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View Full Version : Looking for great personal essays


bishop2knight
04-07-11, 01:34 PM
I'm in the mood for some good nonfiction, but I'm looking for personal essays specifically. I've read plenty of good memoirs, but I figure I'll give the shorter form a chance. I'm looking for a book of 'em, either a random collection of writers or a collection from one writer.

Anyone read any lately?

dugan
04-07-11, 02:00 PM
Carl Sagan. The Demon Haunted World.

writer106
04-08-11, 12:17 AM
Here are a few suggestions of books with essays that I really enjoyed.
-A Collection of Essays-George Orwell
-50 Essays: A Portable Anthology
-Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews by Geoff Dyer

Hank Ringworm
04-08-11, 12:23 AM
The Art of the Personal Essay (a wide-ranging collection) was a college textbook of mine, and a huge inspiration. I highly recommend it. Philip Lopate is the editor.

mlemmond
04-08-11, 10:47 AM
Just Before Dark - Jim Harrison

bishop2knight
04-08-11, 02:09 PM
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. Hank, I've heard of Lopate, but never read him. That might be a good place to start. Same with "50 Essays"...they both look like good selections.

Anyone read essays with a touch (or more) of humor?

TimeandTide
04-08-11, 02:45 PM
I'm in the mood for some good nonfiction, but I'm looking for personal essays specifically. I've read plenty of good memoirs, but I figure I'll give the shorter form a chance. I'm looking for a book of 'em, either a random collection of writers or a collection from one writer.

Anyone read any lately?

Anything by David Foster Wallace.

The Non-Required reading series edited by Dave Eggers is also fantastic (it has a mix of each years "best" off-the-beaten path cartoons, short stories, essays, speeches, etc.)

bishop2knight
04-08-11, 03:24 PM
That's funny. I just finished reading a Davide Foster Wallace commencement speech and looked at his books on Amazon.

Rex Power Colt-Robot Man
04-08-11, 03:37 PM
Chuck Klosterman if youre into the whole pop culture thing.

beesonosu
04-08-11, 03:51 PM
They may not be as entertaining as those listed above, but I highly suggest you give some essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson at least some consideration.

EDIT: I guess they really aren't personal essays, but I'd still recommend his "popular" ones - "Self-Reliance", "Nature", the speech "An American Scholar". Doesn't sound like what you're asking for though, sorry!

Hank Ringworm
04-09-11, 12:57 AM
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. Hank, I've heard of Lopate, but never read him. That might be a good place to start. Same with "50 Essays"...they both look like good selections.

Anyone read essays with a touch (or more) of humor?

There are many in the Lopate book with some sort of humor. I appreciate Charles Lamb's sense of humor, though many today do not. E.B. White makes me laugh out loud, but maybe it's just me.

If you're looking for a more accessible humor, I'd suggest Dave Barry.

Essays are like short stories. There are thousands of good ones out there, depending on what you like, but they can be very hard to find. An anthology like the Lopate collection is a good place to start.

Hank Ringworm
04-09-11, 12:58 AM
That said, Philip Lopate's own essay in his collection is nearly worthless.

sleepyvillager
09-22-11, 05:33 PM
I highly recommend Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind (and you will probably appreciate it more in hardcover). It's one of my favorites out of the books I've read this year. Highlights for me include pretty much everything but if I had to choose I'd say the pieces she wrote on her father, a childhood Christmas and on Katherine Hepburn and Greta Garbo are particularly superb. For those of you who like David Foster Wallace, she wrote this big, hulking thing of an essay on him; it's beautiful.

bishop2knight
09-23-11, 03:03 PM
Can't believe I forgot about David Sedaris. I haven't read him in awhile.

Ash Ketchum
09-27-11, 02:27 PM
I highly recommend Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind (and you will probably appreciate it more in hardcover). It's one of my favorites out of the books I've read this year. Highlights for me include pretty much everything but if I had to choose I'd say the pieces she wrote on her father, a childhood Christmas and on Katherine Hepburn and Greta Garbo are particularly superb. For those of you who like David Foster Wallace, she wrote this big, hulking thing of an essay on him; it's beautiful.

Now, you've got me intrigued. I did not know Ms. Smith wrote about those actresses. I want to get this now.

I've heard a lot about Wallace, but haven't read him yet. Among his books of essays, what's a good entry point?

sleepyvillager
09-28-11, 03:35 PM
Now, you've got me intrigued. I did not know Ms. Smith wrote about those actresses. I want to get this now.

I've heard a lot about Wallace, but haven't read him yet. Among his books of essays, what's a good entry point?

For an entry point, I would suggest A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again. There's also his commencement speech given to the 2005 graduating class at Kenyon College. This speech can give a deep sense of what he was capable of as a writer. You can find this by Googling "David Foster Wallace on Life and Work", it'll be the first link.