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Essays and Opinion

The Raw and the Cooked

This collection of essays is nominally about food and eating, but is actually about understanding life and what matters in it. It has a strongly male viewpoint, which I normally find off-putting. But in this case, every time I thought I would just put it down and go find something else to read, there would be some thought-provoking insight or interesting turn of phrase, and I'd be drawn back in. In the end, I enjoyed the collection rather a lot, but I found it worked best for me in small doses.

Author/Editor: 

Jim Harrison

Crossroads

This is a collection of essays by Ugandan women, writing about their lives and finding their way in their changing country. The essays are presented directly, with no context or clarification for the reader unfamiliar with Uganda. This may lead you to do the occasional web search in search of context, but that is more than compensated for by the chance to read about these women's lives in their own words, without a mediator trying to tell you what it all means. The essays are wide-ranging and reflect a diverse set of experiences. Some are harrowing and some are light-hearted.

Author/Editor: 

Christopher Conte

Academaze

This is a fun and informative collection of essays and cartoons about life in academia, specifically pre- and post-tenure at a research university in a science field. The tone is conversational, and often light-hearted, but the information imparted is real and useful for anyone pursuing or considering a career in academia, particularly in the sciences.

Author/Editor: 

Sydney Phlox

Don't Call It Bollywood

Don't Call It Bollywood book cover

This book introduces you to the world of Hindi films, commonly called "Bollywood" films. The historical and artistic information is interspersed with stories from the author's own journey to Hindi film fandom. The conversational tone and the personal stories make this a fun, engaging read. If you, like me, have never really considered Hindi films, this book will show you that they are more than flashy dance sequences and sappy love stories.

Author: 

Margaret E. Redlich

Lingo

This is a fun collection of short essays about European languages. Dorren introduces some of the smaller languages and explains some of the history and quirks of the larger ones. Along the way, he highlights the many ways languages change and interact. The result is a very enjoyable book that may also make you look at language in a new way.

Author/Editor: 

Gaston Dorren

Distrust That Particular Flavor

This is an enjoyable and interesting collection of non-fiction essays from one of the best speculative fiction writers around. The insight into the sometimes surprising ways in which people interact with technology and how that shapes our culture and cities that is evident in Gibson's fiction writing also shows here. I suspect the book has primarily been read by fans of Gibson's fiction, its potential appeal is broader than that, and I'd recommend the book to anyone who is interested in how culture evolves.

Author/Editor: 

William Gibson

The Girls Alone

The Girls Alone book cover

This short ebook is part family history, part memoir, and part travel narrative. Bonnie Rough explores her Estonian heritage and Estonia, and produces a very readable story of personal growth and discovery, and coming to terms with our whole selves.

Author: 

Bonnie J. Rough

I Feel Bad About My Neck

When I was bemoaning the signs of age, both physical and mental, and the fact that doctor's visits often result in a diagnosis that begins with "as we age..." a friend recommended this book. It is a collection of essays that are mostly funny, sometimes thought-provoking, and always worth reading. Not all of the essays are about aging, but all offer insights into life, from a woman whose life was truly well-lived.

Author/Editor: 

Nora Ephron

Amelia Gentleman: The Complete Orwell Prize Articles

This is a collection of essays written 2011, primarily about vulnerable people in British society, and how they were getting by. For an American, it is interesting to read about how another country handles some of the problems that face all human societies. For anyone, the essays give insights into how policies impact the lives of everyday people.

Author/Editor: 

Amelia Gentleman

Homelands

Homelands

This is a thought-provoking look at the arbitrary nature of political borders, and the human toll they create. It does not delve into the policy implications of changing our current system, but instead makes a moral argument that we cannot ignore the suffering the system is causing. It is not a book that intends to give answers. It instead forces us to grapple with the morality of our current system, and encourages us to think about what other systems might be possible.

Author: 

Stephan Faris

The Good Mother Myth

This is a collection of essays about motherhood, in all of its less than perfect, real glory. I read it well after the intense days of early motherhood and enjoyed it, but I suspect that it would really speak to a new mom who is struggling to reconcile the sunny, too-perfect image of motherhood with the reality she is actually facing. Although it is not a book of advice, even more established parents are likely to find some new pieces of wisdom in these essays.

