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Being Perfect Hardcover – April 26, 2005

48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–In this brief treatise, Quindlen attempts to deter readers from continually seeking perfection, which is by definition unoriginal and stereotypical. She believes that everyone needs to find her (or his, though the general tone and the illustrations seem to focus on female needs) own true self, especially for those moments when there is nothing else left. She describes herself as having been a true perfectionist throughout high school. After a semester or so at Barnard, she realized that she would never be the prettiest, smartest, or "est" anything, but she could try to find out who she was and not be afraid to try new and unusual routes through life. This realization was more freeing than she expected, and she encourages readers, young and older alike, to do the same. The book reads much like a commencement address, but both size and subject matter should appeal to teens looking out on the landscape of their lives. It is also a good example of an essay or short biographical account for those studying such literary forms.–Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
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About the Author

ANNA QUINDLEN is the author of four novels–Blessings, Black and Blue, One True Thing, Object Lessons–and five nonfiction books: Loud and Clear, A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Living Out Loud, Thinking Out Loud, and How Reading Changed My Life. She has also written two children’s books: The Tree That Came to Stay and Happily Ever After. Her New York Times column “Public and Private” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. Her column now appears every other week in Newsweek.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (April 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375505490
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375505492
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anna Quindlen is the author of three bestselling novels, Object Lessons, One True Thing and Black and Blue, and three non-fiction books, Living Out Loud, Thinking Out Loud and A Short Guide to a Happy Life. Her New York Times column 'Public and Private' won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992. She is currently a columnist for Newsweek and lives with her husband and children in New York.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By R. Shaff on May 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Anna Quindlen is one of those haunting writers, one who can fool you with a simple, basic cover and an ostensibly simple message. Then, she hits home with poignant views that makes one think, engage in introspection, and question why we do what we do.

Quindlen has done it again with BEING PERFECT. This little 64 page book extolls the wisdom of avoiding perfectionism, or the perfection trap. She furthers her argument of the dangers of the perfection trap by describing the consequences and the toll it can take on life. She provides answers to the trap, answers that most likely will assuage those habitual perfectionists, as well as the novice. Satisfying oneself is a goal worthy of effort, yet difficult at times to quantify and compose as many perfectionists don't look at finite goals. Consequently, perfectionism can be a slippery slope.

Quindlen moves ahead of the pack by asking the reader to consider what makes YOU happy, not your friends or family, YOU. This is an underlying message in the book...set goals and objectives in life that create happiness for you. We all have a tendency, at times, do what it takes to make those around us pleased or happy. The problem is simply this: these acts are not necessarily what makes us happy and thus, we are not living our own life.

Quite honestly, Quindlen has created an essay designed for introspection and enrichment, one that is quite thought-provoking. This is a book that can be read and re-read, and quite quickly. Her message, though short, is quite potent. Recommended.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By healowe on August 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A year ago, with my 25 year marriage falling apart and a spouse in full-blown midlife crisis, and with 3 teenaged boys, I took 6 weeks to follow a lifelong dream of visiting Ireland. I stayed in hostels, walked and bussed, followed my own nose after years of trying to be the best wife and mother I could be. Shortly before this trip, I found Anna Quindlen's graduation address to Vassar (?) college, from which Being Perfect is largely derived. This, with a few select prayers, poems, and books, went everywhere with me.

Last fall, I wrote Anna Quindlen an email thanking her for her wisdom that balances "head and heart" so well, and telling her about her essay coming with me. She emailed me back saying I had "made her day" and telling me that "her sisters look over her shoulder" as she writes...

I was delighted to see what she had done with this excellent gem of writing. This little book is not meant to be a self-help tome, but a reminder that we need to re-check our motives frequently and assess what we are really doing in relation to the people and cultural pressures around us. The photos are, in my opinion, perfectly eloquent expressions of moments when perfection and conformity come into being in our lives--in all their beauty and joy, but all to often, with too much shallowness and mimicry.

A picture is worth 1000 words, right? This book is complete; to elaborate more would have muddied its message.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Wabi Sabi on October 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I enjoy Anna Quindlen's articles/columns and found her book Blessings to be a pleasant story. That said, I was quick to pick up this book, Being Perfect, while browsing through a bookstore at the airport. It is a short book - I was able to read the book cover-to-cover while standing alongside my carry-on bag in the bookstore (less than 15 minutes).

Still, I enjoyed the presentation. Anna's writing style speaks to me very eloquently. Her message was poignant and I'm sure would tear right at some heart strings for those individuals(particulary women) who have spent a better part of their lifetime trying to be the perfect 'parent' or 'spouse' or simply live up to society's impossible ideals. But for me, it was simply an interesting read that left me without any lingering thoughts.

While the black & white photographs were endearing, I couldn't quite see the full relevancy other than that they were from the era when Anna was a teenager perhaps. However, those photos seemed to occupy atleast 1/3 of the printed pages (which were few to begin with).

I would strongly recommend that you borrow this book from the library before investing $12.95 and having it sit idly on your shelf. I don't think its a book to be read and re-read, but perhaps a book that you would happily offer to a friend to take home and read and pass along to another friend.
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Format: Hardcover
This brief picture book contains an essay based on a commencement address by Ms. Quindlen.

The basic concept of the essay is that a young person can get so caught up in meeting others' expectations . . . and doing so perfectly . . . so that there's no room left for the young person to be her- or himself. Instead, you become a perfect imitation of the current manias. Ms. Quindlen wisely warns that " . . . nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great, ever came out of imitations."

She warns that it's hard work being yourself. There's no model for you to follow. You have to face yourself and make the most of your imperfections.

Ms. Quindlen also warns against the concept of "effortless perfection" that young people seek to portray. It's an oxymoron. Perfection is a great task and the goals are constantly being shifted for you. In addition, it's the imperfections that draw the eye and make the hand-made rug more appealing than the machine-made "perfect" one.

To be human is to be imperfect. Revel in it!

To me, the photographs were the best part of the book, and they would have reproduced much better if they had been on larger pages. I graded the book down one star for failing to do justice to the photographs.

The book opens with a photograph of a young woman carrying an enormous briefcase on her back. It's a metaphor for the weight of carrying the need to be perfect in the world's eyes. The next photograph has six women in bathing suits at the beach. One is standing on her head while five similar-looking women pose in high heels with their arms around each other sitting on a rail. In the next image, two identically dressed females compare their shoes.
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