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Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  6,924 ratings  ·  1,010 reviews
An incendiary examination of burnout in millennials—the cultural shifts that got us here, the pressures that sustain it, and the need for drastic change

Do you feel like your life is an endless to-do list? Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram because you’re too exhausted to pick up a book? Are you mired in debt, or feel like you work all the time, or
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 22nd 2020 by Mariner Books (first published September 20th 2020)
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Ken Searching through the Kindle edition, there appears to be multiple examples from Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, and I see discussions about how…moreSearching through the Kindle edition, there appears to be multiple examples from Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, and I see discussions about how burnout is compounded by systemic issues. For a deeper look, I found this follow-up to the original article very illuminating [].(less)
Sophie If you still need a book to help then look at Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski :) …more
If you still need a book to help then look at Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski :) (less)

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Julie Ehlers
Sep 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Can’t Even is most successful as an overview of the state of work in the United States in (pre-COVID) 2020: the way so many are forced to turn to gig work due to a dearth of decent-paying full-time jobs with benefits, the many drawbacks of said gig work, the suckiness of working at start-ups, the ever-shrinking middle class, wage stagnation, the lack of government or corporate support for working parents, the overwork and burnout, the outsourcing, the insecurity so many of us are feeling in this ...more
Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...
I was born in 1962, at the end of the baby boomer generation. However I never really felt like part of that group. And yet, I am too old for GenX, and am the mother of two Millennials. Unlike many of my generation I do not have a negative attitude about their generation. I realize, for example, that the kids didn't ask for participation trophies -- the adults chose to award them.

Reading this was still eye-opening and very believable. I learned some things and I felt more connected to the young a
Dec 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Millennials graduated in the midst of a recession. They entered the workforce against the constant background noise of boomers boasting of their own "git-r-done" bootstrapping mentality that elided any sort of acknowledgement of how different wages vs cost of living was for their generation. Millennials are a product of helicopter parenting styles fuelled by the notion of "raising resumes" and packed lives filled with extracurricular activities that might put a sheen on future college applicatio ...more
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Nov 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’m not quite a millennial, but I am definitely interested in burnout.

Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen, Buzzfeed writer, is thoughtful and relatable in its use of data and anecdotes. Petersen suggests that the burnout that people, especially millennials, experience is systemic and not personal.

I think even non Millennials will find much to relate to here because burnout is something that can happen to anyone. The style is entertaining,
May 29, 2020 rated it liked it
This book was very accessible, and did a good job of distilling a lot of labor theory and history into something conversational and useful. I read it quickly and felt briefly inspired.

But AHP's ideas aren’t new, and I think it would've helped the book to tie them into today’s current political system in a meaningful way. Like how did Bernie Sander's pro-worker rhetoric play to burnt out millennials? How did millennial burnout affect how we vote and who we vote for?

I also think it would have be
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Tl;dr: Can't Even is a breath of fresh air you must read if you or a loved one is experiencing burnout and these days, who isn't?

I expect that Can't Even will get a fair amount of criticism for being about "Millennial" burnout but that criticism is both unwarranted and unfair because the book is applicable to and for anyone who's experiencing burnout, which as I mentioned above, is applicable to all of us, especially these days.

Anne Helen Petersen is a writer I've been following for a while, and
Oct 29, 2020 rated it liked it
According to this book (and other sources, I’m sure), I’m a “young” baby-boomer and my children are “old” millennials. (That fact doesn’t reveal much, except to say my two children were born to a young mother.) I didn’t find my parenting experiences in this book, but I related to the economic struggles (as a single parent) of some of the millennials interviewed. As with so many of my country’s issues, the reasons for burnout are systemic, because corporations and legislators have not changed, or ...more
I’m too tired to say anything but “mood.” But...... MOOD.
Anne Bogel
Feb 16, 2022 rated it it was amazing
File under: books I can’t stop talking about. I’m just a touch old to fall under Petersen’s definition of the millennial generation, yet I found myself nodding along to every chapter as Petersen explained how my and my peers’ personal life experience slot neatly into cultural and economic trends. Her biggest topics are our childhoods, our college experience and the implicit (and explicit) promises it had for our future, and why work is so awful for so many these days—all set against the backdrop ...more
Teodora Agarici
Can't even... say how tedious this book has been.

