Clearly I’m behind in my reading since this is from 2013, though I will admit that it’s one of my older ARC’s.
I’ve written before that I really like the Best American series and the essays are probably my most favored in the series (though the Science and Nature Essays might be a close second). However, this is not the sort of book that I will just sit and read, cover to cover, but instead it’s the sort of book that I will read an essay or two, put the book down, then come back to read a couple of essays some time later.
I found that nearly all the essays selected were very well written and mostly engaging, or captured my interest. I think this is credit to the book’s editor Cheryl Strayed. Although the series is edited by Robert Atwan, each book has a different editor. Cheryl Strayed’s tastes appear to be similar to my own.
In a collection such as this, it is typically difficult to pick a favorite, but it was easy to pick one that stood out – “The Exhibit Will Be So Marked” by Ander Monson. The essay starts with: “A couple of years ago, I asked friends and family to make me a mix cd for my birthday, hoping to get thirty-three mix cds, one per year I’d lived.” And I was hooked. Monson explains that he received 55 mix cds and he writes his essays, reflecting on the cds, and what the songs say to him. It’s a wonderful piece that really spoke to me.
Whether it’s about family, friends, loved-ones or hated enemies, love or death, the essays here really sing and it’s nice to see that the essay, as a literary form, continues to do well. I recommend the book, as part of the series, and I definitely recommend this 2013 entry.
This book contains:
Introduction by Cheryl Strayed
“Free Rent at the Totalitarian Hotel” – Poe Ballantine
“Night” – Alice Munro
“Sometimes a Romantic Notion” – Richard Schmitt
“Highway of Lost Girls” – Vanessa Veselka
“Keeper of the Flame” – Matthew Vollmer
“Breeds of America” – William Melvin Kelley
“My Father’s Women” – Mako Yoshikawa
“Confession’s of an Ex-Mormon” – Walter Kirn
“I’m Jumping Off the Bridge” – Kevin Sampsell
Pigeons” – Eileen Pollack
“Triage” – Jon Kerstetter
“The Art of Being Born” – Marcia Aldrich
“What Happens in Hell” – Charles Baxter
“The Exhibit Will Be So Marked” – Ander Monson
“The Girls in My Town” – Angela Morales
“Some Notes on Attunement” – Zadie Smith
“His Last Game” – Brian Doyle
“When They Let Them Bleed” – Tod Goldberg
“Field Notes on Hair” – Vicki Weiqi Yang
“Letter From Majorca” – J.D. Daniels
“Ghost Estates” – John Jeremiah Sullivan
“Channel B” – Megan Stielstra
“A Little Bit of Fun Before He Died” – Dagoberto Gilb
“Epilogue: Deadkidistan” – Michelle Mirsky
“El Camino Dolorosa” – David Searcy
“The Book of Knowledge” – Steven Harvey
Looking for a good book? The Best American Essays 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed, is a wonderful collection of essays and highly recommended.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Best American Essays 2013
editor: Cheryl Strayed
series editor: Robert Atwan
publisher: Mariner Books
paperback, 336 pages