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 sounds so serious. Or maybe it doesn't. Either way, this novel is a rare gem that effectively combines philosophical musings with an absorbing and funny narrative, all without being pretentious. How Should a Person Be? is about what it means to make art, friends, and ultimately what it means to be human. I raced through it over the course of a few days, after which it stuck with me for weeks. I even read passages of it aloud to a friend, something I rarely do.
I first read this book when it was originally published in Canada in 2010. There have been some changes made to this, the US edition, which truly enhance the novel's original form. It's been almost two years since my initial reading of How Should a Person Be?, and I am still excited about the book. In fact, since that time, I've continued to ponder over and occasionally re-read selections from it. Each time, my heart aches a little more, and I learn something new about myself and about the world. I suppose one can't ask for much more than that.