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In conversation with young adults and experts alike, journalist Rainesford Stauffer explores how the incessant pursuit of a “best life” has put extraordinary pressure on young adults today, across their personal and professional lives—and how ordinary, meaningful experiences may instead be the foundation of a fulfilled and contented life. Young adulthood: the time of our li In conversation with young adults and experts alike, journalist Rainesford Stauffer explores how the incessant pursuit of a “best life” has put extraordinary pressure on young adults today, across their personal and professional lives—and how ordinary, meaningful experiences may instead be the foundation of a fulfilled and contented life. Young adulthood: the time of our lives when, theoretically, anything can happen, and the pressure is on to make sure everything does. Social media has long been the scapegoat for a generation of unhappy young people, but perhaps the forces working beneath us—wage stagnation, student debt, perfectionism, and inflated costs of living—have a larger, more detrimental impact on the world we post to our feeds.  An Ordinary Age puts young adults at the center as Rainesford Stauffer examines our obsessive need to live and post our #bestlife, and the culture that has defined that life on narrow, and often unattainable, terms. From the now required slate of (often unpaid) internships, to the loneliness epidemic, to the stress of "finding yourself" through school, work, and hobbies—the world is demanding more of young people these days than ever before. And worse, it’s leaving little room for young people to ask the big questions about who they want to be, and what makes a life feel meaningful. Perhaps we’re losing sight of the things that fulfill us: strong relationships, real roots in a community, and the ability to question how we want our lives to look and feel, even when that’s different from what we see on the ‘Gram. Stauffer makes the case that many of our most formative young adult moments are the ordinary ones: finding our people and sticking with them, learning to care for ourselves on our own terms, and figuring out who we are when the other stuff—the GPAs, job titles, the filters—fall away.


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In conversation with young adults and experts alike, journalist Rainesford Stauffer explores how the incessant pursuit of a “best life” has put extraordinary pressure on young adults today, across their personal and professional lives—and how ordinary, meaningful experiences may instead be the foundation of a fulfilled and contented life. Young adulthood: the time of our li In conversation with young adults and experts alike, journalist Rainesford Stauffer explores how the incessant pursuit of a “best life” has put extraordinary pressure on young adults today, across their personal and professional lives—and how ordinary, meaningful experiences may instead be the foundation of a fulfilled and contented life. Young adulthood: the time of our lives when, theoretically, anything can happen, and the pressure is on to make sure everything does. Social media has long been the scapegoat for a generation of unhappy young people, but perhaps the forces working beneath us—wage stagnation, student debt, perfectionism, and inflated costs of living—have a larger, more detrimental impact on the world we post to our feeds.  An Ordinary Age puts young adults at the center as Rainesford Stauffer examines our obsessive need to live and post our #bestlife, and the culture that has defined that life on narrow, and often unattainable, terms. From the now required slate of (often unpaid) internships, to the loneliness epidemic, to the stress of "finding yourself" through school, work, and hobbies—the world is demanding more of young people these days than ever before. And worse, it’s leaving little room for young people to ask the big questions about who they want to be, and what makes a life feel meaningful. Perhaps we’re losing sight of the things that fulfill us: strong relationships, real roots in a community, and the ability to question how we want our lives to look and feel, even when that’s different from what we see on the ‘Gram. Stauffer makes the case that many of our most formative young adult moments are the ordinary ones: finding our people and sticking with them, learning to care for ourselves on our own terms, and figuring out who we are when the other stuff—the GPAs, job titles, the filters—fall away.

30 review for An Ordinary Age: Finding Your Way in a World That Expects Exceptional

  1. 5 out of 5

    Shelby

    This book is an antithesis to the ~Girlboss~ manifestos that bombard blogs and Instagram. It fills a niche in the market and on library shelves for young adults who have skipped or graduated from college and feel aimless, purposeless, and unsupported. It felt redundant for me but I think for a reader in the thick of job searching, moving to a new city, and feeling social pressure on social media, the redundancy would normalize those feelings for them, resulting in a helpful book. It would be a g This book is an antithesis to the ~Girlboss~ manifestos that bombard blogs and Instagram. It fills a niche in the market and on library shelves for young adults who have skipped or graduated from college and feel aimless, purposeless, and unsupported. It felt redundant for me but I think for a reader in the thick of job searching, moving to a new city, and feeling social pressure on social media, the redundancy would normalize those feelings for them, resulting in a helpful book. It would be a great read (or gift) for any young/emerging adult who is having a difficult time finding a job, managing relationships, maintaining mental and physical health, dating, and finding purpose in their twenties.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    How are you living your best life? An Ordinary Age ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “If you’re constantly trying to change yourself or better yourself, it leaves little room to actually get to know yourself at all—to recognize that goodness and worthiness don’t find you after you’ve fixed yourself first.” Thank you @harperperennial for a #gifted copy #OliveInfluencer This STELLAR book examines our incessant pursuits of a “best life” and want the ordinary moments in between might have to offer instead. It thoroughly div How are you living your best life? An Ordinary Age ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ “If you’re constantly trying to change yourself or better yourself, it leaves little room to actually get to know yourself at all—to recognize that goodness and worthiness don’t find you after you’ve fixed yourself first.” Thank you @harperperennial for a #gifted copy #OliveInfluencer This STELLAR book examines our incessant pursuits of a “best life” and want the ordinary moments in between might have to offer instead. It thoroughly dives deep into issues every young adult faces, providing a unique perspective into each one. I resonated with each chapter, and I loved that it was written through the lens of the pandemic as well, while including the new struggles a pandemic creates for young people. She focuses on the importance of loving who you are, instead of the best self we share on social media. I took a lot of comfort in what she wrote about, including about work, self-care, and adult-hood. I read this book at the perfect time in my own journey of navigating my way through being an adult. If you’re between the ages of 16 and 40, you should read this. You’ll definitely relate to parts of it, if not the whole thing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Megan Graham

