The Best American Essays 2012

Robert Atwan, Editor, David Brooks, Editor
Edited by David Brooks, series editor Robert Atwan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Mariner, $14.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-547-84009-3
Reviewed on: 09/10/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-1-285-06827-5
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-547-84054-3
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A creature from an alternative universe arriving in the United States in 2012 wanting to understand what is on the American mind should rush to the nearest bookstore and buy a copy of this distinguished anthology, now in its 27th year. The 24 selected by New York Times columnist Brooks arrive after publication in a wide range of journals and magazines. Highlights include Lauren Slater’s “Killing My Body to Save My Mind,” a brave and disquieting discussion about the extreme side-effects of various psychopharmaceuticals on her body. The volume’s range of styles include the sharp and coolly intellectual (Alan Lightman’s “The Accidental Universe”) and the acutely personal (David J. Lawless’s “My Father/My Husband.” From Wesley Yang’s fascinating exploration of racial identity, “Paper Tigers,” to Francine Prose’s critical reminiscence of her experience during the emergence of second wave feminism in the 1970s, “Other Women,” there is not a dud in the bunch. As Mark Edmunson writes in one of the two essays about the plight of education, “Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here?”: “In reading, I continue to look for one thing—to be influenced, to learn something new, to be thrown off my course and onto another, better way.” This year’s exhilarating collection is just that reading experience. (Oct.)
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