Book Review: How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

After I read Tiny Pretty Things and Beach Read, I did something I haven’t done in ages, I picked up some non-fiction.

I was initially reluctant to pick up this book [(as I hadn’t read non-fiction since Everything I Know About Love (which I’m pretty sure will be one of my favourite books of all time)] but, overall, I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would.


At the age of 15, Cat Marnell unknowingly set out to murder her life. After a privileged yet emotionally-starved childhood in Washington, she became hooked on ADHD medication provided by her psychiatrist father. This led to a dependence on Xanax and other prescription drugs at boarding school, and she experimented with cocaine, ecstasy… whatever came her way. By 26 she was a talented ‘doctor shopper’ who manipulated Upper East Side psychiatrists into giving her never-ending prescriptions; her life had become a twisted merry-go-round of parties and pills at night, and trying to hold down a high profile job at Condé Naste during the day.

With a complete lack of self-pity and an honesty that is almost painful, Cat describes the crazed euphoria, terrifying comedowns and the horrendous guilt she feels lying to those who try to help her. Writing in a voice that is utterly magnetic – prompting comparisons to Brett Easton Ellis and Charles Bukowski – she captures something essential both about her generation and our times. Profoundly divisive and controversial, How to Murder Your Life is a unforgettable, charged account of a young female addict, so close to throwing her entire life away.

My Thoughts

Much like Dolly Alderton, I didn’t really know who Cat Marnell was when I started reading her memoir. Of course, through her captivating, slightly sassy narrative, the reader gets to know her.

How To Murder Your Life is incredibly readable. Despite the heaviness of the subject matter explored, the tone is unashamedly honest, quite witty and — despite yourself — you read on.

It was very interesting to read about Marnell’s childhood as you learn just how early addiction can take hold. At first, the reader might see Marnell as a spoilt, reckless teenager who doesn’t want the best out of life. Then we begin to see, as the narrative progresses and she gets older, that she might be getting the best out of life (I mean getting paid to write and attending press events? Sounds like a dream to me!) but what might have been a bit of fun in childhood has blown up to addiction in her adolescence.

It was truly heartbreaking to read about her addiction. I don’t have anyone personally dealing with this kind of thing but, through the narrative, I felt as though I connected with Marnell and it was almost like I was reading about a friend. Through her narrative, you get a taste of the euphoric highs and the sometimes downright terrifying lows (if you’re scared of rodents, I would maybe refrain from reading this one).

How to Murder Your Life has been, and might always be, a divisive book. It might be full of name dropping and glamorous, privileged things and people but it is still a story about addiction. It just proves that this can, and does, happen to anyone. This might not be a book for everyone but, if you have the patience, what you’ll find is a powerful and stark example of how powerful and devastating addiction can be (and the Afterword from Marnell just adds to the narrative).

You can follow Cat Marnell on Twitter, Instagram and Patreon .

You can buy How To Murder Your Life here.

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