    Love love LOVED this 10/10 recommend!!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    “When anything can happen, the pressure is on to make sure everything does." A poetic book on the unique challenges of early adulthood from an authentic young writer, written predominantly for millennials and zoomers like myself, Stauffer explores the tension between spontaneous adventuring and community rootedness, the commodification of hobbies, the pressures of social media, the millennial experience economy, and more. Also addressed is the necessary pursuit of stability and purpose in a world “When anything can happen, the pressure is on to make sure everything does." A poetic book on the unique challenges of early adulthood from an authentic young writer, written predominantly for millennials and zoomers like myself, Stauffer explores the tension between spontaneous adventuring and community rootedness, the commodification of hobbies, the pressures of social media, the millennial experience economy, and more. Also addressed is the necessary pursuit of stability and purpose in a world of flux, the invariable drawbacks of being a people-pleaser, and the burden of becoming the virtual selves we present online, among other afflictions born by the current epoch. “I wondered why the averageness of coming of age wasn’t talked about as much as achieving your wildest dreams.” It is refreshing to hear someone pronounce these ills. Doubtless, every now and then, a witty article in The Atlantic captures the maledictions of modernity, but very few books are devoted to the subject particularly with young people in mind. As a wise woman once said, “God, it’s brutal out here.” “[I desired] a sense of self that wasn’t tethered to what I achieved or who I pleased. Framed photos of people I love in a home and a dresser in my bedroom, signs of staying instead of looking toward the horizon of the next new place…I realized that no amount of cautious perfectionism was going to stop truly bad stuff from happening to me”

  5. 4 out of 5

    J

    Rainesford Stauffer is one of the foremost journalists covering issues that matter to young people. If you are not familiar with her work, I recommend you search for her past articles or follow her on Twitter. "An Ordinary Age" takes her reporting to another level. The book serves as a guide for emerging adults (and their parents) to the many systemic issues that impact young people as they try to find their place in the world. It explores everything from college and work to dating and self-care Rainesford Stauffer is one of the foremost journalists covering issues that matter to young people. If you are not familiar with her work, I recommend you search for her past articles or follow her on Twitter. "An Ordinary Age" takes her reporting to another level. The book serves as a guide for emerging adults (and their parents) to the many systemic issues that impact young people as they try to find their place in the world. It explores everything from college and work to dating and self-care. In reading this book, you will find that your struggles are not singular and take comfort in the community of voices that are gathered in the book. This is the perfect read for anyone trying to navigate the many challenges of early adulthood.

  6. 4 out of 5

    spacenaiads

    Are you American? This book might have something in it for you! It often felt that Rainesford was upholding and buying into the very things she claimed to be railing against. The writing was disjointed and the critiques shallow. It was for young Americans who really were trying their best and were hustling and had done some exceptional things. What about the rest of us, who are genuinely unexceptional and have difficulty doing the bare minimum? Entire thing felt very alien and not something that Are you American? This book might have something in it for you! It often felt that Rainesford was upholding and buying into the very things she claimed to be railing against. The writing was disjointed and the critiques shallow. It was for young Americans who really were trying their best and were hustling and had done some exceptional things. What about the rest of us, who are genuinely unexceptional and have difficulty doing the bare minimum? Entire thing felt very alien and not something that had much to do with me. I suppose you could argue that's a problem with the marketing rather than the actual contents?

  7. 4 out of 5

    Winyen

    I may need to reread this. How can a book say so much and yet also nothing at the same time? I was hopeful since Anne Helen Peterson recommended/blurbed this, but I didn't find it as insightful as I'd hoped. It was a meandering journey of pointing out ways that society expects so much of us. Yes, great, except I didn't feel this sense of recognition that I do when I read Peterson's writing, which I find so comforting when she is able to put words to some phenomenon that I didn't have words for y I may need to reread this. How can a book say so much and yet also nothing at the same time? I was hopeful since Anne Helen Peterson recommended/blurbed this, but I didn't find it as insightful as I'd hoped. It was a meandering journey of pointing out ways that society expects so much of us. Yes, great, except I didn't feel this sense of recognition that I do when I read Peterson's writing, which I find so comforting when she is able to put words to some phenomenon that I didn't have words for yet.

