Illuminating Reads: New Essay Collections

Essay is derived from the French word essayer, which means “to attempt,” or “to try.” An essay is a short form of literary composition based on a single subject matter, and often gives the personal opinion of the author. Essay collections  can have an overall theme or focus, but quite often they can cover the author/s views, opinions or perspectives on varied topics, that is, they cover subjects from a personal point of view.

Further, creative nonfiction writers can choose between writing their life stories as a memoir or an essay collection.  A memoir takes the reader on a journey through a writer’s life, whereas an essay collection takes the reader on a journey through a writer’s thoughts, sprinkled into real-life experiences.

Here are some new essay collections from this year offering engaging and illuminating reads, available with your Livingston Library card.

Black Love Matters : Real Talk On Romance, Being Seen, And Happy Ever Afters edited by Jessica P. Pryde

 In this collection, revered authors and sparkling newcomers, librarians and academicians, and avid readers and reviewers consider the mirrors and windows into Black love as it is depicted in the novels, television shows, and films that have shaped their own stories. Whether personal reflection or cultural commentary, these essays delve into Black love now and in the past, including topics such as the history of Black romance, social justice and the Black community, and the meaning of desire and desirability. 

Body Language : Writers On Identity, Physicality, And Making Space For Ourselves edited by Nicole Chung and Matt Ortile

A kaleidoscopic anthology of essays published by Catapult magazine about the stories our bodies tell, and how we move within–and against–expectations of race, gender, health, and ability.  Covering a wide range of experiences–from art modeling as a Black woman to nostalgia for a brutalizing high school sport, from the frightening upheaval of cancer diagnoses to the small beauties of funeral sex–this collection is intelligent, sensitive, and unflinchingly candid.

Burning Questions : Essays, 2004-2021 by Margaret Atwood

From literary icon Atwood comes a brilliant collection of nonfiction-funny, erudite, intimate, impassioned, and always startlingly prescient-which grapples with such wide-ranging topics as: Why do people everywhere, in all cultures, tell stories? How do we get rid of the immense amount of plastic that’s littering our seas and lands? How much of yourself can you give away without evaporating? Is science fiction now writing us? So what if beauty is only skin deep? What do zombies have to do with authoritarianism? Is it true? And is it fair?

The Crane Wife : A Memoir In Essays by C J Hauser

Novelist Hauser drops the veil of fiction to tell true tales of family and her own evolution in this staccato, funny, barbed, metaphor-laced, and thought-provoking memoir-in-essays. She brings forth a murderous great-grandfather and an accomplished radio and news executive grandfather, recounts her struggles with the full spectrum of her sexuality and her feelings about her body, tells hilarious tales of her fascination with robots and her online-dating misadventures, investigates visions of the ideal home, and dissects the heart-wrenching demise of an engagement (in the title essay hooked to her participation in a whooping-crane field study) and other close relationships.

Crying In The Bathroom : A Memoir by Erika L. Sánchez

Poet and essayist Sánchez tallies the “triumphs, disappointments, delights, and resurrections” of her life in this raw and sensuous memoir in essays. Since coming into the world as a “suicidal fetus” (“My umbilical cord almost strangled me when I was born”), Sánchez has experienced despair and wonder intensely. These dueling states become the through line to lyrical musings that, though blunt in their candor (“I called a suicide hotline, but no one answered, which I didn’t know was a thing”), are leavened by the author’s great wit and compassion.

Embrace Fearlessly The Burning World : Essays by Barry Lopez

Collected essays from the 2000s by the eminent, late natural history writer.  Many of the essays and articles gathered here, first published in such venues as Orion and Granta, center on exploring landscapes and the animals and people within them.

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris

A  new collection of satirical and humorous essays that chronicle the author’s own life and ordinary moments that turn beautifully absurd, including how he coped with the pandemic, his thoughts on becoming an orphan in his seventh decade, and the battle-scared America he discovered when he resumed touring.

I’ll Show Myself Out : Essays On Midlife & Motherhood by Jessi Klein

The best-selling author and Emmy Award-winning writer and producer hilariously destroys the cultural myths and impossible expectations of modern-day motherhood and explores the humiliations, poignancies, and possibilities of midlife.

In Praise Of Good Bookstores by Jeff Deutsch

Drawing on his lifelong experience as a bookseller and his particular experience at the Seminary Co-op Bookstores, Deutsch aims, in a series of brief essays, to consider how concepts like space, time, abundance, measure, community, and reverence find expression in a good bookstore, and to show some ways in which the importance of the bookstore is both urgent and enduring.

