One of my favorite books of the year, Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be? is exactly what its title implies: an inquiry into how to live, and how to do it well. Through a fictionalized account of her personal life, Heti explores the ways in which self-doubt, capriciousness, and the ego are tied to one’s ability to live a creative life in the modern age. Yes, I know, this all sounds so serious. Or maybe it doesn’t. Either way, this novel is a rare gem of modern literature that effectively combines intellectual, philosophical musings with a narrative that is creative, absorbing, and quite funny, without being pretentious. How Should a Person Be? is about what it means to make art, and what it means to be a human. After finishing it over the course of a few days, this book stuck with me for weeks. I even read passages of it aloud to a friend, something I rarely do. This is a fine book from a fine Canadian author, one that made oh-10 just a little bit better.
[Unfortunately, How Should a Person Be? has not yet been published in the U.S. But, never fear. An excerpt from the book was published in the current issue of n+1, which is available right here at Green Apple Books. And, the book itself can easily be ordered through the Canadian publisher House of Anansi Press. Also, Sheila Heti has a great website where you can read a lot of her writing, including excerpts from her three books, as well as some great articles and interviews.]
I read my other favorite book way back in February, in a single sitting. Tove Jansson’s The True Deceiver quickly pulled me into the stark world of a cold Scandinavian winter, and the complex life of one uncompromising, socially isolated woman. Though the tale begins quite modestly, this story quickly compounds and calls into question what even the most seemingly moral among us will do for what we want, or what we think we need. The darkness and vulnerability of Jansson’s characters and their relationships with one another left me contemplative, if not haunted. Understated and beautifully written, this book has continued to stand out among everything I have read in the last year, in the best way possible.