  8. 5 out of 5

    heidi

    A dear friend recommended this to me and I'll be passing it onto many others. I gobbled up this insightful perspective on being a young person with all that's goin' on. Very reassuring to have so much of your own experiences and of those around you reflected back to you on paper. Stauffer untangles messy popular expectations of youth, advocating for contentment and well-being over ceaseless self-improvement and striving. Like any good Atlantic take on modernity meets millennials, she addresse A dear friend recommended this to me and I'll be passing it onto many others. I gobbled up this insightful perspective on being a young person with all that's goin' on. Very reassuring to have so much of your own experiences and of those around you reflected back to you on paper. Stauffer untangles messy popular expectations of youth, advocating for contentment and well-being over ceaseless self-improvement and striving. Like any good Atlantic take on modernity meets millennials, she addresses a host of environmental factors making young adulthood far more complicated than necessary, with a nod to the effects of the pandemic. She adds in a host of personal anecdotes that make you feel like you're talking with a close friend who wants you to avoid the heartaches they've experienced. Supplemented by a host of interviews from folks of all backgrounds and identities, she arrives at in-depth critiques of unrealistic social standards. The American individualism at the center of our woes — manifested through the mindsets that dictate our choices and deprive us of connection — can be mitigated through embracing community, relationships and the mundane. Extraordinary is overrated, seldom achievable and harmful to ceaselessly pursue. "When we put so much emphasis on individuality and setting ourselves apart, we also set ourselves up to be quite lonely. When the hierarchy is flat... where we don't have to scratch and maintain our elevated place, we allow ourselves to be part of the community instead." Within this larger critique, she flips the script on the traditional narrative ascribed to "your 20s" as a time of grand exploration, experimentation, adventure and so on. Novelty has its place, but what most of her interviewees found most alluring related to steadiness, meaning, and feeling enough. These things are less glorified because they stand in opposition to consumer capitalism. Who are you outside of self-optimization? is a question that too many of us don't have an adequate response to. "It can be equally transformative to stay put for a bit, giving us the chance to know ourselves in the context of stability, rather than just the context of pursuing something. When we're home, we can take inventory of who we are." I can't recommend this more highly. If you're young and figuring it out, please pick this up (and know that you're doing just fine, regardless of what others have to say).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ivana Putri

    I'm just so glad I discovered this book during my early phase of quarter-life crisis AND in the middle of pandemic As a millennial myself, I also fell prey to hustle culture, which seems to become more prevalent these days especially if you're coming from tech background. There's always this invisible pressure to do certain stuff for your life to be considered a great one, or where you always have to give your best otherwise you wouldn't make it. As the book puts it, it feels like "great" becomes I'm just so glad I discovered this book during my early phase of quarter-life crisis AND in the middle of pandemic As a millennial myself, I also fell prey to hustle culture, which seems to become more prevalent these days especially if you're coming from tech background. There's always this invisible pressure to do certain stuff for your life to be considered a great one, or where you always have to give your best otherwise you wouldn't make it. As the book puts it, it feels like "great" becomes "average", and "average" is synonymous to "bad" on this modern life that expects everyone to be extraordinary. And the presence of social media makes it even worse because it makes us even more susceptible to social comparison. This book tries to challenge the narrative of "Living the extraordinary life" by talking about it from various aspects of emerging adulthood phase. It acknowledges that it's normal if we feel lost and not being able to figure out everything at once during our emerging adulthood because it's meant to be spent for searching our identity and meaning anyway. The book also posits that the notion of extraordinary life might not be a fit for everyone because not everyone could have the access to the resources due to systemic problems they have to experience. After reading the book, I might want to reflect on several life goals/ambitions I have rn and start to question myself whether I am having these goals because I really want them, or is it because modern life's expectation telling me to do those things. It's ok and perfectly normal to be ordinary, after all. And it's best to pick goals that feel the truest to ourselves

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lindseyb

    I heard an interview with the author a few weeks ago and was intrigued to read the book. I’m being a little generous with this rating because I think the book is really important and also well researched and written. It would have been much more impactful to me if I were 10-15 years younger, but a lot of the key points about the pressures of young adulthood and identity formation as a young adult resonated nonetheless. I can see gifting this to a college grad or reading chapters of this in a col I heard an interview with the author a few weeks ago and was intrigued to read the book. I’m being a little generous with this rating because I think the book is really important and also well researched and written. It would have been much more impactful to me if I were 10-15 years younger, but a lot of the key points about the pressures of young adulthood and identity formation as a young adult resonated nonetheless. I can see gifting this to a college grad or reading chapters of this in a college class or common reads program. I really identified with the concept of “commodified hobbies” (which I’ve been annoyed by forever but could never figure out how to articulate) and also found the spirituality, social media, and self-care sections particularly insightful. But I’ll also will admit that I was skimming by the end of the book because some of the key points were getting repetitive.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Roey Hadar