Another journalist who wants to make some extra cash writing a book on a topic she doesn't really have a proper opinion on (or knowledge about).

I would normally mention how annoyed I am that this is yet another book that speaks only from an American perspective but if this was the actual issue with this book, I'd sulk a bit and move on. Of course, not the case.

So, we have little over 250 pages about burnout from a social perspective and yet, it
Dec 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not 100% this is the same edition that I listened to an audiobook. Mine was just "Burnout" (by Anne Helen Petersen.)

The biggest problem I had with the book was that all of the interviews went something like this:

Millennial: My parents worked two jobs and sacrificed to provide me opportunities, and now I have to have a side-gig and I feel burned out.
Petersen: Wow, it's amazing how only our generation experiences burnout...

It's not even you read a book where you end up feeling less sympathetic
Jan 09, 2021 rated it did not like it
Wow, this was not at all what I was expecting. Every single chapter in this book revolves around the author's personal experiences. It's not written for Millennials as a whole. It's not written to explain the worst hardships Millennials faced, like the recession, exorbitant student loan debts, global warming, growing up post-9/11 and amidst the subsequent war, etc. It doesn't mention expensive healthcare. I spent several years not going to a doctor, knowing that one medical bill could ruin my li ...more
Charlotte Cantillon
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-arcs
Full disclosure - I am a huge fan of Anne Helen Petersen. I’ve been a member of her Facebook group for years, I receive her newsletter and I read almost everything she writes. I actually had this book preordered and was thrilled when I was given an opportunity to review it for Netgalley.

Like many other millennials (I’ve just turned 30) I was shocked when Petersen’s burnout article was posted in 2019 because I’d never before seen someone so accurately articulate the experiences of our generation
Brendan Monroe
Ragging on Millennials has become something of a favorite sport among certain members of the Boomer class. I say "become," but really we've been made fun of for years for allegedly being thin-skinned, overly sensitive, brain-dead zombies who stare at our phones all day.

While some of the criticism is true, it's amusing how older generations have managed to avoid being criticized for the same bad habits (case in point: our moms are all way more addicted to their phones than we are).

"Can't Even: H
Isabelle | Nine Tale Vixen
I received an advance review copy from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through Netgalley; all opinions are my own and honest.

Disclaimer: I'm technically not even a millenial but a Gen Zer, though I'm on the cusp and in some ways relate more to millenials (especially at present: contemplating post-college adulthood).

It can be discouraging to address systemic issues rather than the symptoms produced, especially since the former can't be addressed with lists of ~self care~ tasks. (Which, as Petersen note
Some uncollected thoughts:

1. The first four or five chapters could be cut. They're pretty irrelevant to anyone who didn't grow up middle class and that's such a huge oversight for someone who is trying to write about an entire generation. It was irritating to see her declare that millennials grew up with parents in careers and the pressures therein and pause to think, no, no one in my life ever had a career -- they had a job to make ends meet. Those role models didn't exist in my life, and I sus
Kara Babcock
Last year, I read the BuzzFeed article that inspired this book, and Rebecca and I discussed this topic in an episode of our podcast. I didn’t learn that Anne Helen Petersen had turned her article into a book until just around the publication day. Fortunately, I was still able to receive a review copy through NetGalley! I was very excited to dig into this book. Although in some ways this book could never have completely satisfied me—more on that later—Petersen nevertheless lays out many interesti ...more
Jul 18, 2021 rated it did not like it
The book starts off attempting to quash any retorts that the following chapters are just merely “millennial whining,” by strongly claiming: “No really, this time is different.” Despite this attempt at inoculating against protest, the book is undeniably guilty as charged. There is no reader who, initially skeptical of the author’s position that millennials really do have it worse, will walk away from reading this book persuaded in the slightest.

Reading this book reminds me of talking to a depress
Oct 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, nerdette
I appreciated this book a lot. Petersen goes back in history to explain the emergence of the millennial generation, how their parents had it and what has really changed: the millennials are entering the toughest job market out there, the culture of being proud of overworking, high expectations for oneself and for each other, but also the economic crises which was just around the time millennials entered the job market and the internet era changing our everyday lives. Particularly the part on ove ...more
Oct 24, 2020 rated it did not like it
Full of sweeping generalizations with little data to back them up, this book is mostly a chronicle about the author’s questionable life choices and their subsequent consequences. Definitely does not represents me or any of the millenials I know. The topic has potential and this author is too self absorbed to explore it beyond her own experiences.
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing an ARC!
I just finished this book and... I might need time to get over it. But I'll try to talk about it.

