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The Best American Series® First, Best, and Best-Selling The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish. The Best American Series® First, Best, and Best-Selling The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish. This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected — and most popular — of its kind. The Best American Essays 2012 includes Marcia Angell, Miah Arnold, Mark Doty, Joseph Epstein, Jonathan Franzen, Malcolm Gladwell, Francine Prose, Lauren Slater, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jose Antonio Vargas, and others


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The Best American Series® First, Best, and Best-Selling The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish. The Best American Series® First, Best, and Best-Selling The Best American series is the premier annual showcase for the country’s finest short fiction and nonfiction. Each volume’s series editor selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field, then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish. This unique system has made the Best American series the most respected — and most popular — of its kind. The Best American Essays 2012 includes Marcia Angell, Miah Arnold, Mark Doty, Joseph Epstein, Jonathan Franzen, Malcolm Gladwell, Francine Prose, Lauren Slater, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jose Antonio Vargas, and others

30 review for The Best American Essays 2012

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maureen Stanton

    Annoyed that David Brooks was the guest editor (he is not an essayist, not a great writer, just a pundit, a columnist). So I was not surprised to find that many of these pieces are not essays at all, but magazine features. They are good and informative as magazine journalism, but not essays. There are a few strong essays however, namely David Lawless' "My Father/My Husband"--heartbreaking, affecting, and interesting choices for narrative structure (will teach this essay), and the final two piece Annoyed that David Brooks was the guest editor (he is not an essayist, not a great writer, just a pundit, a columnist). So I was not surprised to find that many of these pieces are not essays at all, but magazine features. They are good and informative as magazine journalism, but not essays. There are a few strong essays however, namely David Lawless' "My Father/My Husband"--heartbreaking, affecting, and interesting choices for narrative structure (will teach this essay), and the final two pieces, "Outlaw" by Jose Antonio Vargas and "Paper Tigers" by Wesley Yang. But mostly there is very little risk in Brooks' selections, and again, he should have edited "Best American Magazine Writing" (and then included 75% of these pieces). Shout out to Sandra Tsing Loh, whose "rants" are hilarous and honest and compelling. Her piece in this collection, "The Bitch is Back" was terrific, too.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    This is the first time I revisited Best American Essays since the 2009 edition and I think I am going to have to check this series out perennially. The essays cover a variety of topics often flying just below the radar. In this edition as in the last one I read a lot of the essays slant towards a few themes likely to the the interests of the guest editor. I'll take it essay by essay: 1. The Foul Reign of "Self-Reliance" (Benjamin Anastas) This is an alternate look at Ralph Waldo-Emerson's definiti This is the first time I revisited Best American Essays since the 2009 edition and I think I am going to have to check this series out perennially. The essays cover a variety of topics often flying just below the radar. In this edition as in the last one I read a lot of the essays slant towards a few themes likely to the the interests of the guest editor. I'll take it essay by essay: 1. The Foul Reign of "Self-Reliance" (Benjamin Anastas) This is an alternate look at Ralph Waldo-Emerson's definition of "self-reliance." The author makes the case that Americans have too comfortably settled upon an era that is uncompromisingly Emersonian. What had once been liberating principles of independence in thought and action has morphed into smart-phone absorbed people clinging fervently to their own opinions in the swamp of opposition. There is too much love for the self and for flashy iconoclasts. True love for families, neighbors, and communities has disintegrated and settled somewhere at the bottom of the barrel. Living-for-yourself is now loving-yourself. I'm not sure about the application of Emerson in this essay but the writer takes some of his groundwork ("Trust thyself," "No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature") and it works for the sake of the essay. Not one of the stronger ones, but provoking nonetheless. 2. The Crazy State of Psychiatry (Marcia Agnell) The Crazy State of Psychiatry is basically a review of several books criticizing psychiatric medicine. Marcia Angell presents some solid evidence and tight arguments that these drugs are doing more harm than good. In fact, the only good they are doing is making money for the corporations that sell them and the psychiatrists who prescribe them (quick diagnoses and easy drug solutions save a lot of talk-time). Much psychiatric medicines are basically a shortcuts at the expense of the taker--and many come with nasty side-effects that require more medicine. Agnell questions how such prescriptions became appropriate in the first place--whether isolating depression and other mental disorders to chemical balances in the brain is even scientifically sound (there appears to be a lot more going on than chemicals in the brain). She also presents the history of the DSM-IV and the soon-to-be-released DSM-V with its ever-increasing pages of diagnoses. Practically any problem that appears to be mental can be diagnosed as a disease under this ever-expanding handbook. The frustrating part is that it hardly references any scientific research yet still manages to be the authority. There's a ton of information on psychiatric medicine packed in this essay including a neat little placebo experiment. I finished wanting to know more... This one is worth a reread if not for anything else than to dig deeper into the sources that Agnell retrieved her information. 3. You Owe Me (Miah Arnold) Oh wow. This one is heavy. It's about dealing with grief at a children's hospital. The author is a creative writing teacher at a special hospital for kids. The dark side is that almost all of the kids that come there die. Some die in a few months, some after a few years. Miah Arnold writes so compassionately that I felt she probably one of the most courageous women ever. Wrapping up her thoughts, though, she questions her sanity, or the sanity of any teacher who has stayed there more than a year. I wonder. . . This is one of a couple essays about teachers a one of my favorites. 4. Edward Hopper (Geoffrey Bent) This essay is a reflection on the art of Edward Hopper. I am not familiar with Edward Hopper so I did not read this essay. 7. Vanishing Act (Paul Collins) This is about a writer who wrote her first manuscript at age twelve. There are many citations of her writing and it is whimsical and fantastical, but most of all eloquent. Her first story got so much attention that she was classified in the same category os Mozart and Chopin. The year was 1927. Her first published story, A House Without Window about a little girl name Eepersip. Eepersip tries to convince her friends to explore the woods but they are afraid so she goes and gets lost in the woods herself. The bits of Follet’s writing included are light and feathery yet drew me in in only a few words. The remaining part of the essay goes on the describe her later life. Barbara Follet is well on her way realizing her dreams. She gets to sail the sea with a crew of sailors (her greatest ambition) and writes another playfully eloquent story about her adventures. And then at fourteen her father leaves her mother. The young author begins to lose touch with the dreams of her youth and her own identity. She feels alienated living with her mother in Depression-era Manhattan. She elopes young with an outdoorsman and after a few writings of drab, uninspiring New York she disappears completely. "I don't like civilization," Follet wrote. She is never heard from again. Her words and her story linger, her ideals failing to match any sort of fantastic reality she created at a younger but more complete age. The essay gives you the feeling that this shouldn't have happened, that time reversed and something that was being built up collapsed too soon. Sometimes kids are really smart. But without the support they need, world weighs them down instead of props them up. 8. Insatiable (Mark Doty) This essay is a comparative critique on Walt Whitman. His work is put side by side with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Apparently the two men had a correspondence. Stoker praised Whitman’s work. Within the essay critique, Doty offers a personal narrative as well. It is about physical desire. He compares his longing with Whitman’s longing, or is it feeding? Actually, Whitman may be offering everything that he can offer. It’s more like a desire to know someone as deeply as possible. Doty wraps up with an interesting passage from Whitman where he describes dripping blood, and offers it to the reader. There is never satisfaction, never wholeness. In this constant offering, be it manifest as a physical means for spiritual completion, there can never be completeness. 