Review by Tess Tabak

When life gives you lemons, it’s time to quit your shitty job, move to Asia, and start fresh. In 30 Before 30, comedian Marina Shifrin shares the story of how she turned her life around with one little list, and a lot of guts. This surprisingly optimistic collection of essays is full of humor, and even offers some advice about living with the reckless abandon of a 20-something that can apply to anyone, no matter your age.

One night in her 20s, Shifrin penned a list of “30 before 30” goals in a night of frustration over her shitty job and life. She found herself drifting after college, unhappy with how little she had accomplished. In a series of 30 essays, she takes us through each goal, and what happened as she tried to achieve them. The list ranges from small (take a bus tour of NYC) to life-changing (“fall in love for real”). Some items seem quirkier than others (such as “learn how to drink”) but they all have a special meaning to Shifrin which she explains. The collection coheres more than you might expect it to – some goals, even seemingly random ones, bring Shifrin closer to reaching big goals, or in some cases made her realize that opportunities she thought she wanted once upon a time aren’t for her anymore. Even when the essays are more standalone, they’re all at heart about growing up, and achieving your dreams.

This volume is a light, often heartwarming, and funny read. No essay outstays its welcome, and for the A.D.D. in all of us, the essays are punctuated with little humorous drawings and graphs by the author (like a guide on “how to cry at work”). At times, it’s easy to feel jealous of Shifrin’s life (she gets a Modern Love essay accepted on the first try!) but her self-deprecating humor and honest writing style keep the book grounded. She learns, for example, that being a viral video star isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. This book provides a portrait of an (extremely talented, yet) ordinary twenty-something trying to figure out life, like Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie or a more down-to-earth Girls.

Though obviously this book might be of special interest to women still grappling with their 20s, this book serves as a guide to people of any age or gender who want to learn how to approach their lives with the energy of a 20-something: simultaneously ambitious and lazy; optimistic and cynical. Shifrin writes of her own experience as a millennial child of immigrants: she appreciates the fact that life could be harder, but also has the millennial desire for instant gratification. This combination of drive to work and inability to be satisfied with anything less than perfect gives her the perfect tools for success.

This is the perfect book for anyone who wants the courage to walk out onto a naked beach.



30 Before 30 will be released July 24 by Wednesday Books

The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.