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What If This Were Enough?: Essays

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  2,599 ratings  ·  383 reviews
By the author of the New York Times Love and Relationships bestseller How to Be a Person in the World, an impassioned and inspiring collection about the expectations of modern life and the sweet imperfections of the everyday.

Heather Havrilesky's writing has been called "whip-smart and profanely funny" (Entertainment Weekly) and "required reading for all humans" (Celeste N
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Doubleday Books
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Kristy K
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, essays, 2018, netgalley
3.5 Stars

Havrilesky’s aptly named book of essays examines and critiques materialism, consumption, and our obsession with consumerism and the pursuit of happiness. Pulling largely from pop culture and current trends and fads, she delves into the world of foodies, 50 Shades, Disneyland, The Sopranos, romance, and so much more. Each essay is strong in their own right and collectively they make a small tome that packs a punch and causes one to examine their own lust for such things.
Nov 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I've been a fan of Heather Havrilesky since the prehistoric days of the internet when she was writing for An ancient past when my pre-work routine would consist of reading long form stories called blogs, back when paragraphs weren't so intimidating. Thankfully our modern era, sensitive to our time constraints, has since concentrated my mornings to scrolling memes, instagram pics and 140 character tweets.

Heather is smart and acerbic and I love her voice - she writes like I imagine I on
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Heather Havrilesky is an advice columnist and also known for her previous memoir, How to be a Person in the World.

The essays are a mixture of advice for living and pop culture, sometimes in strange combinations. (One compares Selin in The Idiot by Elif Batuman to Mozart, which I didn't really think worked all that well, and I've read a lot about Mozart and loved The Idiot.) As per usual with this kind of book, some of it didn't interest me at all (often pop culture type essays of things I haven
DNF after a few chapters. I was willing to give this a chance after her weird library Twitter kerfuffle--I do generally like Ask Polly--but the first few essays were soo very "remember what it was like before we all used our PHONES so much?" that I felt free to just nope on out of this and return it to the library from whence it came.

the last essay I read before I quit was about how she used to be very grumpy about the concept of Disneyland because it's so fake, but then she took their kids the
Oct 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
I was so excited for this but in the end I couldn't even finish it. I felt like I got permission after the author's bizarre anti library comments on twitter. I get that wasn't the point she was trying to make, but much like this book, it came across convoluted, entitled, and annoying. I didn't even finish the last quarter, I couldn't do it. ...more
Sep 23, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
When I started this book I joked about how Heather Havrilesky walked to Jia Tolentino could run but that was giving the author too much credit. This book is aggressively mediocre. It is chock-full of ham-fisted pseudo analyses that fail to deliver any type of point or to explore any topic beyond the surface, which leads to extremely superficial and judgmental takes presented as truth bombs. Havrilesky has a bizarre fixation on millenials, on their laziness, on their quest for pleasures, on how t ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays, non-fiction
3.5 rounded up

An overall incredibly solid collection of essays, focusing mainly on pop culture (celebrity, tv, books and movies) and the author's life (mostly revolving around her family).

The pop culture essays remind me - at times - of the better essays in They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us. Havrilesky covers topics as wide ranging as The Sopranos, Elif Batuman's The Idiot, Girls, Entourage and Marie Kondo. While the essays were a little overly didactic at times I found myself enjoying and g
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
While I really enjoyed Heather Havrilesky's last book of essays, this one left me scratching my head as to what the point of these essays was supposed to be. The book's jacket informs us that many of the essays have been expanded, so that might be the first major problem, as many of these essays go on too long and often deviate from the main topic.

The title of this book led me to believe the essays would be focusing on being more appreciative of the things we have, yet most of it is made up of
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Last night, after watching the first episode of Babylon Berlin, I fell asleep to the police scanner.

A spurned ex, also a sex offender, had abducted and blown a bullet through the brain of a University of Utah student and dumped her body in a parking lot.

I work at the University of Utah.

My brother goes to the University, and texted me the alerts from New Orleans.

Heather Havrilesky understands this cultural moment — the way that, at its worst, we can pipe in our worst nightmares directly to our fr
Angela Pineda
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
1.5 stars that I’ll round up because it takes A LOT for me to give a book one star.

Reading this I wondered if essay books aren’t for me since this is the second one this year I’ve immensely disliked.. but then I remembered how much I loved “Not That Bad” by Roxanne Gay and I realized that this book is just bad.

