How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right: Essays on Modern Life

By Megan Thomas

It’s a collection of essays by Pandora Sykes, and I’d actually really recommend you read each essay with a break in between to get their full impact.

It covers really intriguing social experiences such as our quest for authenticity and how the branding of authenticity is ironically inauthentic, our approach to online shopping, the instant message as a form of communication and more. Sykes has found a pleasant mix of social commentary and personal exploration for the various topics. I was most struck by how, despite the fact that there were many points where I tended to disagree with her stance, it didn’t negatively affect my desire to keep reading. It’s something she discusses in the book: this notion that disagreement should mean disengagement, and how we’ve reached a breaking point socially where people’s views are so polarising that we feel compelled to hate the people we disagree with. There are of course boundaries, but knowing that that’s an “of course” and that critical thinking is a requirement for these subject matters is the whole point.

You know how sometimes people ask “could this have been an essay?” about a non-fiction book or a memoir? Well, I have to say I think there’s another step when it then comes to personal essays, whereby the question is, “could this have been a Facebook status?” I don’t think this is necessarily the case for all the essays in How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about when it comes to a personal essay in general. I suppose it’s a question of what makes a thought interesting enough to become an essay to become a book, which isn’t easily answerable. What are your thoughts?

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