She Wrote the Book on Burnout. Here’s What Anne Helen Petersen Is Reading.

When Buzzfeed News published How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation in early 2019, culture writer Anne Helen Petersen helped a weary generation name and legitimize their feelings of unrest. Over a year and a half later, the piece has earned over seven million reads, status as the most-Pocketed story of 2019, and an offline spin-off: Petersen’s new book Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on September 22. 

Petersen opened her Pocket to give us a peek at a dozen of the articles that inspired and informed the book. She spoke to us from her home in Montana as wildfires clogged the air with smoke, keeping her and her partner indoors, working, all weekend. “Being outside was the thing that gave me some sort of respite from work and concerns about Covid,” she explained. “Not being able to have that, it feels like options just keep narrowing. What else is there to do but work?” She continues:

“As Americans, we’re very good at compartmentalizing, at saying, ‘well, I have to get through this, I have no other choice.’ And now, we’re dealing with issues like Covid, systemic racism, horrific climate events across the U.S.—these things are exacerbating that burnout, but we get used to it. It’s like being a frog in boiling water, you don’t realize how overwhelming it is until you’re about to break. 

Reading and learning about what other people are going through produces empathy. It helps us all acknowledge that burnout isn’t a personal problem—it’s a societal and structural one. Living in a society means that we are only as psychologically healthy as the most burnt-out among us. So even if the contours of someone else’s burnout look different from your own, understanding it produces solidarity. And together, we can figure out substantial ways to re-net the safety net for everyone.” 

Anne Helen Petersen

Millennials Don’t Stand a Chance

Annie Lowrey • The Atlantic

They’re facing a second once-in-a-lifetime downturn at a crucial moment.

Nearly 6 Decades After the Civil Rights Act, Why Do Black Workers Still Have To Hustle To Get Ahead?

Tressie McMillan Cottom • Time

Today we have all been turned into hustlers, trying to monetize our “human capital” for economic advancement. But Black Americans have to hustle more.

Why Private Equity Should Not Exist

Matt Stoller • BIG

PE is starting to face some of the same headwinds that big tech is experiencing.

Google’s Shadow Workforce: Temps Who Outnumber Full-Time Employees

Daisuke Wakabayashi • The New York Times

“It’s time to end the two-tier system that treats some workers as expendable.”

The Gig Economy Celebrates Working Yourself To Death

Jia Tolentino • The New Yorker

The contrast between the gig economy’s rhetoric and the conditions that allow it to exist makes this kink in our thinking especially clear.

I Was a Fast-Food Worker. Let Me Tell You About Burnout.

Emily Guendelsberger • Vox

As technology ratchets up the stress, low-wage jobs have become some of the hardest in America.

Are You Just LARP-ing Your Job?

John Herrman • The Awl

Email is extremely effective for people who LARP through their jobs. Slack is even better.

The Grateful To Be Here Generation Has Some Apologizing To Do

Connie Wang • Refinery29

Many of us did more than just survive a bad situation. We learned how to thrive within these environments, becoming devils ourselves.

Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Fobazi Ettarh • In The Library With The Lead Pipe

This article aims to describe the phenomenon of vocational awe and its effects on library philosophies and practices so that they may be recognized and deconstructed.

The Overprotected Kid

Hanna Rosin • The Atlantic

A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer. A new kind of playground points to a better solution.

The Relentless of Modern Parenting

Claire Cain Miller • The New York Times

Raising children has become significantly more time-consuming and expensive, amid a sense that opportunity has grown more elusive.

The Privatization of Childhood Play

Malcolm Harris • Pacific Standard

With playdates replacing free childhood play, it’s upper-class families who set the social norms — and working-class families who pay the price.

About the curator

A former senior culture writer for BuzzFeed, Anne Helen Petersen now writes her newsletter, Culture Study, as a full-time venture on Substack. Petersen received her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, where she focused on the history of celebrity gossip. Her previous books, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud and Scandals of Classic Hollywood, were featured in NPR, Elle, and the Atlantic. She lives in Missoula, Montana.

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