The author sounds entitled and elitist. She was also really annoying.

I read this book because it was my book club’s November pick. My library didn’t have it so I paid $16 on Amazon. This
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2020
I really enjoy Havrilesky’s advice column and was surprised to find myself feeling lukewarm to most of the essays in this collection. These range from memoirs to self-help, which made the collection feel a bit unorganized at times.
James (JD) Dittes
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books of 2018 by a brilliant American woman.

I found so much to like in this book. I even ended up re-reading three or four chapters out loud to my wife, who was similarly impressed. There is much that is quotable, and even more that is insightful.

Considering the intellectual firepower she's working with, Havrilesky is remarkably down-to-earth here, relating embarrassing anecdotes from her marriage and past, along with many references to pop culture. I have been reading Ha
Dec 08, 2018 rated it did not like it
A book about never being happy, satisfied, or willing to believe you are enough. For the author, Disney is depressing - but she goes to Disneyland. Romantic love is an illusion - but she’s married. This book is exhausting and full of grievances and I only survived three chapters. I’m reminded of Dennis Leary who said, “Nobody is happy. Happiness comes in small doses like a cigarette butt or a chocolate chip cookie or a five second orgasm.” Except here you can’t smoke, the cookie is stale, and th ...more
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gave-up
I’m halfway through but I’m calling it. I’m just bored and frustrated. Havrilesky isn’t saying anything new, and she’s cynical in a way I don’t find amusing or useful.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library, essays
Over the past few days, I've been reading the new collection of Heather Havrilesky's essays, What If This Were Enough?

It's a subject I've talked about before here, the tension between sufficiency and lack. With the rise of Marie Kondo's tidying-up empire, it seems like everything is about asking whether the things in your life spark joy, and to unload them if they don't. Not a bad thing entirely, in our consumption-driven world. After all, if you've read as much 19th century literature as I have
Apr 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jana by: Elliot Bay Books
Shelves: own-it, non-fiction
So in a perfect world we would enjoy our lives (or not!) without the nonstop social commentary.

We would see the total eclipse of the sun in our back yards without constant FB/IG narration and sharing with the planet.

We would understand that the perfect world is NOT a perfect world. Things are not meant to be always happy and we don’t have to continually strive to be better, more organized, more fit, and more fabulous than we were yesterday.

I like all these ideas. And yet I just finished the b
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sometimes essay collections can be a little tricky - I find that often there are some really good pieces, but that I might not connect to all of them. This was exactly how I felt about Havrilesky's work. I was completely into some of the essays, and then felt a little blah about some other ones. She covers a huge range of topics - everything from Disneyland to "The Sopranos," with my favorites touching on popular culture and entertainment. I also felt like I had a harder time with some of her wr ...more
James Mustich
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
An insightful, incisive, engagingly written survey of the ethos of self-improvement that hugs us like a threatening and imprisoning blanket. “What’s odd about American culture—and now pop culture at large—is how fervently it insists on keeping us all in a frothy state of upbeat enthusiasm and childlike wonder for the entire stretch of our lives, from birth to death,” writes Havrilesky. Even after we know better. “In other centuries (and in other lands), melancholy and longing were considered a n ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I really, really liked the idea of this essay collection since I believe it to be an incredibly important and relevant topic of conversation, especially in this day and age. However, it felt like the author lacked depth in her overall argument, since a lot of what she explains in the introduction isn’t actually explored much further.

It seems to me that her only argument was that the rise of technology and digital media has led to the general population, especially young people who have come of
Lisa Carr
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nothing is beyond scrutiny in this book. Some of it I was ready to let go of -Disneyland chaos, 50 Shades of Grey twistedness. But Havrilesky also challenges our infatuations with Marie Kondo, Mad Men, the Pioneer Woman, and foodie culture. Uh oh. And yet, I hear her. I need her perspective, her honest truths. And I find myself proud of some of my choices after reading “Bravado” in which she challenges our insatiable appetite for instagram likes with the more satisfying faith in oneself, faith i ...more
Mar 04, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
It wasn't. ...more
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self-help, philosophy
This book is truly delightful. It is a series of stand-alone essays. At first, they seem a bit repetitive, but over the course of the book they branch out a bit. The overarching theme is that our society is organized into a superficially sunny facade, which is also built on the message that rather than enjoying what is, we always need to be reaching for what could be.