11. Farther Away (Jonathan Franzen) This essay took me a while to warm up to. Jonathan Franzen starts out talking about his preparations for his trip to a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. It takes him a while to get there as it is not just a flight away from mainland Chile but another flight away from a small island to this even smaller island (Masfuera). The author is not a very outdoorsy guy. In fact he is more of a literature scholar. He is going to remove himself from society and think about things. He brings a copy of Robinson Crusoe with him. Franzen features vivid descriptions of his adventures and disappointments. But it is when he starts philosophically musing that it gets interesting. He even states that he is uncomfortable until he has the opportunity to settle down and read Robinson Crusoe. Also, the author had been good friends with the late David Foster Wallace. This gives him some additional food for thought as he tries to understand his late friend's existential malaise. In his grieving thoughts Franzen tries to diagnose the problems of modern life the wore away at his friend. It is not about what makes us happy but about what gives us a fulfilling connection to reality... Franzen analyzes Robinson Crusoe--it gave its readers a chance to detach and wonder what they would do in such far removed situations. With modernity came the opportunity to take risks, and Robinson Crusoe gave people a chance to do so in their own solitude (aka to take a risk without actually taking the risk). One must choose to suspend disbelief when picking up a novel--an attitude of departure, often for pleasure. But the novel has become outmoded by movies, TV shows, video games, and consequently disappeared to an over-saturation of sources of fiction. Invasive like a weed, the fiction of the novel has epidemically overrun the whole world. Franzen tries to neatly tie up his distant musings by connecting them to the world he left and ambitiously ends with a theory about the current state of the internet. The possible versions of self that were once mapped out in novels as various different characters doing different things, though, may now be mapped onto the "world." 12. Creation Myth (Malcolm Gladwell) A re-examination of the mythos that surrounds innovation. Gladwell breaks down the history leading up to Apple's unprecedented ubiquity. He breaks it down into a three-step process: the first wave of computer scientists and researchers create the functional technology. It is complicated and esoteric. This is the stage of origins. Then comes Xerox and their bulky yet promising super-computers. This is the next and middle stage in the integration of intelligence technology. It is the stage where things get made. Some people, including Jobs himself, say Xerox could have done so much more had they taken their products a step further. Gladwell argues that they couldn't have taken it a step further--that their large, bulky computers were their ultimate offering to a sequence of technological adaptation. Finally came Apple, IBM, and Microsoft, the fine-tuners. We get direct manipulation of the desktop and one-button mouses at this stage. This is the stage where the technology enters the hands of the people. Overall, this essay is a nice brief history of modern computer technology. The point? I guess that would be that in a corporate world there are limits to innovation. There may be a creative head of a company but innovation is up to the innovators. 13. Dr. Don (Peter Hessler) Dr. Don Keeps it Real. Dr. Don owns a pharmacy in rural Colorado and he does it like any small town business ought to be. He is not a corporate caricature but rather a small town hero. If you do business with him, it is personal. This is what a real community is. I do not know what America is aiming for nowadays but it is not anything that awards the small town hero like this. The reliable go-to guy who holds the town fabric together is a helpless victim to corporate enterprise and its idealistic big sister, global trade. Dr. Don keeps it together despite this. Dr. Don's business is Dr. Don's business, and it is also his life. And the life of Dr. Don is the life of a kind of man that is a pillar, an invisible pillar not seen anymore in any American town. As long as there is a CVS taking up every little niche of America, who needs 'em? A place like CVS, like any well branded corp, is about anonymity. Who cares who goes in and who cares who goes out? Dr. Don is not CVS. Dr. Don cares. 14. Objects of Affection (Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough) A nice glance at the objects we own and their capacity to hold memories. Their endurance in the physical world can often be more constant than our fleeting experiences. They can even hold pieces of our identity lost somewhere along the way. 15. Getting Schooled (Garret Keizer) Another essay about teaching. Keizer's tone rings of authority from experience. He talks about the difficulty of getting his message across to high school students and the gap of relating to them across several generations--especially on getting them to read and think. Even though I'm fuzzy on the reference, I walked away fully convinced: "Carthage must be destroyed." And, no, I'm not sure if I get it but maybe someday I will. 18. The Bitch is Back (Sandra Tsing Loh) A rather insightful essay about menopause. I don't know much about menopause so this was sort of enlightening. 19. How Doctors Die (Ken Murray) 23. Outlaw (Jose Antonio Vargas) 24. Paper Tigers (Weseley Yang) Written by a Korean-American who claims no identity as Korean but 100% as American, this essay sheds some light on the American identity. The focus of Yang's piece is about the "Bamboo Ceiling," the highest rung of achievement an Asian American can reach in the U.S. The limit is usually drawn right before the echelons of leadership. Yang throws out some numbers, like how 9 of the Fortune 500 are Asian Americans. By the looks of it one might think there is some racial profiling going on. And surely there is. But there is a deeper reason the Bamboo Ceiling is so hard to break. "Upholding family honor. Filial piety. Restraint." Deeply rooted East Asian traditions have been around thousands of years and are terribly hard to break in just one or two generations. One of the high school students Yang interviews says he feels like he skipped a generation. His parents rent a flat in New York City and he has earned the Ivy League degree but something is still missing. It's not uncommon for and Asian-American to feel compelled to get the highest test scores, the best ranks, but all this success is on paper and while surely it is one way to improve one's intelligence it also skips a beat--or a whole rhythm section--that is the realm of socialization. Coming to American and finding success is one thing, but how relevant is a whole generation of, say, Korean-Americans who have passed the most difficult exams and placed themselves in the most intelligent research programs if they have little to no ability to break out from under the umbrella of white man's leadership? What more are they but a marginal community, albeit a fairly hard-working one? Yang asks these question and the answer, it turns out, is in the art of pick-up. Well, not entirely. But this is one of the investigations Yang delves into. There are Asian Leadership Programs such as LEAP but even these fall short of teaching the minute details of social behavior. And this is what it comes down to when you stop and wonder why Asian-Americans face a wall in the workforce just short of the first step of leadership. But working in the business world is one thing. Once you break it down, the X-factor is about taking risks. But being a self-identifying individual is different. Yang offers his own story on finding his own identity... The answer, he finds, is in daring to be different and not seeking meaning through achieving scholarships and pieces of paper, even if they are handed to you by Harvard. An American identity for someone who is Asian-American ought to come from doing something that is distinctly different, which is much harder to do than it is to talk about.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Bertaina