    I’d recommend this book for pretty much every 20-something. It is full of great insights that I’ll probably come back to now and then. If you’re outside that group or not near it, I’m not sure how much you’ll get from the book, but most of my friends and peers are dealing with so many of the things this book tackles—pressures from work, school, social media, love, life in general. It felt like it put into words so many problems that I’ve struggled with. I’ve been anxious. I’ve been burned out at I’d recommend this book for pretty much every 20-something. It is full of great insights that I’ll probably come back to now and then. If you’re outside that group or not near it, I’m not sure how much you’ll get from the book, but most of my friends and peers are dealing with so many of the things this book tackles—pressures from work, school, social media, love, life in general. It felt like it put into words so many problems that I’ve struggled with. I’ve been anxious. I’ve been burned out at work. I’ve been tired and not good about making plans. This book provides some stats and data but it’s at its best when the voices of regular people are brought in. It makes the book feel incredibly relatable. And it’s particularly insightful when it brings in perspectives from people our society often overlooks or discriminates against. There are a lot of voices from people who struggle to afford luxuries like time off and self care. It recognizes that not every 20-something faces the same challenges and that people of color, queer folk and others have it even worse due to discrimination and systemic racism. I’m not sure everybody will have a profound reaction to this book. I have but I’m still not sure what it is yet. But if nothing else, this book will make you feel like however you struggle with the pressures of being an emerging adult, you’re not alone.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Allison Meakem

    As others have commented, "An Ordinary Age" is the antithesis of the GirlBoss manifesto. It would have been beneficial reading to me at any point over the past few years, but I found it particularly helpful now, as the traditional anxieties of young adulthood that had been subdued by the pandemic's indiscriminate lull begin to slowly reemerge... As others have commented, "An Ordinary Age" is the antithesis of the GirlBoss manifesto. It would have been beneficial reading to me at any point over the past few years, but I found it particularly helpful now, as the traditional anxieties of young adulthood that had been subdued by the pandemic's indiscriminate lull begin to slowly reemerge...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    Appropriate for people in their late teens or early twenties trying to make sense out of the world with some thought provoking questions that extend beyond the young adult experience. Frequent mentions of COVID and a self-referential awareness of privilege speaks to a current cultural moment. Writing is a little disjointed and hard to follow at times. Deeply embedded with the angst of discerning how to become an adult on one's own terms. Appropriate for people in their late teens or early twenties trying to make sense out of the world with some thought provoking questions that extend beyond the young adult experience. Frequent mentions of COVID and a self-referential awareness of privilege speaks to a current cultural moment. Writing is a little disjointed and hard to follow at times. Deeply embedded with the angst of discerning how to become an adult on one's own terms.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    I thought Can't Even by Anne Helen Petersen was going to go down as THE most relatable nonfiction book I read this year but then came Rainesford Stauffer with An Ordinary Age, and here I was again, tired & jaded millennial underlining almost every other paragraph damn near tears at the validation that is to be found between these pages. Addressing the expectations held by society of young people of any generation, Stauffer essentially is giving permission to me, to you - to anyone who ever felt I thought Can't Even by Anne Helen Petersen was going to go down as THE most relatable nonfiction book I read this year but then came Rainesford Stauffer with An Ordinary Age, and here I was again, tired & jaded millennial underlining almost every other paragraph damn near tears at the validation that is to be found between these pages. Addressing the expectations held by society of young people of any generation, Stauffer essentially is giving permission to me, to you - to anyone who ever felt like the life they wanted wasn't ambitious enough, or that the life they have wasn't full of enough checkmarks next to this or that achievement - to stop worrying about those expectations and just be the you you want to be. There isn't one path through to happiness or success or whatever your end goal might be and many young people are sick of being told they don't measure up.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lauryn Smith

    Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Perennial and Paperbacks for giving me an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review! As a current college student trying to navigate all the challenges of emerging adulthood, this book was honestly right up my alley. It truly echoed so many thoughts and stressors that I am currently facing right now. I found myself highlighting things on almost every single page just because I could identify with so much of what it was saying. My favorite chapter was by Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Perennial and Paperbacks for giving me an eARC of this book in exchange for my honest review! As a current college student trying to navigate all the challenges of emerging adulthood, this book was honestly right up my alley. It truly echoed so many thoughts and stressors that I am currently facing right now. I found myself highlighting things on almost every single page just because I could identify with so much of what it was saying. My favorite chapter was by far the college chapter as it really echoed a lot of the things that I am grappling with right now. I also loved how it talked a lot about the COVID-19 pandemic as it was obviously the first piece of literature that I've read that addressed the subject and it did so in a way that was so relatable. Where the book falls short for me is in terms of the going forward piece. I completely understand and love the author's message about trying to normalize this "ordinary age" that we are all living through, but after reading the book I am still having a hard time figuring out exactly what it means. As much as I felt so validated from reading the story, figuring out exactly what I am going to takeaway and utilize in the future from this book seems tough to figure out right now. I am struggling to rate this book 3 or 4 stars, but decided to round up as I do appreciate Stauffer's opinion on a lot of the topics that she talked about in the book. Overall though, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is around my age and feels like they need a little direction in understanding who they are. I am also excited to continue to follow Stauffer as I really enjoy her perspective on life and am interested to learn more.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jaime

