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Looking for great personal essays

Old 04-07-11, 02:34 PM
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Looking for great personal essays

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?
Old 04-07-11, 03:00 PM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

Carl Sagan. The Demon Haunted World.
Old 04-08-11, 01:17 AM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

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
Old 04-08-11, 01:23 AM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

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.
Old 04-08-11, 11:47 AM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

Just Before Dark - Jim Harrison
Old 04-08-11, 03:09 PM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

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?
Old 04-08-11, 03:45 PM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

Originally Posted by bishop2knight View Post
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.)
Old 04-08-11, 04:24 PM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

That's funny. I just finished reading a Davide Foster Wallace commencement speech and looked at his books on Amazon.
Old 04-08-11, 04:37 PM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

Chuck Klosterman if youre into the whole pop culture thing.
Old 04-08-11, 04:51 PM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

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!
Old 04-09-11, 01:57 AM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

Originally Posted by bishop2knight View Post
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.
Old 04-09-11, 01:58 AM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

That said, Philip Lopate's own essay in his collection is nearly worthless.
Old 09-22-11, 06:33 PM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

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.
Old 09-23-11, 04:03 PM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

Can't believe I forgot about David Sedaris. I haven't read him in awhile.
Old 09-27-11, 03:27 PM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

Originally Posted by sleepyvillager View Post
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?

Last edited by Ash Ketchum; 09-27-11 at 03:45 PM.
Old 09-28-11, 04:35 PM
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Re: Looking for great personal essays

Originally Posted by Ash Ketchum View Post
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.

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