In The Margins : On The Pleasures Of Reading And Writing by Elena Ferrante

A delightful collection of essays exploring reading and writing,  containing Elena Ferrante’s latest reflections on literature, and the works and authors that have influenced her throughout her career.

Into The Forest : The Secret Language Of Trees by Susan Tyler Hitchcock

 In this beautiful and revealing book, National Geographic combines legendary photography with cutting-edge science to illuminate exactly how trees influence the life of planet Earth–from our personal lives to the weather cycle. Beautifully illustrated essays tell the stories of the world’s most remarkable trees, from Tane Mahura in New Zealand, the ancient Maori “lord of the forest,” to Pando, a single aspen spreading over 100 acres: Earth’s largest living thing. 

Life In Light : Meditations On Impermanence by Mary Pipher

 In her luminous new memoir in essays, Pipher taps into a cultural moment, to offer wisdom, hope, and insight into loss and change. Drawing from her own experiences and expertise as a psychologist specializing in women, trauma, and the effect of our culture on our mental health, she looks inward into what shaped her as a woman, one who has experienced darkness throughout her life but was always drawn to the light. 

The Lonely Stories : 22 Celebrated Writers On The Joys & Struggles Of Being Alone edited by Natalie Eve Garrett

Thoughtful and affirming, this collection of essays about the joys and struggles of being alone illuminates an experience that is rarely openly discussed.

Managing Expectations : A Memoir In Essays by Minnie Driver

A charming, poignant, unfiltered, laugh-out-loud memoir in essays from beloved actor and natural-born storyteller Minnie Driver, chronicling the way life works out even when it doesn’t.

Old Truths And New Clichés by Isaac Bashevis Singer 

This volume collects eighteen essays by Isaac Bashevis Singer (1902-1991), who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978. The volume begins with an autobiographical note, followed by essays grouped by theme: The Literary Arts, Yiddish and Jewish Life, and Personal Writings and Philosophy. Most of the selected essays were originally published in Yiddish or delivered as lectures but have never been published in English before, nor have they been collected in any language. 

Serious Face : Essays by Jon Mooallem

In these wide-ranging essays, Mooallem chronicles the beauty of our blundering and the inescapability of our imperfections. He investigates the collapse of a multimillion-dollar bird-breeding scam run by an aging farmer known as the Pigeon King, intimately narrates a harrowing escape from California’s deadliest wildfire, visits an eccentric Frenchman building a town at what he claims is the center of the world, shadows a man through his first day of freedom after twenty-one years in prison, and more–all with a deep conviction that it’s our vulnerability, not our victories, that connect us. 

She’s Nice Though : Essays On Being Bad At Being Good by Mia Mercado

Mercado is a razor-sharp cultural critic and essayist known for her witty and hilarious dissections of the uncomfortable truths that rule our lives. In this thought-provoking collection of new essays, Mercado examines what it means to be “polite,” “agreeable,” and “nice.” She covers topics from the subtleties of the “Bad Bitch” and why women dominate the ASMR market, to what makes her dog an adorable little freak and how you know if you’re shy.

Some Of My Best Friends: Essays On Lip Service by Tajja Isen

Today, U.S. society is striving to tackle systemic racism—and Catapult editor Isen argues that these efforts, whether in Hollywood, publishing, or the law, are merely cosmetic. Here she blends cultural observation with aspects of her personal life to explain what she means, revealing the gap between lip service given and real progress achieved.

Virology : Essays For The Living, The Dead, And The Small Things In Between by Joseph Osmundson

A leading microbiologist tackles the scientific and sociopolitical impact of viruses in twelve striking essays. Osmundson brings readers under the microscope to understand the structure and mechanics of viruses and to examine how viruses like HIV and COVID-19 have redefined daily life.

The World As We Knew It : Dispatches From A Changing Climate edited by Amy Brady and Tajja Isen

Including essays by Lydia Millet, Alexandra Kleeman, Omar El Akkad and others, this collection from literary writers around the world offer timely, haunting first-person reflections on how climate change has altered their lives.

You Don’t Know Us: Negroes And Other Essays by Zora Neale Hurston

 Drawn from three decades of her work, this anthology showcases Hurston’s development as a writer, from her early pieces expounding on the beauty and precision of African American art to some of her final published works, covering the sensational trial of Ruby McCollum, a wealthy Black woman convicted in 1952 for killing a white doctor.

-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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