New Releases

How to Be a Person in The World: Ask Polly's Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life

July 19, 2016


Advice columnist Heather Havrilesky has a new collection of her wildly entertaining and much-celebrated letters of advice.

"What I love so much about Heather Havrilesky and her new book is that, beside being her usual brilliant, hilarious, equally kick-ass and compassionate self, ‎she actually gives great advice. How to Be a Person in The World will change your life, for the way better." —Anne Lamott, New York Times bestselling author of Small Victories

“Heather Havrilesky is that rare writer who can dish out tangy snark but never fails to aim the knife back at her own damaged, hilarious heart. She’s dealing, brilliantly, with the curse of having too much insight—into herself and the world around her. Required reading.” —Patton Oswalt, New York Times bestselling author of Silver Screen Fiend


New York magazine advice columnist Heather Havrilesky, author of the memoir Disaster Preparedness, arrives this summer with How to Be a Person in The World: Ask Polly’s Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life (Doubleday; July 12, 2016; $24.95).

Heather Havrilesky had been handing out unsolicited advice for years. But it wasn't until the fall of 2012, when the website The Awl began publishing her existential advice column, “Ask Polly,” that she realized telling people what to do and how to do it was her life’s one true calling.

Fast forward to 2016. Today, Heather Havrilesky is one of the most provocative, multi-talented, and prolific culture writers at work in the media. Building on her work as Salon’s TV critic for seven years, her book reviews with the New York Times Book Review, and her humor pieces in the “Shouts and Murmurs” section of The New Yorker, “Ask Polly” now appears every Wednesday with New York magazine’s “The Cut,” fielding questions from readers on an incredibly broad range of subjects. And the results aren’t what you’d expect from an advice columnist.

Heather Havrilesky’s letters of advice, collected in How to Be a Person in The World: Ask Polly’s Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life, aren’t “Dear Abby” or “The Ethicist.” The columns often begin from a simple starting point. One week’s question may boil down to, “Am I too nice?” Or another week’s might tackle a reader’s dilemma—“If I have everything, why do I still feel unfulfilled?” They explore big, existential questions with answers that are sprawling, deeply personal, and discursive. They’re often funny—and just as often, heartbreaking. They take inspiration from creative works. One column hinges on a particular Gwendolyn Brooks poem; another, on the persona of Kanye West. And of course, there’s always an element of Heather exorcising her own personal demons throughout.

The result is advice column elevated to work of art and catharsis. Each week her column goes live—and each week, it’s received with the kind of rapturous, un-ironic enthusiasm that the Internet reserves for very few things.

How to Be a Person in The World is a collection of new questions and answers with a handful of greatest hits thrown in as well. And it’s Polly at her best.


Heather Havrilesky is the author of the memoir Disaster Preparedness. She has written for New York magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, the New York Times Magazine, Bookforum,The New Yorker, and NPR’s All Things Considered. She was a TV critic at Salon for seven years.

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