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Publisher's Summary

An instant New York Times bestseller!

“Batuman has a gift for making the universe seem, somehow, like the benevolent and witty literary seminar you wish it were . . .This novel wins you over in a million micro-observations.” —The New York Times

From the acclaimed and bestselling author of The Idiot, the continuation of beloved protagonist Selin’s quest for self-knowledge, as she travels abroad and tests the limits of her newfound adulthood

Selin is the luckiest person in her family: the only one who was born in America and got to go to Harvard. Now it’s sophomore year, 1996, and Selin knows she has to make it count. The first order of business: to figure out the meaning of everything that happened over the summer. Why did Selin’s elusive crush, Ivan, find her that job in the Hungarian countryside? What was up with all those other people in the Hungarian countryside? Why is Ivan’s weird ex-girlfriend now trying to get in touch with Selin? On the plus side, it feels like the plot of an exciting novel. On the other hand, why do so many novels have crazy abandoned women in them? How does one live a life as interesting as a novel—a life worthy of becoming a novel—without becoming a crazy abandoned woman oneself? 

Guided by her literature syllabus and by her more worldly and confident peers, Selin reaches certain conclusions about the universal importance of parties, alcohol, and sex, and resolves to execute them in practice—no matter what the cost. Next on the list: international travel.

Unfolding with the propulsive logic and intensity of youth, Either/Or is a landmark novel by one of our most brilliant writers. Hilarious, revelatory, and unforgettable, its gripping narrative will confront you with searching questions that persist long after the last minute.

©2022 Elif Batuman (P)2022 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Batuman has a gift for making the universe seem, somehow, like the benevolent and witty literary seminar you wish it were . . . This novel wins you over in a million micro-observations.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“A richly suggestive and amusing book.”—Financial Times

“The joys of Batuman’s fiction lie . . . in Selin herself—her lively voice, her comic observations, and her marriage of literature and philosophy with the potentially oppressive banality of undergraduate life.”—Claire Messud, Harper’s 

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Brilliant, funny, thoughtful, comforting

I didn’t think I could enjoy a book more than Batuman’s debut, The Idiot— I’m glad to report that Either/Or is even more of a pleasure, start to finish, because so many questions introduced in the former are explored and answered here. I don’t think her books need to be read in order, and they can all stand alone. This book adds an element missing from the first— Selin’s romantic and physical desires manifest in reality and play a major role, to often hilarious effect, but never to the detriment of her creative and scholarly pursuits. Her world expands to include more memorable characters, but familiar storylines continue— Svetlana and Ivan both return in different and welcome ways. Batuman’s voice and comic timing are the perfect way to experience her writing— go with the audio if you’re unsure whether to read or to listen. Those looking forward to Selin’s return will be thrilled with the way her journey continues to play out. I didn’t want it to end— am hoping that Selin’s story covers a lifetime— her voice, and Batuman’s, are so distinct and vital.

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One Question

Great start contrasting intellectual college reading with commonplace mating concerns, but I don’t understand why - or I regret that - the narrator allowed herself to be pressured - assaulted really - into so many shallow sexual relationships with brutish dumb men. It shows of course how potential trauma is everywhere for young women, but the author doesn’t transform or even comment on these ugly all-too-common experiences. Is this book purposely pre-me-too?