    Per usual, let's do this by the individual essays as opposed to the collective. It's probably a step below 2011 and perhaps a step above the 2010. Anyhow, the best american essays are always worth a look. This particular iteration is notable for its introduction, a slight shot at the creative writing model and a call to good old time essaying, and its lack of duds. Not everything is exceptional, but they are often quite good. In particular Order: High: 1. Duh-Boring-An essay on boredom. It sadden Per usual, let's do this by the individual essays as opposed to the collective. It's probably a step below 2011 and perhaps a step above the 2010. Anyhow, the best american essays are always worth a look. This particular iteration is notable for its introduction, a slight shot at the creative writing model and a call to good old time essaying, and its lack of duds. Not everything is exceptional, but they are often quite good. In particular Order: High: 1. Duh-Boring-An essay on boredom. It saddens me deeply that I didn't think of it first. 2. You Owe Me-An essay about cancerous children in a writing group. Queue tears followed by me trying to cover it up when my wife asks. 3. The Crazy State of Psychiatry-An essay about the usefulness of meds as well as their prevalance in treating symptoms and why. 4. Dr. Don-A profile of a unique pharmacisit in Colorado. Ostensibly it serves as a nice reminder that it's not always possible to pigeon hole people. 5. Who are you and what are you doing here-One of those essays that reminds you that, barring a belife in reincarnation, what we do here is important because we're only doing it once. 6. Getting Schooled-An essay about the rigors of being a public school teacher. 7. Outlaw-Everyone already read this. It's written by Antonio Vargas when he admitted to being an illegal immigrant, which btw, get with it America, immigration is good. Middle: 8. The Good Short Life-An essay written by a man with a terminal disease. 9. A Beauty-A reflection on beauty, particularly attractive people, written through the prism of a friendship with a very good looking man. 10. Paper Tigers-Written about the need of people from Asian cultures to take on, or reject certain white social constructs in order to succeed. 11. Killing my Body to save my mind-Written by Lauren Slater about her extreme weight gain after taking Zyprexa to ward off depression. 12. The Bitch is Back-An essay about menopause. I am getting old. 13. The Accidental Universe-An essay from Harper's about the origins and shifting beliefs about the nature of the universe. Hint: multiverse concepts are strange. 14. My Father/My husband-An interesting and creative, if slightly repetitive essay written by a husband who's wife has Alzheimer's. This should be higher. 15. Farther Away-That essay that Franzen wrote in the New Yorker that everyone has already read. 16. Vanishing Act-This should probably be higher. Though, to be fair, it's hard not to be jealous of a girl that publishes at the age of 12. That said, when she flames out due to financial troubles and societal norms you feel kind of bad for her. 17.Creation Myth-Okay, Malcom Gladwell can be insufferable due to his social-psychological book of the month typeness, but he does churn out an interesting piece about the rise of engineers in Silicon Valley. 18. The Foul Reign of Self-Reliance-This essay mainly reminded me that I should feel guilty about that book of Emerson essays that I haven't read....even if this essay is about Emerson was the first Tea Party member. 19. How Doctors Die-Hint: they know when they are going to go. They don't spend time/money trying to live two years instead of eight months. It will be one of the important health care questions of the next twenty years. 20. Humanism-I wanted to like this more than I did. It still should probably be higher. It's a mixture of the Renaissance thought and current technological advances. Yeah, it should be higher. 21. Other Women-This is a pretty good essay by Francine Prose about feminism. 22. Insatiable-This has to do with desire, and Whitman, and Bram Stoker, but it didn't grab me. 23. Objects of Affection-This should be higher. It's an essay about the effect of growing up in poverty on the way you related to objects. Eh; 24. Edward Hopper and the Geometry of Despair-I guess I'm just not big on Edward Hopper.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    I really loved last year's Best American Essays, and used it as my classroom reader for two semesters. Students connected to those essays, saw what writing could be, and were almost never disappointed on the whole. I could never use BAE 2012 in my classroom. Many of the essays were overly cerebral--many downright boring--and, I have to say it, a little snotty. The introduction itself was a little snobbish, with David Brooks talking about all the essays he was forced to "wade through" in order to I really loved last year's Best American Essays, and used it as my classroom reader for two semesters. Students connected to those essays, saw what writing could be, and were almost never disappointed on the whole. I could never use BAE 2012 in my classroom. Many of the essays were overly cerebral--many downright boring--and, I have to say it, a little snotty. The introduction itself was a little snobbish, with David Brooks talking about all the essays he was forced to "wade through" in order to find these gems (and, remember, he's only given about 100 or so--the very best of the best--and if you look in the back of the book, listed among the authors he had to "wade through" are most of the best writers in the genre). There a few really great essays here, including "You Owe Me" and "Who are you and What are you Doing Here?". If you'd like to know more of what I really thought, tune in to the latest episode of SummerBooks, where we discuss BAE, as well as Best American Short Stories of 2012. www.summerbooks.podbean.com

