When I was a kid, I loved reading guides to life. They piled up on my shelf and on my library card, their spines almost cracked with frequent use (just almost; I’m not a monster) and their pages filled with words “directly” from my favorite girlhood heroes. Mary-Kate and Ashley had a guide to life. Lizzie McGuire had a guide to life. Mia Thermopolis had a guide to life (and being a princess). Even Betty and Veronica had a guide to life, and I especially loved theirs because it was full-color and had a chapter on crushes that proved my little infatuation with Jughead Jones was valid.
I learned a lot from these books. There’s the requisite advice on school, hobbies, and growing up, but they also held knowledge that furthered my creativity and set me up for real life, like how to make my own lip gloss and which utensils to use during full-course meals.
Now that I’m older, you won’t really catch me around the Self-Help section anymore. It’s a little funny to think about, because I kind of need help more than ever. So when I was tasked to review Arriane Serafico’s new book Existential Courage and read it in one sitting, I couldn’t help but think that the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
Serafico, public speaker and founder of online learning community The Purposeful Creative, has written a survival guide for every existential crisis one could ever encounter. She pulls not only from personal experience, but also from scientific research and epiphanies from over 15,000 students she has taught. As a result, Existential Courage combines essay-type passages with a sturdy framework, activities and exercises, and advice that’s well mapped out in easily digestible concepts — taking something as abstract as soul searching and navigating it towards more stable, concrete ground. It’s less a step-by-step process for micromanaging your life and more of applied theory to simplify it all.