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How Do We Know We're Doing It Right: & Other Essays on Modern Life
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How Do We Know We're Doing It Right: & Other Essays on Modern Life

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  5,068 ratings  ·  325 reviews
Modern life is full of choices. We’re told that happiness lies within and we can be whoever we want to be. But with endless possibility comes a feeling of restlessness; like we’re somehow failing to live our best life. What does doing it right even look like? And why do so many women feel like they’re getting it wrong?

From that Zara dress to millennial burnout, the explosi
...more
Hardcover, 275 pages
Published July 16th 2020 by Hutchinson (first published July 9th 2020)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  5,068 ratings  ·  325 reviews


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Stace A
Jul 20, 2020 rated it liked it
3 - good This is an interesting collection of essays, which made me think while reading. While there isn’t really anything new to these thoughts I like how they have been presented and collated under different themes and the collective umbrella of are we doing life right. The drawbacks to this collection are acknowledged by the author - it is all very middle class, it is all very “millennial” even as she says a generation contains a multitude. Some of the essays are beautifully written and thoug ...more
Kate
Aug 02, 2020 rated it liked it
While I found some of the meandering essays vaguely relative to my life, I found myself skim reading parts of this book and, if you're expecting any kind of answer to the titular question, then you too will be left disappointed.

I enjoyed the chapter by chapter layout of each topic, but everything was referenced to the extreme, with arguments from every angle inserted into the discussion, and this left me feeling not only as though I hadn't actually seen much of Pandora's own personal perspective
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Francesca
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable and often thought-provoking series of essays by popular journalist Pandora Sykes on the practices and pitfalls of modern life.

In essays spanning themes such as our binge watching TV culture and our irrevocable relationship with WhatsApp, Sykes populates her writing with a slew of references, citing philosophers, novelists, journalists, politicians, Twitter accounts and television series. Sykes is an intellectually curious writer, while also conscious that she inevitably sees the wor
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LM
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
Just could not finish it, nor could I really digest most of the lengthy, flourished paragraphs which often seemed to have no point other than to string together quotes from others’ work. The number of source citations comes off more as a university dissertation than original thought - picking through these alongside the constant caveats of middle class privilege and a woke white apology made it difficult to find any really new arguments or authentic material. Disappointing.
Caren Rolson
Aug 15, 2020 rated it did not like it
Couldn’t make it past chapter 2. Dismissive, sometimes thoughtless and lacking curiosity and intelligence which its premise leads one to think will be delivered. Sorry, but this was a vanity project! The author is desperate to ingratiate herself with the experience of every millennial when her life couldn’t be further from those of most others, and it’s pretty irksome to have someone whose career has been so heavily reliant on social media, fashion and consumerism to now be critiquing it all in ...more
Lisa Curtin
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really like Pandora and as an avid reader and listener of the High Low was really excited about this book. I was disappointed however, the whole book reads like an overly referenced (albeit excellent) university essay. There is some really good content but the language is too much and very overly thought out.
Alice Jackman
Jul 26, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a hard book to review. I think readers will either love it or find it is the esoteric thoughts of a privileged white woman. I bounced back and forth between the two.
Pandora Sykes is a stylish writer who has done her homework and written thought provoking essays. I love her podcast - The High Low and always find her an engaging bright and open minded journalist. But this will not speak to everyone. I found elements of it very interesting and relatable and other parts were too much out of
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Kate Henderson
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
**listened via audible**