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    I bought the Kindle edition from Amazon.com for $1.99 and read it on my iPad, which was great. Though conservative pundit David Brooks was a guest editor, there was nothing conservative about the choices or content of these essays. All the essays were worth reading but 10 or so were truly outstanding. For example, one essay explored how Emerson’s discussions of self-reliance have influenced the anti-social attitudes of people today was interesting but the next one, a book review that examined ho I bought the Kindle edition from Amazon.com for $1.99 and read it on my iPad, which was great. Though conservative pundit David Brooks was a guest editor, there was nothing conservative about the choices or content of these essays. All the essays were worth reading but 10 or so were truly outstanding. For example, one essay explored how Emerson’s discussions of self-reliance have influenced the anti-social attitudes of people today was interesting but the next one, a book review that examined how drugs used by people with mental health problems work no better than placebos but have some awful side-effects, was amazing. There was a sassy essay about menopause, The Bitch is Back, that offers 3 tips – understand that you are 50, hire a maid to clean, have no shame and gain the 25 pounds. How Doctors Die is a piece about avoiding low benefit surgical procedures at the end of life. Other Women is Frances Prose’s insightful discussion of feminism based on her longtime membership in a women’s group. Among the outstanding essays were: Who are you and what are you doing here,by Mark Edmundson, that explained how most students are more concerned about the social life of college and too little about classes; Miah Arnold’s You owe me, a very sad description of her writing classes with severly ill children in a cancer ward; Joseph Epstein’s discussion of boredom that was laugh-out-loud funny in several places, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Creation Myth, which began with the story of Steve Jobs spending 2 days at Xerox PARC and learning about the mouse and graphic user interface. The last two essays explore the issue of immigration and are unforgettable. Great book!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Georgiana

    Benjamin Anastas -- The Foul Reign of "Self-Reliance" -- 1* Marcia Angell -- The Crazy State of Psychiatry -- 5* Miah Arnold -- You Owe Me -- 5* Geoffrey Bent -- Edward Hopper and the Geometry of Despair -- 1* Robert Boyers -- A Beauty -- 2* Dudley Clendinen -- The Good Short Life -- 4* Paul Collins -- Vanishing Act -- 3* Mark Doty -- Insatiable -- 2* Mark Edmundson -- Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here? -- 4* Joseph Epstein -- Duh, Bor-ing -- 3* Jonathan Franzen -- Farther Away -- 5* Malcom Gladwell Benjamin Anastas -- The Foul Reign of "Self-Reliance" -- 1* Marcia Angell -- The Crazy State of Psychiatry -- 5* Miah Arnold -- You Owe Me -- 5* Geoffrey Bent -- Edward Hopper and the Geometry of Despair -- 1* Robert Boyers -- A Beauty -- 2* Dudley Clendinen -- The Good Short Life -- 4* Paul Collins -- Vanishing Act -- 3* Mark Doty -- Insatiable -- 2* Mark Edmundson -- Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here? -- 4* Joseph Epstein -- Duh, Bor-ing -- 3* Jonathan Franzen -- Farther Away -- 5* Malcom Gladwell -- Creation Myth -- 4* Peter Hessler -- Dr. Don -- 4* Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough -- Objects of Affection -- 3* Garret Keizer -- Getting Schooled -- 3* David J. Lawless -- My Father/My Husband -- 5* Alan Lightman -- The Accidental Universe -- 3* Sandra Tsing Loh -- The Bitch Is Back -- 3* Ken Murray -- How Doctors Die -- 5* Francine Prose -- Other Women -- 2* Richard Sennett -- Humanism -- 2* Lauren Slater -- Killing My Body to Save My Mind -- 2* Jose Antonio Vargas -- Outlaw -- 5* Wesley Yang -- Paper Tigers -- 5*

  7. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

    Simply put...required reading. Only two essays failed to snag me completely. "The Crazy State of Psychiatry" was a little too technical for my taste. My eyes tend to glaze when faced with too many statistics. Also, as an avid fan of my own antidepressant, perhaps it hit a little too close to home. Likewise, I found "Humanism" a bit of a chore to get through, so I "read" it kind of like I "read" Tess of the D'Ubervilles" in high school. Meaning I looked at the words, turned the pages, and though Simply put...required reading. Only two essays failed to snag me completely. "The Crazy State of Psychiatry" was a little too technical for my taste. My eyes tend to glaze when faced with too many statistics. Also, as an avid fan of my own antidepressant, perhaps it hit a little too close to home. Likewise, I found "Humanism" a bit of a chore to get through, so I "read" it kind of like I "read" Tess of the D'Ubervilles" in high school. Meaning I looked at the words, turned the pages, and thought about what I was going to read next. The highlights of this collection for me were Garret Keizer's ultra-realistic and much needed view of our modern school system, Wesley Yang's eye-opening theory on the "bamboo ceiling" in "Paper Tigers", with the biggest surprise going to the hilarious view on menopause, "The Bitch is Back" by Sandra Tsing Loh. The essays in this collection are more than merely "notable", they are a testament to the fact that fine writing is alive and well in essay form. Words of warning - grab a box of tissues for "My Father/My Husband", a dictionary for "The Accidental Universe", and let go of your preconceived notions for "Outlaw". While the last request is the hardest, you will be glad you did.

  8. 5 out of 5

    N

    In his introduction, editor David Brooks writes, "I tried to pick the [essays] that will be useful to you." In this, he was successful. Every essay in this anthology--and in terms of subject matter, this is a diverse lot--offered something worthwhile to ponder. Every selected essayist is clearly an active thinker with something to say, and each says it well (an aside: Joseph Epstein's "Duh, Bor-ing" was coincidentally the one essay I've read of his that didn't bore me). As a creative writer, I mu In his introduction, editor David Brooks writes, "I tried to pick the [essays] that will be useful to you." In this, he was successful. Every essay in this anthology--and in terms of subject matter, this is a diverse lot--offered something worthwhile to ponder. Every selected essayist is clearly an active thinker with something to say, and each says it well (an aside: Joseph Epstein's "Duh, Bor-ing" was coincidentally the one essay I've read of his that didn't bore me). As a creative writer, I must also note that rarely was anything in this collection said artfully. The essays were accessible and provocative in content but traditional, sometimes highly academic, in form (Richard Sennett's first line in "Humanism" is the depressingly high-school-esque "In this essay I want to explore . . ."). The editing principle was, as Brooks baldly stated, utility, and if intellectual stimulation is all the reader craves, satisfaction awaits. If the reader desires musical sentences and formal innovation, with the exception of David J. Lawless's "My Father/My Husband" and perhaps Franzen's "Farther Away," the longing for wild, rollicking, exquisitely assembled language will remain unfulfilled.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tovah

