This book is a truly touching one. Second in Ellyn Spragin’s What I Know Now series, this book provides a number of letters that women ranging from CEOs to famous actresses write to their younger selves based upon the wisdom they have gained since their younger years. Although the women who write the letters are from a variety of backgrounds, they all share similarities that young women face today.
Surprisingly, even though some of the women were “popular” or successful in their teenaged years, whether it be through acting as the cheerleader or class president, they all expressed the feeling of being different or not quite fitting in with the rest of the crowd. Their uncertainty in being uniform with the rest of the crowd shows that they share more in common with the women who had a tough time in their youth than one may have expected.
It was unsurprising, however, that women expressed in their letters the need to be thin. Being exposed to so many celebrities and models on magazines and on television warps one’s sense of body image, creating a need for so many young girls today to want to be thin. This does tie into the first point of women feeling like they didn’t quite fit in, since by achieving their desired level of thinness, they could come closer to fitting in with the rest of the crowd.
Nevertheless, the women reflect back upon their thoughts and perspective on life 10-20 years ago and realize how differently they see things now and how they wish they had been able to gain a better perspective on life. Such perspectives included the celebration of difference, of being strong, of knowing that there were greater opportunities that lie ahead.
When I first looked at the book’s title, I thought “how much could someone in their 20s know about life itself?” Once again, it’s all about perspective. Sure, we are continually changing as individuals and gaining different insights into life as we grow older, but there is so much that someone can learn from the time they’re in high school to when they’re starting off their profession. The fact that the women are still fairly young, yet able to reflect back on their lives ten years back gives them a clear memory of their past lives without being patronizing. Their letters are understanding, yet one that reflects inner strength.
Reading this book has had a profound impact on me. It has caused me to think deeply about how different I have become over the years compared to even five years ago. It really makes you realize that people are not all that different. We strive for success, yet can feel uncertain about being different. At the same time, it brings home the fact that it’s important to stand your ground in the face of adversity through the letters of self-reflection, confusion, isolation, and other such issues. It was truly emotional because of how close the stories bring you to the individuals who write the letters.
Here is the book description as mentioned by the publisher:
Now in paperback, the popular second volume in the What I Know Now™ series offers wonderfully candid letters from women under forty, who give advice to the girls they once were. Readers will discover familiar names as well as new voices, including actress Jessica Alba; singer/songwriter Natasha Bedingfield; author Hope Edelman; Olympic soccer gold medalist Julie Foudy; singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb; and actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Here are stories of young love; of daring to chart a new path when everyone tells you to play it safe; of realizing that perfection is a pipe dream. The ideal gift for any young woman in your life, this collection provides “a boost of hope that today’s turmoil can foster tomorrow’s growth, success, and happiness” (Boston Globe).
This book is part of a three-book series that focuses on letters that women write to their younger selves as form of self-reflection. It was written by Ellyn Spragins, who also holds workshops for women in leadership. She is a public speaker at many corporations including Microsoft, Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson, to name a few.
The book is 200 pages in length, published by Da Capo Lifelong Books in 2009, and is available in English. It is available in hardcover or paperback. If you wish to purchase the book as a gift, you can purchase it gift-wrapped on Amazon.
Where to Purchase
If you are interested in purchasing the book, you can check if your local bookstore carries it. Or, alternatively you could purchase the book online at Amazon. Normally, the retail price for the paperback version of this book is $12.95, but last I checked on Amazon, it was being sold for $10.98. If you wish for a hardcover version, the hardcover Amazon price is $13.76. As I mentioned, the book is part of a three-part series of books, which are sold for $32.57 in a bundle. I have not yet had the pleasure of reading all three books, but I am sure that they too are inspiring to the reader since they are in similar formats.
Amazon gives you the opportunity to click to look inside the book to see snippets of the book. The sample pieces that are provided should help you decide if this is a book worth reading. After all, don’t just take my word for it – there are many customer reviews available on there as well.
If I’d Known Then: Women in Their 20s and 30s Write Letters to Their Younger Selves is a touching and heartwarming book that really stuck with me and made me reflect on my own life. It makes an excellent gift for a female who might be going through a tough time or a period of reflection and lack of guidance, or for someone who is graduating or making a major life transition. Of course, you could read the book yourself as well. I hope it changes your perspective in a positive manner the same way it has for me.