In Can't Even, Anne Helen Petersen wants to explain why millenials are so burnout, why they are misunderstood, why they are so anxious and so stuck in a life they don't like. She starts with their parents, the boomers and their education - received and given - to get to millenials.

It was both sup
Dec 31, 2020 added it
Lucid and illuminating, clear and compelling. Excellent mix of reportage and narrative. I like!
Credit where it’s due: This book has one hell of an introduction! But unfortunately it loses steam midway and never quite recovers. Where the first half of the book was a good balance of anecdotes and data, the second half devolves rapidly into just anecdotes and, uh - how to put it nicely? - an awful lot of angst about career paths chosen willingly. And that last chapter on parenting absolutely should never have made it to print.

I will say straight-up that I’m not unbiased here: As one of the “
Ellen Chisa
Good overview of the impact of generation preferences, management consultants, and 1099 labor on society today.

Two big things felt personally relevant:

1) Overwork does work for a narrow set of people, and that changes what we expect of everyone.

"In other words, those high school students who refused to “settle” for anything other than Harvard lifted the bar on what constituted “hard work” for everyone else... And for most, that overwork actually was worth it. As Ho points out, elite Wall Stree
Dec 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was interesting to read as a "zillenial," especially in comparing it with my own experience and what I've been fortunate enough to escape (and what I haven't). Anne Helen Petersen's analysis of what is essentially the pervasiveness of neoliberalism—specifically the massive material shifts in labour as well as our rhetoric surrounding it over the past 40 years—is fantastic. Some of the research on how much of the economy is made up of precarious contract and gig work is staggering. It a ...more
Ashley Holstrom
Anne Helen Petersen's Can't Even is an informative and comforting take on millennials and burnout. She digs into the history of the American economy and what the work force of side hustles looked like before the internet, along with how generational differences in parenting have shaped society.

It's just a relief to know I'm not the only one who feels like a commodity, always working harder to move further upward in my career.
Caitlin Munson
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prior to reading this book I didn’t necessarily think I was one of the millennials that have been “burnt out”.. but after reading this book, there are definitely parts I read and said “oh yeah, that’s me”.
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was pretty much what I expected, covering topics from college to parenting to working through the lens of burnout. It's worth noting that this book is very much about the American experience, and that the author is a female journalist, which influences her personal anecdotes. I didn't mind any of these things, but wish it had been less Westernised, as the discussion of Japanese work culture in the conclusion was fascinating.

I underlined so many quotes in this book. One of the concepts
Leah Rachel von Essen
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Can't Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation is a resounding and empathic takedown of the pervasive burnout culture that has infected our patriarchal capitalist world. But it is not solely a commentary: it is a deep and detailed dive into the reasons and history behind the factors that create these feelings of constant anxiety and exhaustion. Why is millennial parenting so exhausting? Why did the boomer and generation X generations raise millennials the way they did? How did the way ...more
Aug 11, 2020 rated it liked it
As a millennial, and a huge fan of Anne Helen Petersen's writing, I was really excited to get this book as an advanced copy from Houghton Mifflin. The feeling of being burned out is not unique to millennials, but I appreciated the way Petersen framed this problem due to our currently life status of slow career building, paying student loans and other crippling debt, social media and technology taking over our lives, and the seemingly impossible task of affording to have children right now. It's ...more
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Anne Helen Petersen has an actual Ph.D. in celebrity gossip and writes longform pieces for BuzzFeed.

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36 likes · 11 comments
“The desire for the cool job that you’re passionate about is a particularly modern and bourgeois phenomenon—and, as we’ll see, a means of elevating a certain type of labor to the point of desirability that workers will tolerate all forms of exploitation for the “honor” of performing it. The rhetoric of “Do you what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life” is a burnout trap. By cloaking the labor in the language of “passion,” we’re prevented from thinking of what we do as what it is: a job, not the entirety of our lives.” 13 likes
“Millennials became the first generation to fully conceptualize themselves as walking college resumes. With assistance from our parents, society, and educators, we came to understand ourselves, consciously or not, as “human capital”: subjects to be optimized for better performance in the economy.” 9 likes
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