    The Best American Essays relies heavily on the curator of the collection's preferences. Atwan tended towards the literary review with the personal twist or the scientific spotlight. Of the 24 essays collected, only five were by women and eight were from publications that had the proper noun "New York" in the title. I was surprised how many I had read already in their original iterations (five). I was surprised to find I had already read five of these essays in their original iteration. This had The Best American Essays relies heavily on the curator of the collection's preferences. Atwan tended towards the literary review with the personal twist or the scientific spotlight. Of the 24 essays collected, only five were by women and eight were from publications that had the proper noun "New York" in the title. I was surprised how many I had read already in their original iterations (five). I was surprised to find I had already read five of these essays in their original iteration. This had not been the case in previous years, so either my reading habits are more refined or the essays appeared in rather main stream publications. I know well that I am a lazy literary citizen and while the essays were all very well written, they were not surprising and they did not demonstrate the full breadth of the essay as a medium. Rather than growing the boundaries of the form, these pieces discuss interesting current topics of debate, aging, health care, education, and technology. Read the collection for it's merit as a snapshot of 2012 rather than the art of writing.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Darrell

    The writing was okay. Some of the arguments I disagreed with. Overall I enjoy the essay as a form of writing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sohum

    For the most part, an aggressively mediocre, uninteresting collection. I enjoyed some essays, but they were the exception, not the rule. I blame David Brooks, a conservative pundit, rather than a writer of much worth.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Art

    February 2015, update: RadioLab this week aired "How Doctors Die," which first appeared as an eye-opening essay a few years ago. Ken Murray, a physician, wrote the piece. He and others discuss why many doctors will accept pain management but not much elsewhen their time comes: http://www.radiolab.org/story/bitter-... … Murray's essay appeared in this Best American anthology after it published here: http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/201... January 2013, original comments: My favorite annual book s February 2015, update: RadioLab this week aired "How Doctors Die," which first appeared as an eye-opening essay a few years ago. Ken Murray, a physician, wrote the piece. He and others discuss why many doctors will accept pain management but not much elsewhen their time comes: http://www.radiolab.org/story/bitter-... … Murray's essay appeared in this Best American anthology after it published here: http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/201... January 2013, original comments: My favorite annual book series. A third of the essays — seven of twenty-four — in the 2012 edition earned five amazing stars from me. Apple/Steve Jobs appears in two of these essays. Creation Myth — by Malcolm Gladwell — about innovation and creativity, the evolution of a concept — Steve Jobs, the subject of this essay, opens the piece as a 24-year-old in 1979 who went to the Xerox Research Center. An engineer showed him a "mouse" and "windows." "Why aren't you doing anything with this?" asked Jobs. The Foul Reign of "Self-Reliance — about the excessive love of individual liberty while paying homage to the famous 1997 Apple campaign: "Here's To The Crazy Ones" — the original Think Different ad. The Accidental Universe — by Alan Lightman — The basic features of our universe are accidents. — We live in one of a number of universes. Edward Hopper and the Geometry of Despair — Hopper loved buildings. For him, society consisted of windows — whether looking in or out. See the options. What's on the other side? — The author lives in Glen Ellyn, a few Metra stops from "Nighthawks," hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago. How Doctors Die — Medical professionals see "futile care" performed on people. — Poor knowledge and misguided, unrealistic expectations lead to bad decisions. — The system encourages excessive treatment. — Die in peace at home, with the best-ever pain management. Objects of Affection — about a complicated attitude toward possessions — the practical and functional; books, records, stoneware, jewelry, photographs — The author grew up in 1950s Poland, where her grandmother saw everything she owned perish in a fire during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Getting Schooled — A teacher returns to the classroom after a 14-year hiatus and describes the changes he saw in the kids, culture and curriculum.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Patrizia

    Every year, I read two collections: The Best American Short Stories and the Best American Essays. I love short stories and essays, but over the years have evolved into too much of an intellectual magpie to track them down myself. It's like the difference between walking down a street and visiting a museum, I suppose: If I run across something in a magazine, I scan it; if it's something in bound covers in front of me, I read every word. The curation process loans gravitas somehow. This year's Best Every year, I read two collections: The Best American Short Stories and the Best American Essays. I love short stories and essays, but over the years have evolved into too much of an intellectual magpie to track them down myself. It's like the difference between walking down a street and visiting a museum, I suppose: If I run across something in a magazine, I scan it; if it's something in bound covers in front of me, I read every word. The curation process loans gravitas somehow. This year's Best American Short Stories is one of the best I've read in years. Almost all of the essays were worth reading. The standouts (for moi): • The Crazy State of Psychiatry: An examination of the role Big Pharmo plays in the medicalization of depression. • Outlaw: The writer Antonio Vargas's notes on growing up illegal. • Paper Tigers: An examination of anti-Asian bias in mainstream America, • Farther Away: Yes, like everyone else, I'd like to hate Jonathan Franzen, but I can't because he writes so well. When his close friend David Foster Wallace committed suicide, Franzen's response was to run away to a remote island ff the coast of Ecuador. He stayed maybe three days max before scurrying on home -- hey! There were SuperBowl parties to attend-- but he wrang every last drop of pathos and literary allusion out of those three days. Brilliant essay. • Insatiable: The Walt Whitman/Dracula connection • Other Women: Francine Prose on the 1970s roots of feminism. (This hit home! In the 1970s, I was a volunteer medic with the Berkeley Women's Health Collective, and I still remember the Marxist-Leninist self-critique sessions in which we sat around in a big circle and were encouraged to trash ourselves. If we wouldn't trash ourselves, other women would obligingly trash us instead. "You embrace your slave chains!" One woman ranted at me. This because I continued to wear eyeliner, despite my commitment to speculum self-exams!)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This was a really great anthology. I read it for content but also for models for essay writing. My overarching takeaway from this collection is that the essay form can break the general creative writing rule of “show don’t tell” and the single, almost short-story like template some beginners fall into. Not all essays follow that structure. The essay was “traditionally written on topics,” and what made them (and continues to make them) distinct? Reflection (Intro: pg IX) My Favorite Essays I Recom This was a really great anthology. I read it for content but also for models for essay writing. My overarching takeaway from this collection is that the essay form can break the general creative writing rule of “show don’t tell” and the single, almost short-story like template some beginners fall into. Not all essays follow that structure. The essay was “traditionally written on topics,” and what made them (and continues to make them) distinct? Reflection (Intro: pg IX) My Favorite Essays I Recommend from this anthology: 1. The Crazy State of Psychiatry (really made me think and question assumptions about antidepressants) 2. A Beauty (worth playing with form, an interesting in-depth look of a complex character) 3. How Doctors Die (unique, real-time tale about dangers of modern medicine keeping us alive but miserable) 4. Vanishing Act (specific interesting example to explain broad commentary on lost talent, etc. Well done) 5. Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here? (great musing on secondary education) 6. Farther Away (great insight on grief and a sneak peek into the personal life of David Foster Wallace) 7. Dr. Don (does interesting things with dialogue doing most of the heavy-lifting, worth experimenting with) 8. Getting Schooled (as an urban public school teacher, AMEN. I too worry about my kids not wanting or liking reading and what that means. Cool perspective, mostly told in flashback and comparing past and present) 9. My Father/My Husband (brilliant, best one in the series. So beautiful and sad and real) 10. Other Women (enjoyed the different perspective on feminism) 11. Outlaw (awesome, lots at stake, happening in real-time, using self as a way to explore immigration issue)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Timons Esaias

