A list of the top ten essayists since would feature some different writers. And the best essays show that the name of the genre is also a verb, so they demonstrate a mind in process--reflecting, trying-out, essaying. Against a violent historical background, Baldwin recalls his deeply troubled relationship with his father and explores his growing awareness of himself as a black American. However you view the racial politics, the prose is undeniably hypnotic, beautifully modulated and yet full of urgency.
An essay that packed an enormous wallop at the time may make some of us cringe today with its hyperbolic dialectics and hyperventilated metaphysics. Odd, how terms can bounce back into life with an entirely different set of connotations. What might Mailer call the new hipsters?
Read the essay here. I was familiar with it as an undergraduate, hearing it used often by a set of friends, department store window decorators in Manhattan. But after Sontag unpacked the concept, with the help of Oscar Wilde, I began to see the cultural world in a different light. I roll the dice—a six and a two. Through the air I move my token, the flatiron, to Vermont Avenue, where dog packs range. As the games progress and as properties are rapidly snapped up, McPhee juxtaposes the well-known sites on the board—Atlantic Avenue, Park Place—with actual visits to their crumbling locations.
He goes to jail, not just in the game but in fact, portraying what life has now become in a city that in better days was a Boardwalk Empire. The essay was collected in Pieces of the Frame Read the essay here subscription required. Annie Dillard, "Total Eclipse" originally appeared in Antaeus , A question for nonfiction writing students: When writing a true story based on actual events, how does the narrator create dramatic tension when most readers can be expected to know what happens in the end?
I wish I could include twenty more essays but these ten in themselves comprise a wonderful and wide-ranging mini-anthology, one that showcases some of the most outstanding literary voices of our time. Subscribers: to set up your digital access click here. To subscribe, click here.
These Are The Best Nonfiction Books Of 2018
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He is able to navigate extraordinary circumstances with curiosity, playfulness, and humility, and his enthusiasm is best seen in his extensive research within these communities and their histories. It is in many ways a happy dismantling of these expectations, an opening of masculinity to make room for love, support, and tenderness — something McBee is pleasantly surprised to find along the way. What to do with Lolita in the MeToo era?
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Technically brilliant, as thematically reprehensible dare I say In a riveting blend of true crime, historical investigation, and literary analysis, Sarah Weinman adds another another dimension to this already complicated context: the fact that Lolita is a story based on the very real abduction of year-old Sally Horner in by a man who claimed, for a year, to be her father.
In The Real Lolita , Weinman honors the girl whose trauma fell into the shadow of a literary masterpiece, by placing her at the center — drawing her out, through evidence and inference, as a fully fleshed person rather than a cautionary tale, or a piece of inspiration.
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The book follows the Mo Better Jaguars — the coaches, led by Chris Legree, and the preteen players — over the course of five years. Samaha gets at this by weaving in the history of the town and its residents, the persistence of gang violence and the circumstances that enabled it, and the nationwide threats on the lives of black boys and men. That Samaha is able to give such an intimate view of this large cast of characters is a testament to his dogged reporting and his deep investment in their right to tell their stories.
Her art echoes her mind — sparse line drawings in moments of loss, dreamy scenes in moments of discovery — and in channeling her anxieties onto the page, she invites readers to join her.
Her father and his family were wheat farmers, and her mother, like many of the women who came before her, got pregnant with Sarah when she was a teen. Read our profile of Kiese Laymon here.
The book spans years of an investigation that gets thornier every step of the way, starting with a single tip and ending in the indictments of some of the highest-ranking soccer officials. His moments of levity are like little rest stops on the thorny path through the loss and redefinition of faith as a gay black man.
How lucky we are to have Arceneaux as our guide. Because of poor communication between police forces and no DNA evidence, the serial murderer and rapist eluded law enforcement and appeared to have gotten away with all of it. Decades later, journalist Michelle McNamara became obsessed with the case, working with law enforcement and a community of independent investigators online to link the crimes, looking for something that everyone else had missed.
She died suddenly in the midst of this work. I'll Be Gone in the Dark — which comprises her working draft, notes, interviews, and previous articles — is a testament to her doggedness, keen intellect, and courage. In Would You Rather?
Nonfiction and Essays
Check out an excerpt here. Lorraine Hansberry is probably best known for A Raisin in the Sun , but the writer — whose life was cut short at 34 years — was tremendously influential among the creatives and activists in her sphere. In Looking for Lorraine , Imani Perry gives Hansberry the recognition she deserves, illuminating the ways in which she supported and elevated her friends and contemporaries like James Baldwin and Nina Simone, as well as her work in actively fighting racism. Whales are giant, beautiful, intelligent enigmas, and in Spying on Whales, Nick Pyenson takes us along on a journey to answer some of the biggest questions about them.
In her gripping memoir about resilience and education, Tara Westover describes her upbringing in a Mormon survivalist family that forbade, among other institutions, the traditional schooling system. Westover slowly gains a better understanding of the world and her place — and worth — within it, and comes to terms with the family that kept her from these lessons for so long. Contact Arianna Rebolini at arianna.
Best American Essays Project - ASSAY: A JOURNAL OF NONFICTION STUDIES
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here. The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Catapult, Nicole Chung. Mariner Books, M.