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9780887842795_cover Enlarge Cover
4 of 5
1 rating
list price: $14.95
also available: Hardcover Paperback Paperback
category: Fiction
published: Sep 2010

How Should a Person Be?

by Sheila Heti

reviews: 1
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literary, contemporary women
4 of 5
1 rating
list price: $14.95
also available: Hardcover Paperback Paperback
category: Fiction
published: Sep 2010

A brilliant portrayal of finding a beautiful life by one of Canada's most exciting literary talents, now available as an Anansi Book Club edition featuring discussion questions.

How Should a Person Be? is an unabashedly honest and hilarious tour through the unknowable pieces of one woman’s heart and mind, an irresistible torn-from-life book about friendship, art, sex, and love. Part literary novel, part self-help manual, and part racy confessional, it is a fearless exploration into the way we live now by one of the most highly inventive and thoughtful young writers working today.

  • Long-listed, Women's Prize for Fiction
  • Commended, Huffington Post Best Books
  • Commended, New York Times Notable Books
  • Long-listed, ReLit Awards: Novel
Editorial Reviews

Original, contemplative, and often tangential, this is an unorthodox compilation of colorful characters, friendship, and sex that provides an unusual answer to Heti’s question.

— Publishers Weekly

This is a novel that wonders if the ugly can be beautiful, if there is clarity to be found in the drifting.

— Slate

…there is something in her story that will resonate with every reader, as Heti's honest rendition of some of life's most humbling truths challenges the novel as we know it.

— Memphis Flyer

... what Heti’s brain and fingertips offer are expanded possibilities for what the novel can be and can become ... How Should a Person Be? makes curious and combative company.

— Globe and Mail

How Should a Person Be? reveals a talented young voice of a still inchoate generation.

— Wall Street Journal

[I'm] in awe of this new Toronto writer who seems to be channeling Henry Miller one minute and Joan Didion the next.


Sheila Heti's vaguely autobiographical new novel might make her the Joan Didion of the 'Girls' generation.

— Salon

[Heti's] lack of self-censorship [gives] the prose an irrefutable force.

— The Independent

How Should a Person Be? is a question to be revisited by the author herself, or another writer, or many other writers - but it's also the question novels were invented to respond to.

— London Review of Books

...an unforgettable book: intellectually exacting, unsettling in its fragility, bodily as anything painted by Freud, experimental yet crafted as hell, and yes, very funny.

— National Post

Part confessional, part play, part novel, and more -- it's one wild ride. The upfront and unabashed sex makes for a voyeuristic, sometimes hilarious, read. Think HBO's Girls in book form.

— Marie Claire

... bound to be quoted over and over ... Sheila Heti does know something about how many of us, right now, experience the world, and she has gotten that knowledge down on paper, in a form unlike any other novel I can think of.

— New York Times

...a portrait of the artist as a young woman, a postmodern self-help book and an autobiography of the mind.

— Vancouver Sun

... a Joycean experiment ...

— Telegraph

Heti flails out in all directions, employing a winsome flexibility and an underlying sadness that deflates any pretension and focuses on the big questions of life. The exuberance of youth is shot through with magic threads of wisdom.

— Edmonton Journal

An engaging mashup of memoir, fiction and philosophy... It doesn't answer the question, how should a person be? But it does find an engaging new way of asking it.

— Guardian

...the good kind of genre muddle...How Should a Person Be? emerges as part of an entirely different genre: the realistic self-help book. You might not want to follow in Sheila's footsteps, but tagging along on her quixotic mission will be as useful as anything else you're likely to read this year.

— Vue

Heti does have a wicked sense of humour and some of her one-liners are genuinely laugh out loud.

— Daily Mail

... brilliant, forthright and sometimes very funny ...

— The National

... sharp, witty ...

— Jewish Chronicle Online

From pithy quotables ('Night fell, but then, there are always holes to fall into,') to the oddly profound ('If now in some ways I drink too much, it's not that I lack a reverence for the world'), this is a novel that rewards reading, sitting with, and rereading.

— Quarterly Conversation

Ms. Heti's deadpan, naked voice is what makes Sheila's journey so engaging... throughout, the reader is beguiled by blunt, sly observations. It is easy to see why a book on the anxiety of celebrity has turned the author into one herself.

— Economist

[Sheila Heti is] a brilliant, original thinker and an engaging writer.

— Los Angeles Review of Books

... boldly original ... [Heti] writes cinematically, but with the cockeyed emotional realism of filmmakers like Miranda July and Lena Dunham.


This is a novel that abounds with [...] wisdom, arrived at in fresh and new ways. For all its inventiveness, there is an old-fashioned integrity, an attention to thought in the prose, resulting in unusual and sharp-eyed observations . . . we are treated to some truly profound ruminations on what it means to be an artist in our indifferent era.

— Literary Review of Canada

Heti is ... capable of arresting sentences that feel utterly now...

— UK Metro

... one of the bravest, strangest, most original novels I’ve read this year.

— Boston Globe

...a self-conscious, darkly funny exploration of the strained complexities of female friendship, the makings of bad art, and the finer points of awkward sex...[Heti] celebrates the extraordinary imperfection in ordinary life.

— The Georgia Straight

... vital and funny ...

— New Yorker

[Heti's] book has a freshness and verve that make you wonder where she will go next.

— Irish Times

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Reader Reviews

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Heidi Schiller
Librarian review

Sex, drugs and Party Dresses

How Should a Person Be is not for everyone. Heti’s experimental and provocative novel will resonate as a dimensional, funny and honest look at identity, art and friendship. Recommended for those who like their post-modern existential identity crisis novels couched in sex, drugs and party dresses.

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