    I love these Best American Essay collections, which are reliably full of good writing, and generally quite diverse in topic and style. The previous year's collection, as I noted in my Livejournal review, was edited by a woman of color, and had a 54% female authorship, and a 37%-ish writer-of-color authorship. Here we're back to the more typical 25% female and 12% color; with a white male making the choices. Hmmm. While Mr. Brooks complains a bit about the dominance of Death (especially Death of Pa I love these Best American Essay collections, which are reliably full of good writing, and generally quite diverse in topic and style. The previous year's collection, as I noted in my Livejournal review, was edited by a woman of color, and had a 54% female authorship, and a 37%-ish writer-of-color authorship. Here we're back to the more typical 25% female and 12% color; with a white male making the choices. Hmmm. While Mr. Brooks complains a bit about the dominance of Death (especially Death of Parents), Illness, and Nursing Homes as themes of the modern essay -- Death and Illness are the subjects of 21% of the selections. I'm thinking there should be a 10% limit, until the last Baby Boomer is finally dust. "How Doctors Die" is a darned effective piece, however, and should be required reading. We'd give it a waiver. The collection is full of good work, and several pieces overlap. There's one that blame's all the country's ills on Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance" and another that takes the opposite view. There are two essays in a row that tackle the subject of boredom. Several address writers and their personalities, including Jonathan Franzen's sharply double-edged memorial of David Foster Wallace, and Paul Collins's piece on a successful writer who simply disappeared. I was quite taken by "Dr. Don" which tells the story of a pharmacist in Colorado who's the only medical law in several counties; and by Malcolm Gladwell's "Creation Myth" and Ewa Hryniewicz-Varbrough's "Objects of Affection." The biggest impact, for me, came from Richard Sennett's "Humanism." It's an attempt to bring that label up to date, and I took it as a guidepost for the direction to take the Literature class I'm teaching, this next semester.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    -The collection is definitely worth reading for the following essays, (or at least these were MY personal faves, as I found them to be quite moving): Marcia Agnell's "The Crazy State of Psychiatry" (which, btw, I read immediately after having finished the memoir "Marbles" ... Scary. Very scary.) Miah Arnold- "You Owe Me" Mark Edmundson "Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?" Jonathan Franzen, Father Away Peter Hessler, Dr. Don Garret Keizer, Getting Schooled David J. Lawless, My Father/My Husband -I -The collection is definitely worth reading for the following essays, (or at least these were MY personal faves, as I found them to be quite moving): Marcia Agnell's "The Crazy State of Psychiatry" (which, btw, I read immediately after having finished the memoir "Marbles" ... Scary. Very scary.) Miah Arnold- "You Owe Me" Mark Edmundson "Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?" Jonathan Franzen, Father Away Peter Hessler, Dr. Don Garret Keizer, Getting Schooled David J. Lawless, My Father/My Husband -I bought the Kindle version because it was featured for $1 or $2, but I would have preferred the paper version, for the fact that I like to read the contributors' notes, and it was annoying to have to "follow link" to them each time I finished an essay. Also, on the topic of the contributors' notes, I wish they'd include some final thoughts or other commentary from the authors, or spark of inspiration on the subject matter, the way they do in the Best American Short Stories. -I'm subtracting a star or two because I must admit to having skipped three or four that just couldn't hold my attention.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    These 24 essays cover the waterfront, downtown, uptown and outer space with topics ranging from the effect of Emerson's philosophy on the American psyche, the art of Edward Hopper, teaching high school in a rural community, dark matter and theory of a multiverse, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, obstacles to innovation at American companies, and a visit to a remote Pacific island by a writer and enthusiastic birder. Reading this book was a mind stretching experience. If I had to pick a These 24 essays cover the waterfront, downtown, uptown and outer space with topics ranging from the effect of Emerson's philosophy on the American psyche, the art of Edward Hopper, teaching high school in a rural community, dark matter and theory of a multiverse, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, obstacles to innovation at American companies, and a visit to a remote Pacific island by a writer and enthusiastic birder. Reading this book was a mind stretching experience. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd pick "Outlaw" by Jose Antonio Vargas about a young man's experiences as an illegal immigrant. Or I'd pick "Creation Myth" by Malcolm Gladwell about technological innovation at Xerox and Apple. Or I'd pick " My Father/My Husband" by Donald J. Lawless about caring for his wife who has Alzheimer's disease. Or "How Doctors Die" by Ken Murray on end of life decision making. Or "Dr Don" by Peter Hessler about health care and a local pharmacist in a remote area of Colorado. Or "Paper Tigers" by Wesley Yang about "the bamboo curtain" and Asian-American experience. Or "Vanishing Act" by Paul Collins about a 1920's child prodigy. Or....

