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Books - Essays

Essay collections (or singular essay); ruminations, observations and loosely (or not) connected events/occurances/thoughts. (Top 10 Index)
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A Room of One's Own - Virginia Woolf
Really one long essay, not a collection, in which Woolf muses about the role of women in society. The title refers to what a woman needs to be her own person, and a writer - a room of one's own.

Along with Moments of Being, this is her finest non-fiction.

Essays of E.B. White - E.B. White
One of the most effortless writers I've ever read, this collection of (mainly New Yorker) magazine pieces show White examining the big issues and the simple pleasures. A simple pleasure to read.

Giving Good Weight - John McPhee
This is the first McPhee collection I've read - his Coming Into the County introduced me to the writer. His essays, New Yorker in tone, are just simple pleasures - easy to read, informative, with humor and without taking himself (or his subjects) too seriously.

McPhee reminds me of E.B. White, but White is stronger with language and more in touch with nature; McPhee is stronger with explaining complicated matters, be it hydraulics or human dynamics (the piece on the out-of-the-way gourmet restaurant is great).

How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed - Slavenka Drakulic
Essays about life as a woman from behind the Iron Curtain before the fall of communism. Laundry, lack of tampons, waiting in line for bread.

Drakulic is a journalist, and she turns her trained eye on the everyday events that are life for women in the formerly communist world.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat - Oliver Sacks
This - the first well-known book by Sacks - is noteable for its tone (which is shared by his later books), but is most memorable because it was the first - the rest are, for the most part - the same genre, different stories. This one resonated more because it was fresh.

The Periodic Table - Primo Levi
Levi, a Holocaust survivor and chemist, arranges this book with each chapter named after an element. He then weaves a story around this element. Unbelievably underrated/inexplicably unknown.

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