cover image The Best American Essays 2005

The Best American Essays 2005

, . . Houghton Mifflin, $27.50 (292pp) ISBN 978-0-618-35713-0

Author and New Yorker staff writer Orlean (The Orchid Thief ) says in her introduction that the best essays are not mere records of a subject but are, rather, extraordinary accounts that "reflect the thinking and emotions of the writer." While many (perhaps too many) of the 25 essays here come from the New Yorker , small magazines are represented, and the writing is anything but conventional. Each work pulls the reader deep into the author's world; each is a remarkable first-person account of a life. Only one, Mark Greif's sharp rant "Against Exercise," deviates from this form. Food is a recurring theme. E.J. Levy remembers his mother by way of the romantic Julia Child meals she prepared while he was growing up. David Foster Wallace details everything the reader could possibly want to know about the lobster. Other topics vary from Cathleen Schine's moving discussion of attempting to save her dangerous and self-destructive dog to David Sedaris's humorous tribute to his boyfriend, "Old Faithful." Whatever the topic, this popular series continues to delight and surprise, and per Orlean's definition of an excellent essay, provides a singular glimpse into the authors' lives. (Oct. 5)