Absolutely adored this!!! Could relate to pretty much everything in this!!! It really made me think about my own life and childhood/teenage-hood and the bigger picture!!
If you’re of a similar age to Pandora and myself you will 100% love this!!
Jack
Jul 27, 2020 rated it liked it
A well-written series of essays by Sykes which is somewhat neutralised by the history we’re all living through. Yes, the author is aware that her book tackles middle class concerns right from the start, and there’s nothing wrong with that per se, but I didn’t feel very intellectually challenged by this book. Sykes’ strength is her cultural fluency, and she is able to situate her own thoughts in the wider conversation, but I think too often she rests against the arguments she references, as thoug ...more
Krystelle Fitzpatrick
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
I feel like I’ve been plodding the mires of other people’s lives in literature of late, and this book is no exception. I think the crux of this one is that I simply do not care. It’s a little bit much for me, and I just wish that there was some more substance to a lot of these pieces that I’ve been reading lately. The essays aren’t particularly thought provoking, and I was left feeling a little let down.
Lorna Finnegan
Feb 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Decent read although decided I don't love essays. Put it down for a while and forgot to pick back up type of book. ...more
Annikky
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
4- It’s not challenging by any means (my worldview is very similar to that of Sykes), but sometimes validation has its uses.
leah
May 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this is a book of essays by the popular journalist and podcaster pandora sykes, and although i often find essay collections quite dense, i actually really enjoyed my time reading this one! as the title suggests, the essays all centre around the practices and anxieties of modern life. the essays cover a range of topics, including the wellness industry, binge-watching culture, digital communication, work/life balance - to name a few. the book is definitely heavily centred around middle-class mille ...more
Pauline
Mar 15, 2021 rated it really liked it
Seriously timely, thoroughly researched and so damn well-articulated, this essay collection gets a big thumbs up from me.

Similar to the manner of Jia Tolentino’s TRICK MIRROR (which i was a bit lukewarm about), Pandora deep dives into several topics that are highly relevant and relatable to, i imagine, a lot of millennials. Most of these topics you can probably guess: social media, the millennial burnout, career ambitions and work/life balance, wellness & fashion. I’m well-acquainted with Pandor
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Katie Jenkins
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was ok
It's clear the vibe Sykes is going for with this essay collection: the Russell Group educated millennial getting a little bit 'intense' at the boozy brunch. That's by no means a bad thing. Some of her essays - those on millennial feminism and sensitivity for example - soar. But others just fall a bit flat. It's clear she's taken inspiration from other millennial essayists such as Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror, and maybe that's part of the issue. Whereas Tolentino's vision was both clear and compe ...more
Hayden
Jul 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2020
I thought Pandora Sykes explores some really interesting ideas in this essay collections (like wellness, fast fashion, and binge-watch culture), but I felt it lacked her voice and was a bit too overly-researched (a weird criticism, I know). Maybe it's because I'm so used to listening to her on The High Low, but I had to download the audiobook to help me. ...more
Emily Mason
Nov 17, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Really did not see the point in this book. Just long paragraphs of other people’s work used to support complaints about being a middle-class woman. Disappointed. Couldn’t finish it, bored me too much.
Judith Vives
Dec 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
this was so good!!! reading trick mirror by jia tolentino had left a modern-essay-shaped hole in my heart, and this filled it. in a writing style that seems more approachable than tolentino's, but still beautiful and sharp.

i think this is a book i'll wanna revisit again in the future! i will say the topics it dealt with were a bit... expected? social media, fashion, the attention economy, productivity as the end all be all... but these are, at the end of the day, all topics that deeply affect ou
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Taggie Edmondes
Jan 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book although it took me a couple of essays to get really into it. The reason I’ve put four stars is because I wasn’t a massive fan of the first two about wellness and fashion, however as it progressed it definitely got more interesting.

Pandora’s writing is insightful, informative and I also like how she inserts small quips throughout which show her personality and humour. Considering she wrote it in 2019 it’s interesting reading certain essays on reflection now in 2021 (a
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Lily McGahern
Aug 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5. Loved this book, the essays were so relatable and thought-provoking, I was constantly being taught and was so interested I kept looking up so much of what was written!
Hayley Mac
Jul 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this, lots of food for thought. Covers topics like social media, fast fashion, the female mental load, burnout etc. Well researched and well written.
Anna
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved these essays. Sykes has carved up (white/cis/hetero/middle class) Millennial life into eight perfect pieces and tackled them all with her trademark mix of high/low commentary. A lot of the examples used were familiar to me as a regular High Low listener but I loved seeing them in the context of these impeccably researched, complex essays that leave few stones unturned. My favourite essays were “Relentless Pleasure” (on pop culture consumption/leisure), “Looking Forward To Hearing Back” ( ...more
Becca
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found this essay collection an absolute joy to read.

