We talk a lot about the dreaded morning trek to work, but to be honest, I think I've always hated my evening commute way more. When I was taking the train twice a day every day, there was nothing worse after a long eight hours or more in the office than stuffing myself into the sardine can that is the New York City subway, holding my heavy laptop on my back the entire way.
Even when I finally snagged a coveted seat, I was always way less inclined to pull out a book in the evenings than I was in the morning.
That is, until I made it a point to carry essay collections with me. These books were exactly what I needed to make the most of that often stressful commute , because I could normally read an entire essay in one sitting. If you're looking to fit some reading time in between strap-hanging and train delays, I've got a list of some of the best essay collections for your journey home.
These are all some mix of seriously funny or supremely hopeful, and they'll help you forget the stress of your day while, just maybe, actually enjoying that hour long ride home. Hey, you can dream, right?
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The witty, snarky voice she's cultivated on social media is displayed throughout, and she'll have you laughing about everything from pool workouts to wedding attire. Click here to buy. Erin Chack's collection of essays features some of my favorite writing about adolescent love, first periods, and the time she peed herself in class a universal experience if ever there was one. Essay Collections.
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The self encompasses both. After the bracing dynamics of so much thought, the essays in Feel Free leave the reader not with a succinct theory of metaphysical dialogue between a global pop phenomenon and twentieth-century philosopher, but rather an image: the endearing, enduring image of one of our finest public intellectuals bickering with her husband, in a car, as she hankers for a sausage roll. Calypso by David Sedaris. The essay collection Calypso , his first in five years, finds the beloved humorist rejiggering his tone—right along with much of the country—to meet a newly somber national mood.
Ten Standout Essay Collections
Through his peculiar mind, Sedaris captures biting truths, documenting with journalistic precision his quiet public indignities and milking them for all their tragicomic worth. The minute attention Moore pays to what were, at the time of writing, up-and-coming authors—Matthew Klam, Joan Silber—pleads their interestingness; an essay on Silber, from , borrows the passionate exhaustiveness of a TV recap … her reviews persistently worry the distinction between the human being and his or her work … Moore-as-essayist scans much as Moore-the-fiction-writer does: as lightly melancholy, with a compensatory inclination to amuse both herself and us … Still other passages sailed beyond me … Still, Moore is one of our best documentarians of everyday amazement.
The Rub of Time by Martin Amis. Is that what love sounds like? A certain amount of theatrical knowledge will definitely help a reader through these pieces, but Lahr is skilled enough that anyone interested in human beings can enjoy them. In his profile of Arthur Miller, Lahr follows the legendary playwright to the cabin he built so that he could write The Death of a Salesman in isolation.
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By limiting her presence, Ross allows the personalities of her subjects to pop, even if—or especially if—they are unlikeable. Here he is on the critics of New York:. If they can do you harm, let them do it. It is like being a third basemen and protesting because they hit line drivers at you. Line drivers are regrettable, but to be expected. I mean, seriously, how long can a person stretch a sports metaphor? He also talks about hunting, and war, and writing, and why New York sucks. Most of the time, though, Ross painted with tenderness and clear affinity.
Ross, again and again, focuses her considerable talents not on commentary or abstractions, but on the real people in front of her, in all their humanity, no matter how notorious or mythic they supposedly are. Lillian Ross is an American treasure, and Reporting Always is her most representative work. Like a lot of the writers here, Jeff Nunokawa is a professor of English—in his case, Princeton University.
He can be playful too: at one point he says he associates Bea Arthur with Samuel Johnson! Though Nunokawa is not a journalist or a critic, his daily writing and its results are worth noting here. Only by sitting down everyday and getting those words on a page can a writer access the depths of their mind, and watching Nunokawa think, examine, wonder and consider proves the truth of this practice. As he goes along, Nunokawa is able to tap into a kind of thematic rhythm, and through multiple entries, you can see his ever-curious spirit expanding. Some of his references and allusions are obscure and his ideas opaque, but even that Nunokawa addresses in typically gregarious manner.
He is a smart, soulful companion for anyone who might need one.
Of course, every writer here is an essayist—I use the term here only for Joni Tevis because she practices the form in its most contemporary, artful sense. This style confronts the reader with its form, as it makes them wonder how the parts will all fit together and look for it as they read. And certain recurring images like the atomic test sites and the tourists who visited to watch the explosions give the sections unity but also feel a bit redundant.
11 Essay Collections To Read Even If You Think You Hate Essays
Tevis has an uncanny eye for unexpected details. You probably remember Stanley Fish from your college freshmen English course. In his latest book, Think Again , Fish expands his scope from literature to damn-near everything under the sun. This would be a poor way to participate in democracy, yes, but this is not at all what anyone does. But mostly, Think Again is the work of a formidable intelligence with an easygoing style, readable and accessible and thoughtful and frequently illuminating. Like John Lahr, Edward Mendelson embarks, in Moral Agents , in a similarly Johnsonian enterprise, albeit a decidedly less ambitious one—a mere eight writers.