11 Essay Collections From 2017 For People Who Don't Like Reading Essays
Are you stuck in a reading rut, and can't seem to find a good book in all your usual places? Maybe it is time to step out of your literary comfort zone and try one of these essay collections for people who don't think they like the style of writing. No matter what you think your preferences are, there is something on this list to convince you this format is worth exploring.
For years, whenever I was browsing through the stacks at the library or shopping for a new read at my local bookstore, I avoided one section: Essays and Correspondence. Ever since I was in high school and forced to write essay after academic essay, I looked down on the form in general, assuming it had little to offer me as a reader.
That's when I found Bloodchild, and my negative opinions about essays was fundamentally changed. Tucked away in the back of Octavia Butler's spectacular collection of science fiction short stories were two unexpected essays: "Positive Obsessions" and "Furor Scribendi." In the first, the Dame of Sci-Fi talks about her personal life, how she learned how to read, and why she decided to become a writer. The second serves as a guide for wannabe authors who want to learn more about getting published and what it means to make your career as a writer. Though they didn't have the same kind of exciting action or surprising endings as the previous short stories in the collection, something about the intimacy and the urgency of Butler's personal essays drew me into the pieces like I had never been drawn in before.
From that moment, I was hooked, and quickly I began searching for essay collections from authors I already knew I loved: Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind, Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without a Country, Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Before I knew it, I was an essay junkie with bookshelves full of collections from Joan Didion, David Sedaris, David Foster Wallace, Rebecca Solnit, Marilynne Robinson and more. This year, my collection grew even larger, because 2017 brought with it some truly powerful collections.
From hilarious personal stories to thought-provoking cultural critiques and everything in between, here are 11 essay collections from 2017 that will convince haters to give the format another try.
'One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter' by Scacchi Koul
The one collection I can't stop recommending this year, Scaachi Koul's One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter is rife with humor and wit. This debut features essays on everything from the author's intense fear of flying and her father's hilarious emails, to the danger of online bullying and what it is like to be a young brown woman in the western world. Like having an intimate, often laugh-out-loud worthy, conversation with a new friend you made on the internet, reading this collection will convince essay-haters the format isn't all bad.
'Autumn' by Karl Ove Knausgaard
From the critically acclaimed author of the bestselling global sensation My Struggle comes an essay collection literary readers will love. Autumn is a love letter from the acclaimed author to his unborn daughter about the world she will soon be a part of. Lush and evocative, this collection of short pieces reveal Knausgaard's keen observations about life, nature, humanity and everything around him in a miraculous way only the author knows how to do.
'My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Books of Books, Plot Ensues' by Pamela Paul
Even if you think you hate essays, how could you not like Pamela Paul's collection of writing about, what else, books! In My Life with Bob, the editor of The New York Times Book Review explores the many stories that have shaped her experiences and influenced her life, from the young adult novels she read as a teen to the review books that have changed her world as an adult. Sweet, intimate, and powerful, this unforgettable collection is a tribute to books, and book-lovers, everywhere.
'A Burst of Light: and Other Essays' by Audre Lorde
You can't explore the art of the essay without coming into contact with one of its masters, Audre Lorde. Recently re-released with an interview and three additional essays, her empowering collection A Burst of Light will appeal to people who think they don't like essays, but know they believe in the resistance. Featuring powerful entries on racism, sexism, homophobia, sexual discrimination, and cancer, this passionate and poetic book will inspire readers to give other famed essayists a try.
'Would Everybody Please Stop?: Reflections of Life and Other Bad Ideas' by Jenny Allen
If you are convinced essay collections are dull, Would Everyone Please Stop? will change your mind. A laugh-out-loud funny debut, Jenny Allen's hilarious musings run the gambit of everyday life, from the value of fat-free half-and-half and the internet's everlasting obsession with memes, to what it is like to live with a serious illness and the challenges motherhood presents, and everything in between. A comedic celebration of womanhood and growing up, these 35 short essays will have you second guessing why you ever avoided essays to begin with.
'Animals Strike Curious Poses' by Elena Passarello
Animal-lovers, history buffs, and science nerds alike will find something in Elena Passarello's unique collection of essays about famous beasts. In Animals Strike Curious Poses are 16 funny, engaging pieces that explore the lives, deaths, and legacies of different celebrity animals named by humans. Rich in detail, these fascinating tales give equal weight to the myths, folklore, science, and history behind each of the creatures' origins. Trust me when I say you haven't read anything quite like this before.
'All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown' edited by Catherine Burns
Presented by The Moth, the legendary New York-based storytelling non-profit, All These Wonders is an remarkable collection of 45 personal essays from some of the best contributors in the last twenty years about life's most unbelievable challenges and their remarkable results. Featuring inspiring stories of bravery, courage, and facing the unknown from incredible storytellers like Meg Wolitzer, Tig Notaro, and a variety of everyday human beings with out-of-this-world experiences to share, this essay collection is a must-read.
'Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman' by Anne Helen Peterson
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is an exploration of provocative pop culture icons, like Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj, their ability to break boundaries, and their effect on what it means to be a woman in modern-day America. Smart and thought-provoking, Petersen's brilliant analysis of some of the most fascinating (and unruly) women celebrities dominating headlines today is one collection even non-essay readers won't be able to put down.
'Aliens: The World’s Leading Scientists on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life' edited by Jim Al-Khalili
When I said there was an essay collection out there for everyone, I meant everyone, even extraterrestrials. Aliens is a fascinating collection of essays from the world's leading scientists on the ongoing search for alien life that includes entries on the likelihood of discovering other life in outer space, the possibility of future space travel, and the power of artificial intelligence. A compelling and captivating read, Aliens will convince essay haters that no matter what their interests are, someone has written an essay about it.
'Magic Hours' by Tom Bissell
If you've wondered what drove the process of creativity, Tom Bissell has crafted the perfect essay collection to satisfy your curiosity. In Magic Hours, the award-winning essayist explores the inspiration behind and inception of some of the most famous works in art, literature, and entertainment, including Hemingway's first novel and the popular CBS series The Big Bang Theory. Throughout each entry, Bissell asks big-picture questions about art and creativity, creating a challenging and absorbing read, even for people who don't typically read this format.
'This Is Really Happening' by Erin Chack
If BuzzFeed senior writer Erin Chack can't convince you essays can be funny, entertaining, emotional, and so much more than what you learned about in high school, then no one can. In her debut collection This Is Really Happening, the author shares some of the most relatable moments of her young adult life, including her first kiss, her struggles with mental health and self-care, and the effects of cancer. Whip-smart and emotionally riveting, this collection is good enough to transform an entire generation of readers into essay-lovers.