How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

How Should a Person Be?

From the internationally acclaimed author of The Middle Stories and Ticknor comes a bold interrogation into the possibility of a beautiful life. How Should a Person Be? is a novel of many identities: an autobiography of the mind, a postmodern self-help book, and a fictionalized portrait of the artist as a young woman — of two such artists, in fact.For reasons multiple and mysterious, Sheila finds herself in a quandary of self-doubt, questioning...

Details How Should a Person Be?

TitleHow Should a Person Be?
Release DateJun 19th, 2012
PublisherHenry Holt and Co.
GenreFiction, Novels, Contemporary

Reviews How Should a Person Be?

  • Amy
    Spoiler alert:If your protagonist comes to a major life realization while sticking her nose in a guy's hairy ass, I'm probably not your target audience.
  • Tara
    Being a woman of Heti's generation currently living in Toronto, this book embarrasses me. Heti thinks she is truly having a revelation about living by discovering that her life might at times be 'ugly', so much so that she feels the need to share it with everyone in a book called 'How should a person be?: A novel from life'. It reminds me of that time when Tyra Banks wore the fat suit for five minutes, had a crap experience, cried and then though...
  • Jenny
    I wanted to really like this, because people have been talking about how "experimental" and "feminist" this novel is. Margaret Atwood wrote a blurb for it, and she's my fave author of all time. However, (and I suppose that this is a testament to Heti's writing, hence a couple of stars): I know this chick. (I use that word unironically.) And I hate her. She's pretty, she's twee, she is self obsessed and shallow. She probably has some ironic mustac...
  • Roxane
    This was a very interesting books. There are countless brilliant lines that delighted me to no end. I was mostly struck by how damn funny this book was in really smart, subtle ways. I knew I was loving this book when I kept catching myself laughing out loud. There are parts of the book that baffled me--pages of philosophical exegesis that felt rather baffling and somewhat out of step with the book, but the heart of this book is about female frien...
  • Elaine
    I started responding to my GR friend Gaeta's comment, but then I thought I'd take a cue from Ms.Heti, and make my transcribed dialogue with my friends into the text itself. (How fascinating, not).So:GAETAI was frightened off by the "sexy and depraved" tag. It seemed I'm-too-cool-for-you and exhaustingly quirky.ELAINEYes, "sexy and depraved..." More like 50 Shades of Gray by way of Williamsburg (or whatever the equivalent Canadian hipster ghetto i...
  • rachel
    Just as it is rare for me to want to hug a book, it is twice as rare for a book to give me a horrific, pessimistic claustrophobia. I finished How Should a Person Be? in a three hour stretch of downtime at work today, and I remember the distinct thought pop into my head that if the world is really like this, if this book carries the weight of any truth in its pages, then we as people are hopeless and maybe I'd rather not live. Maybe I'd rather not...
  • Lee
    Insert German term for a coming-of-age novel -- Bildungsroman. Insert German term for a novel depicting an artist's maturation -- Künstlerroman. When put forth by a contemporary Canadian woman you get something not necessarily new but interesting -- and I read with true interest throughout. It's a simple love story between artistic girlfriends obsessed with art. The love between Sheila and Margaux is childish in the best BFF way. There's innocen...
  • JSA Lowe
    Yeah, okay, I fell for it. Read it in a great swooping gulp. Perfect book for me to read in the anguishing throes of a girlfight which is taking up every inch of mental real estate. Chloe & Olivia, &c. Want to reread it immediately, want to post swathes of excerpt for everyone and myself and the world and preach the Gospel of Heti's style. The faux-naif flatly mannered simplicity, Hemingway by way of Lydia Davis, only even more stripped down and ...
  • Stella
    I actually believed the hype surrounding this book, including quotes from the New Yorker. I read the novel in growing disbelief. For the character to consider her observations 'epiphanies' -- as she seriously (seriously!) seems to do -- she'd have to start off as a major jerk. Give this book to the jerk in your life, they will only love themselves more. I fear this writer is the Paulo Coehlo of the privileged set. Confused by the reviews, I went ...
  • Stephen
    I could see people hating this book. I can imagine many criticisms that I would totally accept as valid. It has taken me weeks to figure out what I liked about the book. But, despite this I thought it a brilliant illumination of contempary life of youngish city-dwellers. It felt complete and rounded and sincere. It may be a bit hollow and inconsequential - almost vapid - but that feels so much part of the novel's characters existence that it is i...
  • Vanessa Vitiello
    So, there's part of me that actually wants this book burned. I feel it may reveal (or perhaps I mean confirm) too much about how truly shallow, self-obsessed, pathetic, and insecure most women are. Especially pretty ones. Never having been a pretty girl myself I found I couldn't really relate directly to the Sheila character, but I can recognize the type. There are some very shallow, self-obsessed, pretty girls with pretensions to write who I kno...
  • Mapina
    La persona ideale, si ricorderebbe in quali circostanze, sulla base di quali suggerimenti o suggestioni, aveva deciso che avrebbe dovuto leggere assolutamente questo libro.La persona ideale, dopo le prime 50 pagine, avrebbe tuttavia saputo dirsi "sai che c'è? non mi interessano le vicende di questa Sheila. chissenefrega di lei e della sua commedia, e della sua amica. Questa storia non mi sta raccontando niente di interessante, forse perchè sono...
  • Jimmy
