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  • Published: 3 March 2014
  • ISBN: 9780099583561
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99

How Should a Person Be?

A raw, startling, genre-defying novel of friendship, sex, and love in the new millennium. Perfect for fans of Jennifer Egan, Joan Didion, Melissa Banks, and Leanne Shapton.

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013

Sheila's twenties were going to plan.

She got married.
She hosted parties.
A theatre asked her to write a play.

Then she realised that she didn't know how to write a play.
That her favourite part of the party was cleaning up after the party.
And that her marriage made her feel like she was banging into a brick wall.

So Sheila abandons her marriage and her play, befriends Margaux, a free and untortured painter, and begins sleeping with the dominating Israel, who's a genius at sex but not at art. She throws herself into recording them and everyone around her, investigating how they live, desperate to know, as she wanders, How Should a Person Be?

Using transcripts, real emails, plus heavy doses of fiction, Heti crafts an exciting, courageous, and mordantly funny tour through one woman's heart and mind.

  • Published: 3 March 2014
  • ISBN: 9780099583561
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Sheila Heti

Sheila Heti is the author of seven books, including the critically acclaimed How Should a Person Be? and is co-editor of the New York Times bestseller, Women in Clothes. She is the former interviews editor at The Believer magazine, and has been published in the New Yorker, the London Review of Books, McSweeney’s, Harper's and n+1. Her work has been translated into adozen languages. She lives in Toronto.

Also by Sheila Heti

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Praise for How Should a Person Be?

Helen Fielding made it funny and fictional in Bridget Jones's Diary; Elizabeth Gilbert did it without laughs in Eat, Pray, Love. Now in this mashup of memoir, fiction, self-help and philosophy, Sheila Heti has added a bit of a story, quite a few blow jobs and some cheeky exclamation marks, and finally made it credible


A really amazing metafiction-meets-nonfiction novel

Lena Dunham, star and creator of HBO series 'Girls'

A beguiling "novel from life" about creativity and authenticity

Guardian Pick of 2013

Funny, bawdy and fiercely original, this is the book everyone's talking about - and for good reason

Easy Living

A shamelessly funny read that's got all of America talking


Part of a growing movement to explore the messiness, self-consciousness and doubt of young women who have been told the world offers them unprecedented opportunity, and who are discovering just what that means

Kira Cochrane

It will be one of the most talked-about books of 2013

Irish Tatler, 2013 Hot List

Original...hilarious... Part confessional, part play, part novel, and more-it's one wild ride...Think HBO'S Girls in book form

Marie Claire

Utterly beguiling: blunt, charming, funny, and smart. Heti subtly weaves together ideas about sex, femininity and artistic ambition. Reading this genre-defying book was pure pleasure

David Shields, author of Reality Hunger

Heti is taking a hard look at what makes life meaningful and how one doesn't end up loveless and lost. It is book peopled by twentysomethings but works easily as a manual for anyone who happens to have run into a spiritual wall

The Paris Review

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


It's a bawdy, idiosyncratic novel about art, sex, Toronto, female friendship and the endless quest to learn how to live. The title makes me quake with envy. All good books should be called just that...

Chad Harbach, author of The Art of Fielding

What's compelling about the book is certainly its raw interrogation of the process of creating both a work of art and an artist's personality


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. Sheila makes it ugly to clear a space: for novels to be less fictional, for women to dream of being geniuses, for a way of being 'honest and transparent and give away nothing'

Joanna Briggs, London Review of Books

Genuinely laugh out loud

Daily Mail

Utterly now

Claire Allfree, Metro

A sharp and unsentimental chronicle of what it is like to be a 20-something now.Heti's mordant take on modernity encourages introspection. It is easy to see why a book on the anxiety of celebrity has turned the author into one herself


Joyously self-conscious.profoundly ironic.or, perhaps more accurately, it is a production profoundly concerned with how to live authentically in a world saturated by irony

Olivia Laing, New Statesman

She's at her best when she turns outwards to faux-innocent criticisms of the creative and slightly self-regarding circles she moves in. Read this for the jolt between reality and fiction and as an attempt at mapping the complicated emotional terrain best friendships can be

Emerald Street

Ambitious, assured and ruthlessly controlled.exhilarating

Richard Beck, Prospect

Witty, unusual, raw.a powerful read.a classic in the making. Its montage of thoughts and emotions, written in the fearlessly true voice of its author, lend the book an unmistakable honesty and make it a truly original memoir as well as a great novel in its own right


An unconventional blur of fact and fiction, How Should a Person Be? is an engaging cocktail of memoir, novel and self-help guide


A candid collection of taped interviews and emails, random notes and daring exposition.fascinating

Sinead Gleeson, Irish Times

Terribly compelling

Hollie Williams, Independent on Sunday

Occasionally magical.this is an undeniably strange and unique book

Doug Johnstone, Scotsman

Genuinely provocative, funny and original

Hannah Rosefield, Literary Review

A serious work about authenticity, how to lead a moral life and accept one's own ugliness

Richard Godwin, Evening Standard

An exuberantly productive mess, filtered and reorganised after the fact.rather than working within a familiar structure, Heti has gone out to look for things that interest her and "put a fence around" whatever she finds

Lidija Haas, Times Literary Supplement

We may suspect this is barely fictionalised autobiography and we may well be right, but it's very witty barely fictionalised biography

Michael Conaghan, Belfast Telegraph

A sharp, witty exploration of relationships, art and celebrity culture

Natasha Lehrer, Jewish Chronicle

Uniquely honest, funny and clever... Heti is superbly truthful and shockingly funny - no words were minced in the making of this strange, brilliant book

Kate Saunders, The Times

Written with an occasionally wince-making and thoroughly commendable honesty.it's a timely, gloriously messy, openhearted, clever and beautiful new thing

Dazed & Confused

[Sheila Heti] has an appealing restlessness, a curiosity about new forms, and an attractive freedom from pretentiousness or cant.How Should a Person Be? offers a vital and funny picture of the excitements and longueurs of trying to be a young creator in a free, late-capitalist Western City.This talented writer may well have identified a central dialectic of twenty-first-century postmodern being

James Wood, New Yorker

Funny.odd, original, and nearly unclassifiable.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 book that risks everything... Complex, artfully messy, and hilarious

Miranda July

There's something endearing as well as disquieting about Heti's willingness to exploit her own vulnerability.her book has a freshness and verve that make you wonder where she will go next

Irish Times

A humorous, quixotic quest for selfhood in a generation that seems defined by celebrity, triviality and Paris Hilton's sex tapes

Claudia Yusef, Sunday Telegraph

Playful, funny, wretched and absolutely true

The Paris Review

Original...hilarious...Part confessional, part play, part novel, and more-it's one wild ride...Think HBO'S Girls in book form

Marie Claire


Scarlett Thomas, Guardian

Sheila's clever, openhearted commentary will draw wry smiles from readers empathetic to modern life's trials and tribulations

Eve Commander, Big Issue in the North

Amusing and original

Mail on Sunday

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