    ...This book is important and should be read by all managers. I underlined and circled so much. Stauffer puts her finger on, in words, what I see among so many of my coaching clients, the stories that keep us locked in the model of "just work harder," the self-blame when things don't go according to plan. A few excerpts: "Dr. Dalal Katsiasficas, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago...explained that emerging adulthood is when the ...This book is important and should be read by all managers. I underlined and circled so much. Stauffer puts her finger on, in words, what I see among so many of my coaching clients, the stories that keep us locked in the model of "just work harder," the self-blame when things don't go according to plan. A few excerpts: "Dr. Dalal Katsiasficas, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago...explained that emerging adulthood is when the accumulation of dispossession comes to fruition -- meaning that the effects of systemic issues of racism, oppression, marginalization, and disadvantage are so pronounced specifically during this life period. She described 'structural dispossession' as dispossessing young adults from basic human needs, 'healthcare, financial stability through student loans, from imaging themselves in the future tense, through police violence and white supremacy,' which can be seen through a lens of capitalism and racism. 'I think that for many emerging adults, they've really internalized these messages [that] somehow they're not measuring up because they can't achieve these elusive markers of adulthood,' she continued. 'When really, they're part of a system that sets that up and then blames them for it." p 15 "It became obvious [during the COVID-19 pandemic], if it wasn't already, that so much of our hyper-focus on being exceptional, individualistic, and extraordinary was built on a foundation of lies: that all this would save us; that it would all be enough someday." p 17 On good jobs and the realities of college degrees and overworking -- "These adult versions of straight-A report cards -- being called 'ambitious,' 'driven,' 'a hard worker' -- have come to feel like sorry concessions of capitalism, the only thing we get in a culture that underpays people often, treats employees as disposable, and relies on pats on the back instead of equitable wages, healthcare, or job security. We can't hard-work our way out of it, and yet we have to anyway. There's always someone waiting in line for our job, we're told." p 24-25 "Work from Dr. Erin A. Cech, who does research around what she calls the 'passion principle,' or self-expression being a guiding force in career decisions, stated that 'passion principle thus appears to help neutralize these career aspirants' critiques of the capitalist labor structure -- critiques that might, under different circumstances, foster collective demands for shorter work hours, more leisure time, or better work-life balance.'" p 40 [shout out to nonprofit / campaign worlds -- highly recommend the website nonprofitaf for folks interested in this] The chapter Cracks. "We can't undo perfectionism with a bunch of happy-go-lucky reminders to embrace our flaws when society still doesn't accept us making mistakes; we can't unravel structural inequities by telling people marginalized by them that it's their job to rise to the occasion." p 113

  17. 5 out of 5

    Libriamo3116

    An Ordinary Age is an examination of what it means to be a young adult in the 21st century, and how the expectations society places on youth can obstruct meaningful relationships and fulfillment. Rainesford Stauffer looks at how culture, technology, and interconnected societal and educational demands push and pull youth in many different directions, yet in the push and pull of self-improvement and making the individual self more valuable compared to peers, a genuine sense of community and stabil An Ordinary Age is an examination of what it means to be a young adult in the 21st century, and how the expectations society places on youth can obstruct meaningful relationships and fulfillment. Rainesford Stauffer looks at how culture, technology, and interconnected societal and educational demands push and pull youth in many different directions, yet in the push and pull of self-improvement and making the individual self more valuable compared to peers, a genuine sense of community and stability easily becomes lost in the shuffle. Stauffer sets forth the idea that becoming a happy, ordinary adult means taking a step back from expectations, forming social connections, focusing on self-care, and identifying what inspires you in the absence of outside pressures. Many books focus on improving ourselves, finding the next opportunity, and ensuring we're not missing out on advancement. An Ordinary Age attempts to reel that fish back in a little, and take a look at other factors of human existence. What does it mean to be happy where we are? When life throws a pandemic our way, how can we deal with that? How do we combat loneliness in a world that demands us to be unique, better than others, and to stand out from the crowd? These questions and more are addressed, though what's found here isn't a guide or some kind of magical instruction manual. Rather, it provides room to reflect on what's personal to the reader and think about what can provide meaning in the context of the reader's life. An Ordinary Age is somewhat unique because of its focus on being an ordinary, regular person. Yet, if most people are truly ordinary, then don't we need books that explore what that means and how to make the most of it? Recommended for readers who are trying to make their lives better, those who may not know what their lives look like yet, or who may not feel seen or recognized in a world where every individual is out for their personal advancement, unwilling to slow down for even a moment to ask, "But who am I really, and is what I'm doing creating personal happiness and contentment?" Thank you Harper Perennial for the gifted copy of this book!