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth

    Some years I like the collection more than others. These are the essays I liked the most: The State of Psychiatry, about how treatment went from learning how to copy to take a pill was spot on; You Owe Me, written by a teacher who teaches terminal children at a hospital was uplifting but also sad; The Good Short Life, about coming to terms with a terminal illness was good; My Father/My Husband, about the conversations between a man and his wife who has Alzheimer's, was poignant; How Doctors Die, Some years I like the collection more than others. These are the essays I liked the most: The State of Psychiatry, about how treatment went from learning how to copy to take a pill was spot on; You Owe Me, written by a teacher who teaches terminal children at a hospital was uplifting but also sad; The Good Short Life, about coming to terms with a terminal illness was good; My Father/My Husband, about the conversations between a man and his wife who has Alzheimer's, was poignant; How Doctors Die, about how little end of life care they choose for themselves makes one wonder if all that care is worth it. The Bitch is Back, which was about menopause was not that funny, in fact she seemed angry and whiny while trying to be funny. Made me glad that I had my children early (in my twenties) and my mother had us late (mid-thirties was late back then) so that I didn't have to take care of both children at home and an elderly parent half a world away at the same time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bill Glose

    All of the works in this collection are erudite and full of speculation on the human condition, which makes this book a thought-provoking read (and a helpful tool for non-fiction writers) that will expand your mind and you reflect on what you've just read. My only qualm is that I don't consider some of the material to be "essays," which wouldn't be a problem if not for the misleading title. One example, a wonderful article titled "Dr. Don," is a profile story of a rural doctor's life and his imp All of the works in this collection are erudite and full of speculation on the human condition, which makes this book a thought-provoking read (and a helpful tool for non-fiction writers) that will expand your mind and you reflect on what you've just read. My only qualm is that I don't consider some of the material to be "essays," which wouldn't be a problem if not for the misleading title. One example, a wonderful article titled "Dr. Don," is a profile story of a rural doctor's life and his impact on the community. Beautifully written, but not an essay. Another example is a non-fiction (I think?) piece titled "My Father/My Husband," which consists almost entirely of dialogue between a husband and his wife with Alzheimer's. It, too, is touching and well-written, but I wouldn't consider it an essay. None of this diminishes the quality of the fine work in the collection, but I just thought it wise to forewarn you.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Vince Darcangelo

    David Brooks, as expected, compiled a thoughtful and engaging selection of essays. Faves: Miah Arnold: "You Owe Me" Dudley Clendinen: "The Good Short Life" ("But we don't talk about how to die. We act as if facing death weren't one of life's greatest, most absorbing thrills and challenges. Believe me, it is. This is not dull.") Mark Edmundson: "Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?" ("In reading, I continue to look for one thing -- to be influenced, to learn something new, to be thrown off my cours David Brooks, as expected, compiled a thoughtful and engaging selection of essays. Faves: Miah Arnold: "You Owe Me" Dudley Clendinen: "The Good Short Life" ("But we don't talk about how to die. We act as if facing death weren't one of life's greatest, most absorbing thrills and challenges. Believe me, it is. This is not dull.") Mark Edmundson: "Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?" ("In reading, I continue to look for one thing -- to be influenced, to learn something new, to be thrown off my course and onto another, better way.") Joseph Epstein: "Duh, Bor-ing" ("One can also tell a great deal about a person by what bores him.") Jonathan Franzen: "Farther Away" ("The allure of suicide, the last big score, may go underground, but it never entirely disappears.") Malcolm Gladwell: "Creation Myth" Alan Lightman: "The Accidental Universe" Ken Murray: "How Doctors Die"

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Another great collection. Although all of the individual essay were top-notch, some hit me more than others. I especially liked "The Crazy State of Psychiatry", about how people are over-medicated and the problems it creates. It leads to a later essay called "Killing My Body to Save My Mind," which is a personal account of one patient who comes to live with some of the side effects of this phenomena. "The Good Short Life," about a man who is told he has ALS is very touching. "Who are you..." and Another great collection. Although all of the individual essay were top-notch, some hit me more than others. I especially liked "The Crazy State of Psychiatry", about how people are over-medicated and the problems it creates. It leads to a later essay called "Killing My Body to Save My Mind," which is a personal account of one patient who comes to live with some of the side effects of this phenomena. "The Good Short Life," about a man who is told he has ALS is very touching. "Who are you..." and "The Creation Myth" are another two good ones. I actually posted a link to the original of "Getting Schooled" to my Facebook account and to some of my teacher friends, it's that good. The last one is "How Doctors Die," which delves into the difference between how most patients and most doctors are treated for terminal illnesses. A lot to think about in this last one.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anie

    I'm not sure why this volume doesn't seem to be as favored by Goodreads reviewers as last year's---I found this set of essays infinitely more interesting. Yes, there is a journalistic bent to some of them in that they discuss policy topics and facts; however, I fail to see how talking about policy topics relevant to current readers makes something not an essay. There's a heavy focus on education and healthcare, which I enjoyed quite a bit (although I certainly didn't agree with all of the viewpo I'm not sure why this volume doesn't seem to be as favored by Goodreads reviewers as last year's---I found this set of essays infinitely more interesting. Yes, there is a journalistic bent to some of them in that they discuss policy topics and facts; however, I fail to see how talking about policy topics relevant to current readers makes something not an essay. There's a heavy focus on education and healthcare, which I enjoyed quite a bit (although I certainly didn't agree with all of the viewpoints---hello, the anthropic principle?!). There are also some incredibly moving pieces in here; the essay by Lawless certainly is, and so is the Vargas essay. There are definitely essays in here that I will read multiple times over.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mariana

    Americans are always good at writing essays and this is no exception. But, what exactly called my attention here was the main themes presented at those essays. Among a broad variety, you can see the repetition of themes like suffering from diseases, bodily and mentally and some criticism over new technologies and how they make us more lonely, how they are limited and etc. I think this is a good book to have like a thermometer of what is been judged important to discuss at some moment or somethin Americans are always good at writing essays and this is no exception. But, what exactly called my attention here was the main themes presented at those essays. Among a broad variety, you can see the repetition of themes like suffering from diseases, bodily and mentally and some criticism over new technologies and how they make us more lonely, how they are limited and etc. I think this is a good book to have like a thermometer of what is been judged important to discuss at some moment or something that is trying to be symbolized in a certain society. It seems that money is not enough to helps us out with some human limitations...on the contrary, it makes it even harder to face them. Perhaps the books can do a better job.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I gave this book five stars even though I didn't finish a couple of the essays. Even if I didn't like them, they were worthy selections. My favorite in this year's collection was Mark Doty's "Insatiable," in which he writes of the new-to-me connection between Walt Whitman and Bram Stoker, and includes insights from his own life. Miah Arnold's "You Owe Me" is a heartbreaking account of teaching English and poetry to kids undergoing cancer treatment. Ken Murray's "How Doctors Die" should be required I gave this book five stars even though I didn't finish a couple of the essays. Even if I didn't like them, they were worthy selections. My favorite in this year's collection was Mark Doty's "Insatiable," in which he writes of the new-to-me connection between Walt Whitman and Bram Stoker, and includes insights from his own life. Miah Arnold's "You Owe Me" is a heartbreaking account of teaching English and poetry to kids undergoing cancer treatment. Ken Murray's "How Doctors Die" should be required reading, and reaffirms everything I've been learning in the past few years about the many costs *to the patient* of overtreatment and "doing everything" at end of life. I pre-order very few books, but I've already ordered the 2013 volume, due out in October.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Tudish