    How should a person be?For years and years I asked it of everyone I met. I was always watching to see what they were going to do in any situation, so I could do it too. I was always listening to their answers, so if I liked them, I could make them my answers too. I noticed the way people dressed, the way they treated their lovers — in everyone, there was something to envy. You can admire anyone for being themselves. It’s hard not to, when eve...
  • Blair
    How Should a Person Be? is a combination of fiction, non-fiction and philosophical musings. It's perhaps best described as semi-autobiographical fiction - although that description could, I suppose, be applied to a lot of fiction, but the difference here is that it's deliberately made that way. Without doing enormous research into whether every character depicted is actually a real person, it's impossible to tell what is real and what is made up,...
  • Lizzie
    2014: I thought of this book again today, because I saw a man reading it across from me on the subway, and I got so excited. I held myself in, and timed it so that I would pass him when I got up at my stop, and I had enough time to say, "That is one of my very favorite books," and I smiled and thumbs-upped. He was about a quarter through. He looked surprised and said, "Yeah, I know, I love it!" Looking serious. And then I left. And that was perfe...
  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    This book advanced pretty far in the Tournament of Books, but I had not read it in time. Then it ended up on the longlist for the Women's Prize (formerly the Orange Prize) and I decided to read it anyway.I read it all tonight. I couldn't put it down because I couldn't decide if it was smart or annoying. I actually e-mailed a trusted reading friend in the middle to see if he had read it, because I thought maybe his opinion would help me figure it ...
  • Lynne Wright
    I do not get why critics raved about this book. It consists of a series of repetitive semi-existential ramblings by a 20-something woman about ... well, ostensibly about learning to like herself and the meaning of being an artist... but really, it doesn't go anywhere or say anything of any depth at all. She's supposed to write a play but can't write the play; she repeatedly submits to unfulfilling and degrading sex from a shallow lover (if that s...
  • Emmanuel
    this didn't add much beauty to my life, but i do agree that girls should never betray their friends by buying the same dress
  • Julie
    Answer to the question : Bored Stupid*SPOILER ALERT*I jumped to the end in the hope that they all died ... sadly, they didn't!This is self indulgent, fatuous, aimless, drivel filled with pointless minutiae. Get over yourself!!!This was stream of consciousness writing that bludgeons you into boredom. I actually checked info on the author (aged 35), and at least I will give credence to the fact that she seems to write the thoughts of a vacuous 20-s...
  • Julie Ehlers
    An interesting idea, not very well done. This reads as if the author decided to write a profound meta-novel about the creative process, but in the first draft she really didn't have that much profound to say. So she filled up most of the book with whatever vapid thoughts came to mind and planned to go back and fix them later. But then when she finished the draft she was too tired to go back and fix all the vapid sections, so she decided to act as...
  • Natalie
    I was so looking forward to reading this, and instead it turned out to be one of the stupidest books I have read.Not recommended for anyone with literary tastes, nor anyone with an appreciation for actual philosophical musings, art or feminism.Although, if you like to read about "cock" and "shit", then be my guest.
  • Anna
    This book had no point to it. Just random ramblings by a stubborn woman with an elitist attitude. As such, I'm going to hipster-ize my review and say only #fail.
  • Ellie
    Interesting book. I really feel it's a 3.5 but rounded down because I really don't think of it as a 4-star.I had a complicated experience reading this one. Hatred, love, boredom, interest. The style is interesting: a combination of narration alternating with short bursts of play dialogue. I liked the mix.The narrator--Sheila (of course, making one wonder if the story is autobiographical and to what degree) was problematic to me. Searching, self-h...
  • Tuck
    a dramatic novel in a small, almost scared voice, searching for what it means to be a person, and what kind of person to be. Set in boho toronto, on the longest street in the world, asking what it means to be an artist, a great artist, maybe a great rich genius artist. or asking what it means to be a friend, a great friend, a worthy friend. or asking what it means to be in love, great love, fantastic love and lover that blows your head off with c...
  • Judy
    What is it about Canadian women who write? The level of intelligence is somehow a bit higher. Readers of my reviews know my opinion of Margaret Atwood as one of the most intelligent women alive. Then there is Emily St John Mandell.How Should A Person Be? touched many a nerve among readers, some pleasurably, some unpleasantly. I loved it as an honest look at the perils and responsibilities of friendship between women. That the women in the story a...
  • Jessica Sullivan
    This is one of the more structurally unique books I’ve read—Fiction? Memoir? Self-help book? Some parts are written like a play? It’s exactly as philosophical as the title indicates, and I ate it right up.What’s it even about? A woman trying to finish writing a play, and simultaneously investigating the state of her soul. She has a best friend, Margaux, an artist, who is the most important person in her life. She has other friends, too, a...
  • Rand
    I read the US version, which is different than the Canadian one, which came's a book about life and authenticity and art and love. move along if those subjects don't interest you, or if you have trouble distinguishing from the author of a memoir from the character of the author from the person who has spoken on the book she has writ.There is something about writing and publishing and reading that is all so inherently raw and vulnerable i...