  18. 4 out of 5

    SarahS

    This is my first review, because this is a book I'm going to give as a gift. It was a quick read: I felt like it encouraged more self-reflection as opposed to giving specific advice or how-tos, which I appreciated, because...honestly, I see a lot of self-help on Instagram (and in what I read) and some of it doesn't feel applicable to my life at all. Instead I found bits of my own feelings and experiences in the anecdotes the author shares about her own life and the anecdotes from people she talk This is my first review, because this is a book I'm going to give as a gift. It was a quick read: I felt like it encouraged more self-reflection as opposed to giving specific advice or how-tos, which I appreciated, because...honestly, I see a lot of self-help on Instagram (and in what I read) and some of it doesn't feel applicable to my life at all. Instead I found bits of my own feelings and experiences in the anecdotes the author shares about her own life and the anecdotes from people she talked to. Hearing from lots of other people--some similar to me, some not--made this book stand out for me. The experts were super interesting, and that helped put some of the personal experiences in context. I thought it was well-researched. I also think it was a really approachable, relatable book, it didn't feel too academic or like a heavy lift to get through. Overall, I will be recommending it to my friends who are in the same mid-twenties life stage and wanting reflection points to think about what matters to us and why. I wish I'd had this book in high school and college. If you're looking for a how-to book that tells you how to make the most of being young, this book isn't really that. If you're looking for something that feels like a hug, gives you some space to reflect on your own life, and offers explanation for our world's role in how we feel, I think you'll get a lot from it. I'll be thinking about it for a long time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    R.J. Sorrento

    An Ordinary Age is a book of essays that centers on emerging and young adulthood and mostly applies to Gen Z, but as a Millennial in my late 30’s I found plenty of this relatable. The chapters on perfectionism and self-care resonated with me the most. Rainesford Stauffer examines a variety of topics that impact young adults, and she is very inclusive of race, religion/spirituality, ethnicity, and LGBTQ+ people. Much of the book is also written through the lens of life during the current pandemic An Ordinary Age is a book of essays that centers on emerging and young adulthood and mostly applies to Gen Z, but as a Millennial in my late 30’s I found plenty of this relatable. The chapters on perfectionism and self-care resonated with me the most. Rainesford Stauffer examines a variety of topics that impact young adults, and she is very inclusive of race, religion/spirituality, ethnicity, and LGBTQ+ people. Much of the book is also written through the lens of life during the current pandemic, and I truly appreciated how she incorporated the impact on young adults. I highly recommend this book to adults especially Gen Z and Millenials. In a society that pressures people to hustle, to push themselves to the point of breaking while simultaneously pressuring them also to take time (and spend money) for self-care, Stauffer’s essays are a different take. Her book focuses on the importance of appreciating the ordinary and loving who we actually are - not the best or “perfect” self we share on social media. Thank you to Harper Perennial for the gifted paperback copy. This is my honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emily Fu

    A book on an interesting topic- how external forces are affecting young peoples’ inner lives. Stauffer shines light on the immense pressures young people are experience across their personal and professional lives. I particularly enjoyed the social science-focused sections and the narrative parts where Stauffer spoke to her own personal experiences...moving back home, navigating relationships and discovering ways to find contentment in her own life. Caveat- I tend to not like self help books in A book on an interesting topic- how external forces are affecting young peoples’ inner lives. Stauffer shines light on the immense pressures young people are experience across their personal and professional lives. I particularly enjoyed the social science-focused sections and the narrative parts where Stauffer spoke to her own personal experiences...moving back home, navigating relationships and discovering ways to find contentment in her own life. Caveat- I tend to not like self help books in general so I found Stauffer's proposed solutions such as putting down roots and finding/building community to be a bit vague and hard to implement. Maybe this vagueness is Stauffer’s point- there is no one size fits all solutions to the pressures young adults are feeling. Overall, I’m glad Stauffer wrote a book on this topic. The overall message - that young adults don't have to have everything figured out - is definitely something more people need to hear. And I appreciate her way with language. I really get the sense through Stauffer’s writing that she is being gentle with readers, as though she is speaking as a peer. She doesn’t scold or judge which I appreciated immensely while reading the book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Little