This is required by the capitalist economy, because if we believed that what we have is enough, then it would be hard to sell us
Nov 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. Some of these essays are 4-5 stars and some I skipped completely (mostly because I don't watch TV, which features prominently in some).

This book of essays is worth dipping into and skipping around in. Wow, Havrilesky makes some powerful points about the speed at which we move and what our culture values. One of my favorites is towards the end when she has a searing condemnation of a bestselling self-help guru. She rips into him for promoting people being their best selves in a totally
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Really disappointed with this one, having also read Havrilesky's How to Be a Person in the World, and as a fairly regular reader of her Ask Polly column. I was really irritated by the tone of these essays - she has a complaint about nearly every group of people (foodies/minimalists/intellectuals/yuppies/smartphone users/people who visit themeparks/adults who host parties/wealthy young people/millennials generally) but not much insight or originality. I was looking to like this collection, but th ...more
Tiffany Rose
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I found this collection of essays to be well written. This would be great for fans of the authors column.

I would like to thank Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
Apr 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Like most, I’m familiar with Heather Haveilesky thanks to her Ask Polly column on The Cut. I loved her earnestness in the advice she gave and the heavy nuance she doled out and how it made my heart excited and confused and comforted all at once. Unfortunately, I didn’t get many of those feelings while reading this. This starts out with an incredibly strong and promising introduction but I feel like her essays didn’t adhere themselves that well to what she says she’s out to do:

“This book represe
I really love Heather Havrilesky's writing, but here's the thing. I'm realizing that a part of me just wants all of her writing to be like her advice column. It's unfair - she's a human, multidimensional, and she probably wants to do more writing than just her advice column. It's just that man, her advice column is so, so good. And she did put together a book of it so I can't complain.

I think I was expecting this to be a bit more personal than it was - and I mean, she did write a memoir, so agai
Meagan Houle
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's marketed as a bit warmer and fuzzier than it is, but this is less advice column and more cultural criticism at its sharpest. The essays are at times deeply emotional, but never sentimental. They deliver insight and wisdom, but not absolution.
Read this if you are feeling brave, if you crave a challenge, if you want to interrogate the world and your place in it. I do not advise reading it if you're looking for a maternal squeeze of a book to embrace you. We so often expect this fro
Aug 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
There were points I rolled my eyes - 1) "As the Japanese say, 'mono no aware'". This archaic and profound term was cited like a Chinese character tattoo on the westerners' arms or an ink-painting on the wall of their living room furnished with mid-century modern Danish furniture. 2) "once you have kids, even in a first-world country, you enter a kind of simulation of third-world living. You're feeding one kid with your body while your husband crouches on the floor of a dressing room at the mall, ...more
This was interesting. Although I’m inclined to agree with a lot of the societal critiques in this book, Havrilesky sees things very differently than I do. She’s quite cynical to her core, and sometimes I would find myself chuckling at her complete horror at small descriptive scenes I wouldn’t have thought to be horrified by (“she’s so dark” I would murmur). And then she goes and writes an essay on true romance that is so beautiful in its description of daily love that I’m left in tears at the en ...more
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HEATHER HAVRILESKY is the author of How to Be a Person in the World and the memoir Disaster Preparedness. She is a columnist for New York magazine, and has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and NPR's All Things Considered, among others. She was Salon's TV critic for seven years. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and a loud assortment of dependents, most ...more

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“Many of us learn to construct a clear and precise vision of what we want, but we’re never taught how to enjoy what we actually have. There will always be more victories to strive for, more strangers to charm, more images to collect and pin to our vision boards. It’s hard to want what we have; it’s far easier to want everything in the world.” 12 likes
“More than anything else, we have to imagine a different kind of life, a different way of living. We have to reject the shiny, shallow future that will never come, and locate ourselves in the current, flawed moment. Despite what we've been taught, we are neither eternally blessed nor eternally damned. We are blessed and damned and everything in between. Instead of toggling between victory and defeat, we have to learnt to live in the middle, in the gray area, where a real life can unfold in its own time. We have to breathe in reality instead of distracting ourselves around the clock. We have to open our eyes and our hearts to each other. We have to connect with what already is, who we already are, what we already have.” 5 likes
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