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Belt Publishing

How to Be Normal

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Phil Christman
February 1, 2022

"Phil Christman is one of the best essayists in America." —Becca Rothfeld, TLS

Phil Christman is one of the best cultural critics working today. Or, as a reviewer of his previous book, Midwest Futures, put it, "one of the most underappreciated writers of [his] generation." 

You may also know Phil from his columns in Commonweal and Plough, or his viral essay "What Is It Like To Be A Man?, the latter adapted in his new book, How To Be Normal

Christman’s second book includes essays on "How To Be White," "How to Be Religious," "How To Be Married," and more, in addition to new versions of the above. Find in it also brilliant analyses of middlebrow culture, bad movies, Mark Fisher, Christian fundamentalism, and more. 

With exquisite attention to syntax and prose, the astoundingly well-read Christman pairs a deceptively breezy style with radical openness.  In his witty, original hands, seemingly "normal" subjects are rendered exceptional, and exceptionally.

A former substitute teacher, shelter worker, and home health aide, Phil Christman currently lectures in the English department at University of Michigan. His work has appeared in The Hedgehog ReviewCommonwealThe Christian CenturyThe Outline, and other places. He holds an MFA from the University of South Carolina-Columbia. He is the editor of the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, a journal sponsored by the University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project. He lives in Ann Arbor, MI.

More praise for How to Be Normal: 

One of The Millions' "most anticipated" books of 2022!

"A probing and provocative collection." —Publishers Weekly

"Erudite riffs on race, religion, masculinity, and other contentious subjects." —Kirkus Reviews

"[In] How to Be Normal, Christman presents essays on a variety of topics ranging from race and masculinity to religion and pop culture, all written in the tone of a subversive self-help guide. Engaging a belles-lettristic negative capability, Christman takes on the big subjects while always remembering that the point of criticism is to more fully be a person." —Ed SimonThe Millions

"In a host of grimly besieged arenas of public life, from religion and race to mass culture and masculinity, Christman charts a frank and fearless guide for the perplexed, the battered, the exhausted, and the outraged." —Chris Lehmann, The New Republic

“Mr. Christman titles the collection and each of the essays with the 'How to' format, but he points out in an author’s note that this is not an advice manual. Rather, he takes on a subject and examines the generalizations and shibboleths clinging to it, puncturing them with personal experience and his intellect—and with considerable research to back them up. . . . Throughout How to Be Normal, the voice is earnest and intense, often spiraling around a subject. . . . But as for the promise of comfort suggested by the title of this book, Mr. Christman has some disappointing news: ‘There is no normal to get back to anymore.'” —Richard Babcock, Wall Street Journal

"Phil Christman is one of the best essayists in America. . . . [H]e is unafraid to reject the portions of a position that do not withstand scrutiny, and his largely left-wing conclusions are the product of careful and humane self-searching." Becca Rothfeld, TLS

ISBN: 9781953368102| 208 pages|Hardcover|February 1, 2022|$26.00

Digital review copies available on Edelweiss and upon request (please email Phoebe Mogharei at 

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