    3.5 ⭐️ I feel a couple different ways about this book. I think it means something that it took me this long to read, and by the end, I was skimming. This disinterest may be because ~self-help~ novels are not my favorite, so take this review with that in mind. The topics addressed by the author should be at the forefront of discussions in many spaces, like Gen Z brunches, college dorm rooms, and post-graduation Sunday scaries. Rainesford Stauffer created a book easy to read and immensely relatabl 3.5 ⭐️ I feel a couple different ways about this book. I think it means something that it took me this long to read, and by the end, I was skimming. This disinterest may be because ~self-help~ novels are not my favorite, so take this review with that in mind. The topics addressed by the author should be at the forefront of discussions in many spaces, like Gen Z brunches, college dorm rooms, and post-graduation Sunday scaries. Rainesford Stauffer created a book easy to read and immensely relatable to almost anyone who picks it up. However, I felt like she was repeating the same concept often by the end of the novel (I find this common in many books of this genre), and I also felt like shamed? I experiences this when she would point out elements of my own life—like trying hard, working to secure a job, or even practicing self-care via face masks and movie nights—are not authentic and too “extraordinary.” I do fell like she packed some impactful tid bits in her essays, and the better audience may be those struggling in society’s standards; we all are in some way, and this novel would validate a lot of those fears, anxieties, and insecurities.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Social media is being blamed for emerging adults' chronic mental illnesses, like depression... but Stauffer points out that wage stagnation, student debt, perfectionism, and inflated costs of living are usually not included in young adults' instagram feeds. The early twenties is a time of adventure, learning and growth but that also includes moving away from home, loneliness, and loads of debt. In search of finding your #bestlife, Stauffer urges others to find joy in the small things and don't c Social media is being blamed for emerging adults' chronic mental illnesses, like depression... but Stauffer points out that wage stagnation, student debt, perfectionism, and inflated costs of living are usually not included in young adults' instagram feeds. The early twenties is a time of adventure, learning and growth but that also includes moving away from home, loneliness, and loads of debt. In search of finding your #bestlife, Stauffer urges others to find joy in the small things and don't chase after things that you don't want. Why I started this book: Great cover and title. I've been pondering what it means to constantly strive for better... Why I finished it: I need to start reading book summaries. This book focuses on people in their twenties, going to college or trying to find their way in a world set on display with social media. There were great insights, quotes and thoughtful conclusions about emerging adults, especially those from less privileged backgrounds. It is always important to ask yourself, why am I doing this? Is it "for the experience"? And do I even want this experience?

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    I'm 27, and this is one of the most relatable books I've ever read. It put words to something I've felt my entire life but really didn't know how to describe: When am I going to feel 'good enough' and what does that mean? Overall, one of my fave things about this one is it is *not* an instruction guide. It is not about handing readers a box check solution (but it does point out what the big ones should be), because no one solution is going to work for everyone. It's about creating space to refle I'm 27, and this is one of the most relatable books I've ever read. It put words to something I've felt my entire life but really didn't know how to describe: When am I going to feel 'good enough' and what does that mean? Overall, one of my fave things about this one is it is *not* an instruction guide. It is not about handing readers a box check solution (but it does point out what the big ones should be), because no one solution is going to work for everyone. It's about creating space to reflect and exist in the grey area...hard to do, in a world that wants us to always know what's coming next. But I feel like I've taken away a lot to bring to my life already, and felt SEEN. Favorite chapters: perfectionism (which has jumped significantly in the last few decades so that explains...a lot), loneliness (didn't realize the 20s were the second-loneliest time of our lives until reading this), and the chapter about social media (which is way more nuanced than the average "IG is bad for us" takes). TLDR: Read this and let the comfort of ordinariness in.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Fraffee

    This beautiful, kind, empathetic, intelligent, and gem of a book articulates A LOT of the thoughts that have been tornado-ing in my mind for a very long time. Reading this book felt like a salve to my heart. And finishing it allowed me to breathe a little bit better. I loved the way the author mixed her own stories with the stories of other young adults. She's also expertly woven the wisdom of the experts she consulted, without making the book preachy. Every chapter gave me reassurance and empow This beautiful, kind, empathetic, intelligent, and gem of a book articulates A LOT of the thoughts that have been tornado-ing in my mind for a very long time. Reading this book felt like a salve to my heart. And finishing it allowed me to breathe a little bit better. I loved the way the author mixed her own stories with the stories of other young adults. She's also expertly woven the wisdom of the experts she consulted, without making the book preachy. Every chapter gave me reassurance and empowerment. I didn't expect all the essays to be so relevant to me, but they were. I took my time to read this book, sometimes reading one chapter a day or every few days. I'm glad I did because it allowed me to savor it longer. I will forever be grateful to this book and Ms. Rainesford Stauffer, for bringing to light and making concrete what I've been feeling but could not put into words. We live in such a messy and sad time; this book acknowledges this gracefully. But instead of feeling down, I now feel at peace.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Madysen

    A beautiful, beautiful book that looks at the pressure young people face to live this unattainable ‘best life’ when up against a broken, capitalist world. Stauffer has deeply reported on this topic and brings her own story to show that we all fail when pressed with our backs against the walls of broken systems, and that we need to reevaluate our entire attitudes rather than expect an individual to supersede the obstacles. As someone who is on the older side of emerging adult, I wish I would have A beautiful, beautiful book that looks at the pressure young people face to live this unattainable ‘best life’ when up against a broken, capitalist world. Stauffer has deeply reported on this topic and brings her own story to show that we all fail when pressed with our backs against the walls of broken systems, and that we need to reevaluate our entire attitudes rather than expect an individual to supersede the obstacles. As someone who is on the older side of emerging adult, I wish I would have had a book like this when I was going through it all, but I’m also so so glad to have read it to be more aware of how I talk to younger folks. She writes in the end that a book can’t fix it all, and I appreciate that there was no grandstanding, but books like this will help readers become more aware, and that is incredibly valuable as well. I’d give this book an unlimited amount of stars, because it’s truly a must read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jas

