**The Best American Essays 2012 ed. by David Brooks

essays-homeThough it appears as if I haven’t ready anything since early April, I have read a few books, but I haven’t had any quiet time to ponder them long enough to write anything.  My last entry came at spring break, and now the school year has ended.  Finally.  I’m sitting on my screen porch, gentle rain falling outside, and I don’t have papers to grade or research articles to check in or parents to call.  Peaceful writing time.

I love the Best American Essays series–they’re some of the most interesting, well-researched pieces of nonfiction I come across.  They’ve all been previously published, but the beauty of these books is that all the essays are in one place where someone else has gathered the best of the best (in this book, it’s David Brooks, a favorite NYT columnist, who did the final selecting).

Some favorite pieces in this collection:

“The Crazy State of Psychiatry” (from the NY Review of Books) in which Marcia Angell analyzes the epidemic of mental illness today.

“Who Are You and What are You Doing Here?” (from The Oxford American) in which Marc Edmundson speaks directly to college freshmen about what they should–and shouldn’t–be doing in college (be assertive, learn as much as you can, find what you love; don’t look at college as a ticket to a job, especially when that job may not be your own dream).

In “Creation Myth” by Malcolm Gladwell (from The New Yorker), we learn about Steve Jobs’ first visit to Xerox PARC, including what he learned and how he used it; Gladwell distinguishes stealing an idea from building upon an idea.  It’s an interesting discussion of intellectual property as well as industry philosophies.

Lots of other great essays, from teaching to pharmacy to suicide as a way of short-cutting terminal illness.  As well, an essay by Jonathan Franzen about coping with his dear friend, David Foster Wallace’s, suicide and finding closure.  Throughout this book you’ll find excellent writing and excellent variety of issues–personal, medical, social, and political. Put it on your night stand and savor one essay at a time.


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