How to Be Perfect: An Illustrated Guide

Words by Ron Padgett, with illustrations by Jason Novak

September 13, 2016 • 5.25 x 7 • 112 Pages • 978-1-56689-455-5

Human perfection, attainable in 99 easy steps.

“Make eye contact with a tree.” “Do not practice cannibalism.” “Wear comfortable shoes. “Sing, every once in a while.” “In later life, become a mystic.” Offbeat, warm, and funny, Ron Padgett’s prescriptions for human perfection spring to life in Jason Novak’s cartoons—a glorious match-up of sensibilities. And remember: “Don’t give advice.”

About the Author

Ron Padgett grew up in Tulsa and has lived mostly in New York City since 1960. Among his many honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters poetry award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Padgett’s How Long was Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry and his Collected Poems won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Los Angeles Times prize for the best poetry book of 2013.

Jason Novak is a cartoonist whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and the Believer, among other places. He lives in Oakland.


“Reading Padgett one realizes that playfulness and lightness of touch are not at odds with seriousness.” New York Review of Books

“For a quick read or a special gift, this illustrated guide provides great self help towards a cheerful chuckle and, every so often, a thoughtful frown. As the author suggests . . . keep your childish self alive.” —San Francisco Review of Books

“Padgett’s sense of romantic joy is undiminished, as is his thoughtfulness about language and the ways in which time changes meaning, and sense can morph into eloquent absurdity.” Entertainment Weekly

“Coffee House has now repackaged the poem as an appealingly small stand-alone book, illustrated by New Yorker cartoonist Jason Novak. His illustrations are sort of Jules Feiffer/James Thurber-esque, peopled by toothy, big-eyed humans who appear furtive and bewildered by their quest.” —Star Tribune

“Mr. Novak’s drawings, with their strategic use of black areas reminds me a bit of Gluyas Williams’ work along with some Feiffer, Steig, and Ben Shahn line work mixed in. Good stuff.” —Inkspill

“This is a delightful, amusing and thought-provoking book, and Novak’s drawings both reflect the tone of the text and expand its range by bringing Padgett’s precepts to quirky, individual life.” —Elliptical Movements

“Padgett and Novak’s unique perspectives wind up and bounce off each other in this collaboration, which streaks through humor, heart and the universal aches of everyday life.” —MPR’s The Thread

“Agile and lucid and glad to be alive.” —James Tate