Reviews

The Best American Essays 2013, by

nataliejohansen's review

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4.0

3.5, probably. A few fabulous essays, some great essays, some average ones, and a couple of notsogreat ones.

myphairlady's review

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reflective medium-paced

4.25

wilsonthomasjoseph's review

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4.0

First ever essay compilation, and it won't be my last. Love a wonderful and diversely curated book, especially in the age of tons and tons and tons of everything text-wise.

carodonahue's review against another edition

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3.0

A decent collection of work. I read it with my writing class and many of us wondered at the number of pieces that came from Portland-area writers. Perhaps Strayed's influence? Some of them were quite good, but others seemed surprising choices for the best essays in the country over an entire year. Did others agree?

anrobe's review

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4.0

I think its really difficult to rate anthologies since they contain so many different elements but I'm basing my rating of this on how I felt about it as a whole after finishing. I only skipped 2 essays which I just couldn't connect two. The rest were all either good or great. I took my time getting through these essays, dipping in and out as I felt like it. It worked well for me.

There were two stand out essays for me - Tod Goldberg's essay about Duk Koo Kim and Steven Harvey's essay about his mother's suicide. Those are the two that will stay with me ... that I haven't forgotten about and that really resonated with me. Frankly, I'm surprised that the Duk Koo Kim essay worked for me given the subject matter but it was fantastic. And it goes to show that it's not always the topic that matters, but the writing. It was written so compellingly well that I didn't want it to end. And there were passages of Steven Harvey's essay that literally brought me to tears - due to how beautifully written they were AND how they resonated with some of the things I've experienced in my life.

This collection is worth it, just for those two essays, but there are many others worth the read. As I said, there were just two that I didn't' enjoy. I also recommend Cheryl Strayed's introduction which is also fantastic! I recommend this collection, especially to those who enjoy personal narrative essays!

reganparks's review

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3.0

The first 1/3 was packed with really great essays. After that it sort of fell apart and my interest in the essays waned.

xaviershay's review

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3.0

mostly decent

canadianbookworm's review

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3.0

This collection of essays has a great variety of topics, and writers from young to old. This year's selection was chosen by Cheryl Strayed from the selections given her by series editor Robert Atwan. The essays were previously published in a variety of literary magazines, both those well-known like The New Yorker, and those less heard of like River Teeth. So this selection highlights not only the writers, but also the magazines that first accepted the pieces included here. This volume includes a Foreword by the series editor, Atwan which tells of how he came to this, but also talks about the sources for the essays, and the selection process. Then we have an introduction by Strayed, which talks of her essay experiences and her selection process. A list of the long list that the twenty-six included here was whittled down from is included at the back of the book, for those who want to read more great essays.
The writers here run from those whose names are familiar, i.e. Alice Munro and Zadie Smith, to those lesser known like Michelle Mirsky and Jon Kerstetter. The topics range from experiences with landlords and fellow tenants to war triage to race to car accidents.
Besides being reflections of real experiences, the other things they all have in common is good writing. Really good writing. After reading a collection like this, I always think that I should read more essays as I enjoy them so much.

balletbookworm's review

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5.0

Very readable. Interesting how each made me think of something in strayed's work and appreciate how her preferences worked when choosing pieces for the book.

jesskibler's review

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3.0

Disappointing, as it lacks variety. It is difficult for me to imagine that every--or nearly every--good essay of 2013 included a personal narrative. Not to say that there isn't some solid writing here; there is. And there are a couple that stand out wildly, like the Daniels piece, from this generalization. But, unfortunately, by placing multiple essays about cancer and death and childbirth that are pretty similar tonally this close together, there is a blurring. I'm left wondering about the essays that were resigned to the Notable Essays list in favor of the hyper-personals and the "once-in-a-lifetime"-type stories that are so present here.