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How Should a Person Be?

Written by Sheila Heti

  • 288 Pages
  • 9780887842405
  • 7.75" x 5.5"
  • FICTION / Literary



Publication Date September 25, 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 for the ReLit Awards: Novel 2011

Selected for the Huffington Post Best Books 2012

Selected for the New York Times Notable Books 2012

Long-listed for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013


Sheila Heti
Sheila Heti is the acclaimed author of the novel How Should a Person Be?, which was named a New York Times Notable Book, the story collection The Middle Stories, and the novel Ticknor, which was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award. Her writing has appeared in various publications, including the New York Times, London Review of Books, Globe and Mail, n+1, McSweeney's and The Believer. She frequently collaborates with other writers and artists. Sheila Heti lives in Toronto.


"...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

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

" 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

"...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 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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"... 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

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

"[Sheila Heti is] a brilliant, original thinker and an engaging writer." Los Angeles Review of Books

"... vital and funny ..." New Yorker

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

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

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

"How Should a Person Be? reveals a talented young voice of a still inchoate generation." Wall Street Journal

"... 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

"... brilliant, forthright and sometimes very funny ..." The National

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

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

"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

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

"... a Joycean experiment ..." Telegraph

"Heti is ... capable of arresting sentences that feel utterly now..." UK Metro

"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

"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

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

"... sharp, witty ..." Jewish Chronicle Online

"…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