The Futilitarians (Little Brown & Company)

For most people, early middle age doesn’t include a philosophical reading list and a deep dive into existentialism. But if Anne Gisleson’s new memoir, The Futilitarians, is anything to go on, it probably should.

When Anne’s friend suggested that the two them start a reading project, Anne’s life was already densely packed: teaching, writing, looking after two young sons, managing a marriage, worrying about and tending to her sick father, and continuing to grapple with the deaths of her twin sisters, who, within the span of a year and a half, had taken their own lives. Nevertheless, her answer was yes, with one condition: It had to be a group project. And thus the Existential Crisis Reading Group—or, as Anne liked to call its members, the Futilitarians—was born. Once a month, this motley crew of New Orleanian friends met in her living room. From Epicurus to Tolstoy, Cheever to Lispector, their goal was to tackle the big questions, using important thinkers as their guides. But when Anne’s father died after the group’s first gathering, the monthly quest of the Futilitarians assumed a whole new significance in her life, helping her to forge a path out of her grief.

By turns intellectual, poignant, playful, and deeply funny, The Futilitarians explores both the personal—from Anne’s Catholic upbringing in New Orleans, to her father’s death, to the suicides of her sisters—and the universal, the questions that mankind has grappled with for millennia. What is the correct way to live, to experience loss, to grow old? And what does it mean to be human?

The Futilitarians is a witty, moving, and insightful memoir about looking for answers amid the pain of loss and the dreaded process of getting older—a book that New York Times bestselling author Jami Attenberg calls her “favorite memoir of the year” and sums up perfectly as “boozy, brilliant, beautiful, tragic, and deeply affecting.”

Praise for The Futilitarians

“With beautiful writing, Gisleson effortlessly weaves existentialism around narrative, challenging and engaging readers with a seamless blend of theory and memoir. Gisleson’s first book-length work weighs heavy with life’s toughest questions and then instantaneously elevates the soul with hope, making for a charming, captivating, and incredibly smart must-read.” —Booklist

“An engrossing memoir chronicling a search for spiritual healing . . . A graceful narrative that seamlessly interweaves philosophical reflections and intimate revelations.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Gisleson’s memoir is a compassionate journey through personal grief, as well as a smart compendium of literature . . . a dynamic examination of human suffering and human joy . . . Her narrative is a wonderful look at friendship and grief, as well as an enlightening personal literary journey.”—Publishers Weekly

The Futilitarians sets out a search for meaning in grand terms and solves the search in the beauty of loving detail. From suicide to set painting, lunch pies to Death Row, from decayed eternity to the complex rebirth of New Orleans, this book never loses the treasure of abiding doubt. Plus, spoiler, it ends in fireworks and a reading list you do not want to miss.” —Louise Erdrich, National Book Award–winning author of LaRose

Award–winning author of LaRose “Boozy, brilliant, beautiful, tragic, and deeply affecting, The Futilitarians is my favorite memoir of the year.”—Jami Attenberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Middlesteins

“This is a beautiful book about the things that matter—love, death, grief, anger, regret, renewal, the life of the mind, the life of the heart, and the life of the world around you. Anne Gisleson is a brave and gifted writer, with the wisdom to embrace empathy and connection, not to mention intellectual curiosity, in an existence that can only ever be filled with uncertainty. I just wish I could join her reading club.”—Sam Lipsyte, New York Times bestselling author of The Ask

“I absolutely loved The Futilitarians, a wonderful and profoundly moving personal memoir of loss and resilience, and an unforgettable tribute to the great good that comes from reading great books (and talking about them!). I underlined passages on just about every page, following with intense hope and desire every move made by Anne’s Existential Crisis Reading Group, a book group like none other. This book will move you to tears, to laughter, and to joy—and will leave you with a renewed awe for all the
unexpected gifts that being alive allows, including the special joy of finding a great book like The Futilitarians.”—Nina Sankovitch, author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

“After Katrina, New Orleanians became experts in resilience. Anne Gisleson has captured that spirit poignantly in The Futilitarians, which explores how we can find meaning in our lives by struggling back from tragedies. Whether as communities or as individuals, she shows, we do it by holding hands and moving forward together.”—Walter Isaacson, President of the Aspen Institute and New York Times bestselling author of Steve Jobs and Einstein: His Life and Universe

Anne Gisleson’s work has appeared in the Atlantic, the Oxford American, the Believer, and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications, and has been selected for inclusion in several anthologies, including The Best American Nonrequired Reading. Anne teaches at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and lives in New Orleans with her husband and their two sons.

Matt Sumell is a graduate of UC Irvine’s MFA program. He is the recipient of a Glenn Schaeffer Award and an Arlene Cheng Fellowship. His stories have appeared in EsquireThe Paris ReviewElectric LiteratureNoonOne Story, and elsewhere. He lives in Los Angeles.

Event date: 
Saturday, September 9, 2017 - 5:00pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316393904
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little Brown and Company - August 22nd, 2017

Making Nice: A Novel in Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250081582
Availability: Not in stock. Available To Order.
Published: St. Martins Press-3pl - February 9th, 2016