    I love reading essays. I enjoy seeing someone investigate a subject without taking the oblique approach of fiction. Not to disparage being oblique--I do a lot of that in my own work--but I like to see how other people approach directly, more by way of reason than intuition. Watch someone else do something I can't, like hit a high C, or run the 100 in under 10 seconds. When I see someone excel at something with which I'm familiar, there's an appreciation of the achievement, a sympathetic thrill; I love reading essays. I enjoy seeing someone investigate a subject without taking the oblique approach of fiction. Not to disparage being oblique--I do a lot of that in my own work--but I like to see how other people approach directly, more by way of reason than intuition. Watch someone else do something I can't, like hit a high C, or run the 100 in under 10 seconds. When I see someone excel at something with which I'm familiar, there's an appreciation of the achievement, a sympathetic thrill; but when I see someone excel at something that is beyond my experience, I'm amazed. I'm shown something entirely new--new information, a new way to think about things, a new way to turn language into an experience. Every year for Christmas, I ask someone for the current year's collection.

  26. 4 out of 5

    cj

    Via David Foster Wallace, I am newly enamored with essays as something to read for pleasure. There's some cracking ones in here. I was disappointed to thumb through this and realise I'd read them all. I've never read one of these collections before, but there's something really enriching--and fun!--about reading a bunch of essays about a bunch of different stuff you hadn't necessarily thought about or known about before. My favourites are the one about people ("Dr Don"; "A Beauty"), but I like t Via David Foster Wallace, I am newly enamored with essays as something to read for pleasure. There's some cracking ones in here. I was disappointed to thumb through this and realise I'd read them all. I've never read one of these collections before, but there's something really enriching--and fun!--about reading a bunch of essays about a bunch of different stuff you hadn't necessarily thought about or known about before. My favourites are the one about people ("Dr Don"; "A Beauty"), but I like the Emerson take-down as well, and the ones (there's a lot) about death ("You Owe Me" is wonderful, and a serious heartbreaker). Oh, and psychiatry. And immigration! I basically liked them all.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Karina

    I was afraid David Brooks would skew things to the right, but no. A wide sampling of some of our best minds. I especially loved Jonathan Franzen's essay, "Further Away," about ... so many things -- the death of David Foster Wallace and the origins of the novel and birding and traveling to one of the most remote places on earth. Also amazing are Paul Collins' essay on the tragic story of a successful child author in the 1920s, and Miah Arnold's piece on teaching writing to children with cancer. A I was afraid David Brooks would skew things to the right, but no. A wide sampling of some of our best minds. I especially loved Jonathan Franzen's essay, "Further Away," about ... so many things -- the death of David Foster Wallace and the origins of the novel and birding and traveling to one of the most remote places on earth. Also amazing are Paul Collins' essay on the tragic story of a successful child author in the 1920s, and Miah Arnold's piece on teaching writing to children with cancer. And I want all my teacher friends to read Garret Keizer's "Getting Schooled," about returning to the classroom after an intervening career.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    I thought this book was really great. I perused it at the library while my kids were messing around on the computer and ended up bringing it home to read more of the essays. I caught up on so much reading in different areas I don't have time to do anymore. It was nice to have them collected in all one volume and not have to track down all of the periodicals and websites they came from. Great series. I liked it so much that when I returned it to the library, I picked up an earlier volume and am n I thought this book was really great. I perused it at the library while my kids were messing around on the computer and ended up bringing it home to read more of the essays. I caught up on so much reading in different areas I don't have time to do anymore. It was nice to have them collected in all one volume and not have to track down all of the periodicals and websites they came from. Great series. I liked it so much that when I returned it to the library, I picked up an earlier volume and am now reading that as well.

  29. 5 out of 5

    James

    As with any anthology, this is a mixed bag, but since it gathers the best essays published by American magazines in 2011, the collection is strong and worth reading. There are several essays here that are very thought-provoking ("The Crazy State of Psychiatry," "Paper Tigers," and "Who are You and What are You Doing Here?") and some that are poignant ("The Good Short Life," "You Owe Me," and "My Father/My Husband"). Also there are some that just interesting and fascinating ("The Accidental Unive As with any anthology, this is a mixed bag, but since it gathers the best essays published by American magazines in 2011, the collection is strong and worth reading. There are several essays here that are very thought-provoking ("The Crazy State of Psychiatry," "Paper Tigers," and "Who are You and What are You Doing Here?") and some that are poignant ("The Good Short Life," "You Owe Me," and "My Father/My Husband"). Also there are some that just interesting and fascinating ("The Accidental Universe" and "Vanishing Act"). Some strong writing and great food for thought.

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

    One of the best reasons to look forward to October (besides the World Series, Halloween, and the kids in school more days) is the annual publication of the Best American (Sports, Travel, Science & Nature, etc.) Essays series. Each year features about two dozen terrific essays from a wide range of publications and a new guest editor who puts their individual stamp on the series. The selection process is brilliantly simple and lets the reader enjoy a wider sampling of articles than personal browsi One of the best reasons to look forward to October (besides the World Series, Halloween, and the kids in school more days) is the annual publication of the Best American (Sports, Travel, Science & Nature, etc.) Essays series. Each year features about two dozen terrific essays from a wide range of publications and a new guest editor who puts their individual stamp on the series. The selection process is brilliantly simple and lets the reader enjoy a wider sampling of articles than personal browsing alone would allow. I always find some terrific gems in these anthologies.

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