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018
This book surprised me. I can't even remember how it ended up on my Kindle, and then one day I just clicked on it and then didn't want to do anything else but swallow up the author's words. It's deceptively straightforward and incredibly thought-provoking. I know I will return to it. Highly recommended, especially for writers of personal essays.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017, essays
I didn't know I needed this book, but I really needed this book.

You have to look at it to fix it, she writes over and over again, "it" being whatever amorphous, inarticulatable mass of fear and hope and grief and joy and rage happens taking up all the air inside you. Take it out, she says. Put it in front of you. Give it a shape. Poke it, turn it around, take it apart. Put yourself back together.

In this book, Megan Stielstra had words, the right words, for a whole lot of things I felt that I di
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous, poetic, hard, feminist essays. A la Roxane Gay, Lindy West, but all her own, too. Will be seeking out more of her work. She’s gloriously brave in her revelations of self and society.
Alyse Liebovich
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First day of 2019, 2:54am

This was the 99th and final book I finished in 2018, and it was probably the most perfect way to close out the year.

Megan Stielstra says, “I remembered how to start thunderstorms with my brain” on page 156, and that’s how I can best describe what happened to my own brain while reading this book. It was like the years of focusing on everything but writing melted away, and suddenly I was grabbing for a pen every few pages to write in the margins—the beginning of a forthco
Sarahc Caflisch
Dec 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Some of the subject matter done a little braver elsewhere (see my recent reviews of Lightesy Darst's Thousands or Claire Dederer's Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning)

But, this book does better at a lot of other things those two books aren't up to. It's a longer and wider view, both softer and sharper...more ways the internal (including organs) are examined. If you are a fan of the poetry of Heid E. Erdrich or the memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail or even, like me, a f
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5, 4-and-5, onmyshelf
There’s lot about this book that I loved because they resonated personally - her relationship with Prague, the parts on fear and parenthood. But what I really thought was amazing was the way that although it was a book of essays that could stand alone, they interconnected in such fascinating tapestry-like ways. Threads moved forward and back from page 1 to page 300. Just incredible and brave and so thorough.
Jessie Roth
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
this book moved me tremendously in ways that I can't currently find the words to describe, so for now I will leave it at this: this book moved me to write my own words again, by way of demonstrating - plainly and simply - the power and beauty of the personal essay. and for that I am truly grateful.
Laura Buechler
This book. Wow. I finished it it just over 24 hours and that's because I had to go to work, dammit. Loved every essay in this book and shed quite a few tears over how relatable a lot of it was. Bravo!
Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Another good book to listen to with interesting thoughts about our lives, the world we live in, our fears, family, friends, racism, discrimination, equality etc. Well written. But I almost can't tell one from the other liken this. Anyway it is good to listen to such books. Nice essay.
Oct 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
No, just No. Not for me.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I made myself stretch this collection out over a week but it was extremely difficult--i didn't want it to end.
Jamie Jones Hullinger
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Giving this one a 4.5 and a round of applause!
Jenifer Jacobs
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! Brilliant, moving, illuminating and filled with vulnerability. I love this author and am following her on twitter.
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Fair warning- this book will make you feel feelings. It’s visceral, reflective and viscous you human.
George Duran
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is actually 10/10 but Goodreads only lets me do 5 stars.
Monica L Edwards
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
What a fantastic book of essays.
Tom Mula
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I've read this year.
I wasn't excited about a book of essays, but these aren't stodgy. They're fast and smart, moving, gut-wrenching, and funny as hell. Stielstra is a surgeon, and an artist--she opens her life and her heart to us, and does what the best art is supposed to do--help us to deal, and cope, and understand our own journey a bit better. This book made me cry, a lot, sometimes several times on a single page. And it made me laugh and fart at the same time. Get it.
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Megan Stielstra is the author of the essay collection Once I Was Cool. Her work is included in The Best American Essays 2013, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, PANK, Other Voices, f Magazine, Make Magazine, Joyland, Pindeldyboz, Swink, and elsewhere, and her story collection, Everyone Remain Calm, was a Chicago Tribune Favorite of 2011. She’s the Literary Director of the critically-acclaimed 2nd Story ...more

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