Author/Editor: 

Avital Norman Nathman

The Vanishing

The Vanishing book cover

This well-written book is part personal essay about dealing with a relative's Alzheimer's disease, part summary of recent research about how Alzheimer's patients experience the world, and part reporting on a new type of care home in the Netherlands. These parts combine to produce a thoughtful and thought-provoking examination of how we can best help Alzheimer's patients.

Author: 

Anu Silfverberg

David Hackston (translator)

The Beaten Track

The Beaten Track

This book is part travelogue and part an examination of what "independent travel" has become and what that means for the individuals travelling and the communities they visit. The travel stories are wonderfully engaging and the wider arguments about travel are thought-provoking and well-presented.

Author: 

Sarah Menkedick

The Rescuer

The Rescuers

Starting with the story of Varian Fry and his often overlooked work rescuing European intellectuals from the Nazis, this book leads the reader through a fascinating meditation on the motivations of rescuers, the morality of their decisions, and the limits of gratitude.

Author: 

Dara Horn

Bad Feminist

This collection of essays ranges from sexism and racism in our culture to an inside look at the world of competitive Scrabble. Some of the essays are laugh out loud funny and others are shatteringly heartbreaking, but they are all well-written and engaging. Gay has a way of cutting right to the heart of her topic, but doing it so effortlessly that you almost don't realize that you're absorbing new insights about the topic.

Author/Editor: 

Roxane Gay

Information Wants to Be Shared

Information Wants to Be Shared

This is an interesting and thought-provoking look at the economics of information, which, the author argues, doesn't want to be free so much as it wants to be shared. Producing and distributing information is most decidedly not free, and this book looks at the conflict between the fact that information is more valuable when it is shared, but will not be produced if the people who create it are not adequately compensated.

Author: 

Joshua Gans

Ex Libris

This collection of essays about books and reading is a delight for a book lover to read. Each essay focuses on a different aspect of the life of a devoted reader, and while it is clear that the author takes her subject matter seriously, she doesn't take herself too seriously, giving the essays a wry sense of humor and fun.

Author/Editor: 

Anne Fadiman

Why We Fly

Why We Fly

A short look at the question of why people travel, particularly in a time when we have more options for making connections remotely than ever. Written by a travel writer who has clearly thought quite a bit about what travel brings to his life, this book does not provide a definitive answer to the question but does provide some good insights, delivered in an engaging style.

Author: 

Evan Rail

The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life

The Getaway Car

Part memoir and part advice for writers, this book was an interesting and inspiring read. Even people who are not aiming to be professional authors are likely to find some useful ideas and advice.

Author: 

Ann Patchett

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America

These essays are smart, funny, heart-breaking, and wonderful. They cover a wide range of topics, but race and what it means to be a young Black man in America are at the heart of most of the essays.

Author/Editor: 

Kiese Laymon

Why Beer Matters

Why Beer Matters

This is a light-hearted but interesting look at why we care so much about beer, with a mix of history, brewing technique, and ruminating on the role beer plays (and has played) in different cultures.

Author: 

Evan Rail

Uprising: Understanding Attica, Revolution, and the Incarceration State

Uprising

This eBook has two parts. The first is a history of the Attica prison riot of 1971 and its immediate aftermath, told from the viewpoint of one of the men who was brought in to try to negotiate a peaceful ending to the standoff. It is a personal history, but will give the reader an overview of the broader events. The second is an essay discussing what we can learn from that history, and an argument that we should apply what we learn to reform our current prison system.

Author: 

Clarence B. Jones

Stuart Connelly

One Way Forward: The Outsider's Guide to Fixing the Republic

This book is both a look at what has gone wrong with United States politics and a call to action to fix it. Lessig traces our political deadlock to the corrosive effects of money in politics, and argues persuasively that the tools of the 21st century gives us, the citizens, the power to fix the problem, if only we'd recognize our power and act on it.

Author: 

Lawrence Lessig

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