    I've never reviewed a book on here but got given this one as a graduation gift. And have now gotten copies for one friend for graduation and another who is getting ready to move for a new job. Cried through the chapter on loneliness. One of my favorite points from an expert the author interviews is in the social media chapter: “the silver lining of being average, or the positive of embracing average, is that you build in your guaranteed community.” I don't think everyone will agree with me but I I've never reviewed a book on here but got given this one as a graduation gift. And have now gotten copies for one friend for graduation and another who is getting ready to move for a new job. Cried through the chapter on loneliness. One of my favorite points from an expert the author interviews is in the social media chapter: “the silver lining of being average, or the positive of embracing average, is that you build in your guaranteed community.” I don't think everyone will agree with me but I really, really liked that the book was like well-researched essays and not a how-to-guide. I skipped around based on my mood and what connected with me at the time. In general, if you're feeling alone, feeling less than, or feeling lost, this book will be like a breath of fresh air.

  27. 5 out of 5

    George Pitoy

    Socially aware anti-productivity-culture books masquerading at typical self-help books is my favorite genre! (See also: "How to do Nothing" by Jenny Odell, and also "The Burnout Society" by Byung-Chul Han, though the latter by no means reads like a self-help book.) The first half the book is personally the strongest for me, as it's there where the book kept asking ground-truth shattering questions after another. The second half waned a bit for me, I don't know whether it's because the topics aren Socially aware anti-productivity-culture books masquerading at typical self-help books is my favorite genre! (See also: "How to do Nothing" by Jenny Odell, and also "The Burnout Society" by Byung-Chul Han, though the latter by no means reads like a self-help book.) The first half the book is personally the strongest for me, as it's there where the book kept asking ground-truth shattering questions after another. The second half waned a bit for me, I don't know whether it's because the topics aren't that close to my personal life, or that it could've been streamlined more? I don't know. All I know is that there are bits that just so easily connected to my very core, and that made this book more than worth it. 4.5 stars.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Erin Sokol

    The average review has everything to do with the extreme niche this book fits best (and me not being the exact target audience). It’s well-researched, thoughtful and detailed. I wouldn’t say this books for everyone. This is the perfect read for someone struggling in young adult, particularly through the pressure of “perfection” with social media, relationships, friendships and internally. It’s a great gift for someone coming out of college who isn’t sure who they want to be. Privilege, politics, The average review has everything to do with the extreme niche this book fits best (and me not being the exact target audience). It’s well-researched, thoughtful and detailed. I wouldn’t say this books for everyone. This is the perfect read for someone struggling in young adult, particularly through the pressure of “perfection” with social media, relationships, friendships and internally. It’s a great gift for someone coming out of college who isn’t sure who they want to be. Privilege, politics, economics & other prevalent issues are discussed and researched throughout. I do think depending on your political preference, that may deter or draw you in.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lin

    This book reads like talking to a friend. I do think the self-help classification seems off. It reads more like narrative nonfiction to me. The center of the book is weaving together stories from young adults in their 20s, the author's experiences, and interviews with experts and research. It doesn't focus on the "how to change your life" step by steps, which I found appealing. It felt like more like a chance to think and to feel than a list of steps that may or may not work for your own life. A This book reads like talking to a friend. I do think the self-help classification seems off. It reads more like narrative nonfiction to me. The center of the book is weaving together stories from young adults in their 20s, the author's experiences, and interviews with experts and research. It doesn't focus on the "how to change your life" step by steps, which I found appealing. It felt like more like a chance to think and to feel than a list of steps that may or may not work for your own life. As a self-described recovering perfectionist, this is the book I wish I had in my earlier 20s, but it felt like a hug now, too.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Green

    DNF @ pg. 15 As a 31-year-old Millennial, the premise of this book resonated with me because despite my efforts to the contrary, it feels like the markers of traditional adulthood have passed me by- such is the result of living through multiple once-in-a-lifetime crises, right? What disappointed me with this novel and made me put it down so early is that the writing felt disjointed at the beginning and while I struggled to get hooked on the concept of the first chapter, I got this feeling that th DNF @ pg. 15 As a 31-year-old Millennial, the premise of this book resonated with me because despite my efforts to the contrary, it feels like the markers of traditional adulthood have passed me by- such is the result of living through multiple once-in-a-lifetime crises, right? What disappointed me with this novel and made me put it down so early is that the writing felt disjointed at the beginning and while I struggled to get hooked on the concept of the first chapter, I got this feeling that the novel was meant for someone else, someone fresh out of school or in their early 20s. This may be someone else's cup of tea... just not mine.

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