50 Essays Guaranteed to Make You a Better Person

Flavorwire

It’s hard to be a person in the world today — or, really, any day, but today’s what we’ve got. Humans are striving creatures, and also empathetic ones, so most of us are always looking for an opportunity to improve ourselves, even in tiny, literary ways. We’ve already established that novels can make you a better person, but of course, novels also take you down a long winding road to get there. If you’re looking for a more direct shot to the heart, try an essay. After the jump, you’ll find 50 essays more or less guaranteed to make you a better person — or at least a better-read one — some recommended by notables of the literary and literary nonfiction world, some recommended by yours truly, incessant consumer of the written word. Don’t see the essay that changed your life? Please do add it to the list.

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Amber Nicole Brooks on Eve Ensler’s In the Body of the World

The Hooch: News & Events

Our dynamic nonfiction editor Amber Nicole Brooks prepares readers for our forthcoming Skin issue with a tribute to one woman who started an important conversation on the topic, Eve Ensler, via Ensler’s new book, In the Body of the World:

Author of The Vagina Monologues and one of Newsweek‘s 150 Women Who Changed the World, Eve Ensler has given the world an arresting memoir of wondrous breadth, In the Body of the World (Metropolitan Books, 2013). Ensler’s voice is vulnerable, fierce, and acutely aware. A list titled “Scans” divides the book into fifty-three sections, including “Somnolence,” “Falling or Congo Stigmata,” “The Stoma,” “Crowd Chemo,” “Riding the Lion,” “Shit,” and “Joy.” The scans, metaphors, and variants of pain at first seem to create a fractured vision. However, as the narrative accumulates layers, and in a way heals itself, its preoccupations, Ensler indeed makes the vision whole.

Through her experiences…

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Review #75: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks

Life Flails

Rating:  3

This was my pick for psychology.  Not having a background in the field and lacking familiarity with the associated jargon, I was hoping to find a book that was pretty accessible to “everybody else”.  While Sacks has a tendency to throw names of disorders and other words around like I am supposed to know what they mean, for the most part this book still fit that bill.  The more necessary terms were explained in detail, and when all is said and done, this book is less about the disorders and more about the actual patients who suffered from them.

The book is broken into four parts: Losses, Excesses, Transports, and the World of the Simple.  The first two were the more interesting to me as they focus on patients dealing with problems you very rarely hear about, such as the sudden lack of ability to recognize your own…

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Publisher Spotlight Review: Snow White and Rose Red retold by Kallie George and illustrated by Kelly Vivanco

The Book Wars

Snow White & Rose Red retold by Kallie George and illustrated by Kelly Vivanco

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Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 26th 2014 by Simply Read Books
Source: Publisher

The art in this one is SO BEAUTIFUL, OH MY GOSH. Just feast your eyes for a bit.

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Okay? Have you recovered?

All right. So truthfully, I’m not a fan of the fairytale even though Kallie adapted it to the medium wonderfully. I just have issues with the whole conveniently married thing at the end (not a spoiler). However, the art is so vibrant that the fairytale comes to life and just begs you to think of more possibilities than the words will have you think exist.

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If you do like this fairytale, you’re going to love this incarnation of it. Just, look at the art!

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Flavorwire Roundtable: Is Lena Dunham a Voice of a Generation in ‘Not That Kind of Girl’?

Flavorwire

lena dunham

We are living through a golden age of the female-comedian memoir. Stoked by Chelsea Handler’s consistently bestselling memoirs about drinking and sex, the genre became a full-on trend with Tina Fey’s Bossypants in 2011. In short order, we had books by Sarah Silverman, Mindy Kaling, Judy Greer, Rachel Dratch, anyone who’s ever been on the Chelsea Lately comedy panel, and an upcoming collection by the forever-likable Amy Poehler. Some have succeeded and some have flopped, but it’s a wave that apparently hasn’t even crested yet, with a new million-dollar book deal announced seemingly every day.

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Revenge by Yoko Ogawa and The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanderbeke

A Little Blog of Books

The Mussel FeastAugust is Women in Translation month hosted by Biblibio and I have recently read two works of translated fiction written by women which were both shortlisted for this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Firstly, there’s ‘The Mussel Feast‘ by Birgit Vanderbeke which is a novella translated from the German by Jamie Bullock and was originally published shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The second is ‘Revenge’ by Yoko Ogawa which is a collection of eleven loosely connected short stories translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder.

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Review: The Fight, by Norman Mailer, 1975, 234pp.

In The Fight, Normal Mailer chronicles the first Muhammad Ali – George Foreman fight, which took place in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1974. The narrative reads as a novel, Mailer speaking of himself in the third person; he cleverly and charmingly justifies this choice of perspective early in the story. Mailer spends much time exploring the new Zaire in addition to having access, at times exclusive, to Muhammad Ali at his training camp, in the dressing room, after the fight. But the book is not just about the fight or Ali and Foreman, as Mailer takes readers through months leading up to the big event.

Besides the actual bout, a great portion of the narrative chronicles the complexity of the newly named Zaire and its leader Mobutu, who has wished to bring the fight to his people for purposes of publicity and politics. The complexity of the society in the Congo, the layers of languages and tribal affiliations, the baffling gestures of posturing by the dictator, provide a provocative and fascinating backdrop to the normal players: the boxers, the trainers, the entourages. Everyone, sportswriters included, are trapped in a way, sometimes literally, in this foreign place.

Vivid scenes include cameos of George Plimpton, Don King early in his career as a boxing promoter, a discontent Hunter Thompson, among others. Mailer’s keen observations create sharp depictions. His analysis provides more questions than answers about the cultural flux of the United States as well as Africa in the early 1970s—in terms of race, race relations, and identity. Mailer does well examining his own assumptions. Especially following Ali, a spokesman at this point in his career, it is impossible for Mailer to not consider all these different versions of “blackness” he encounters. The Fight is as much about culture as it is about boxing.

Mailer’s own internal struggles with the ideas of luck and courage—his seemingly random yet inescapable necessity to will himself to swing from his hotel balcony to another, risking a deadly fall—weave other threads through the story. Courage and luck are universal concepts, but they are also hot pulses of, inextricable from, boxing.

All that really needs to be said here is that I read this book in one sitting, minus getting up for snacks. I can’t recall the last time I flew through a book like that. The Fight is a compelling account of history that illustrates why Norman Mailer is considered one of the best writers of the twentieth century. Of all the boxing-related books I have read so far, and there have been many, this is the most enjoyable, the one I would recommend first.

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