I’m a huge fan of Pandora, a regular listener to the High Low and clearly the target audience (or close to it) of this book, so I’m not surprised, but genuinely I found the essays to be thoughtful, well-researched and infinitely readable, offering food for thought without becoming bogged down in theory or exposition. The essays are in neat sections which also helps. I thought the essay topics timely and relevant, again particularly to a woman
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Rachael
Jul 29, 2020 rated it liked it
3 - This book at first didn’t land for me. I found it more infuriating than insightful. I think because of the state of the world, to read about a white privileged woman lament about whether she is living ‘right’ just seems... a touch tone deaf. The chapters on wellness felt intentionally provocative, as if written to invoke a reaction as opposed to a genuine nuanced critique. Walked away not feeling like I’d learnt anything new or thought about anything differently... Didn’t really resonate.

Ot
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Anastasiya Mozgovaya
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
a brilliant exploration of the reality we live in today in terms of well-being, fashion, career, social media, and other areas of modern life. it includes self-aware opinions of Pandora and A TON of research, interviews, and quotes. this is not just a very long personal opinion piece, nor is it a stale non-fiction book.

i am giving it four stars instead of five because most of the academic examples are extremely common and well-covered, so they felt like a disappointment instead of a revelation o
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Corey Terrett
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love Pandora's writing and journalism and a whole book? A total joy. She writes so well about social media, wellness, celebrity, burnout, boxset binge-watching, reading, and so much more. I love a good essay collection that makes me think and ask more questions and this has done exactly that. Perfect if you read and loved Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino. Hope there's more from Pandora in the future. Her podcast to go alongside the book is also great. ...more
Manasvini
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a gorgeous book of essays by Pandora! I've been a fan of her work for a few years now since listening to 'The High Low' and was very excited for this to come out. She writes with such eloquence and the essays are packed with so much source material, yet remain very readable. She unpacks with such clarity and coherence many of the anxieties facing millenial women, and I found myself going back over chapters and underlining so many sentences which I found inspiring and relevant. In particular ...more
Madelyn Elise
Apr 02, 2021 rated it liked it
A collection of essays about the middle-class millennial woman's desire to find the correct way to live.

As a middle-class millennial woman I related to a lot of what Sykes was saying - there are some pages that are wet from all the highlighting I've done on them - but then there we some topics that just made me go meh.

I like the way the book was structured. With an overarching topic divided into relevant, smaller essays. My favourite (most highlighted) essays explored in this book are:

- Little P
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Morgan Holdsworth
Aug 25, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Admittedly when I purchased the book I expected more of a rigid account of normative ethical standpoints and perhaps a weighting up of how we could possibly know if we are doing it right. But I was pleasantly surprised by the books content, if you enjoy watching video essays on youtube by the likes of Tiffanyferg, Jordan Theresa and Shanspeare to name three then I would definitely recommend this book (and vice versa). As an 18 year old white woman from the uk, most aspects of the book are relata ...more
Bethany Kirkbride
Jan 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
While undoubtedly an essay collection by an upper middle class white woman, I was impressed by Sykes' ability to switch between the personal and the macro and back again in each essay. The appealing structure lends itself to being picked up and put back down again with relative ease. Has also prompted further reading, with neat parcelling of sociological and econonic arguments. Many of the ideas in this collection are not her own, but at least she gives credit where credit is due. ...more
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Pandora Sykes is a British journalist and speaker. She's a former Fashion Features Editor of The Sunday Times Style magazine (2014-2017) and contributing editor at ELLE and ManRepeller.com, she has also written for titles including The Observer, The Telegraph, GQ, Vogue UK & Australia, Red, ES Magazine and The Cut. She contributed to Stylist’s essay collection, Life Lessons From Incredible Women, ...more

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