5 Must-Read Essay Collections

5 Must-Read Essay Collections

Wise, funny, insightful, and intimate, spend some time with these 5 must-read essay collections.

1. The Vintage Mencken: The Finest & Fiercest of the Great Literary Iconoclast by H.L. Mencken

The anthology that spans an entire lifetime of writing by America’s greatest curmudgeon, with a “flick of mischief on nearly every page.”

2. I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections by Nora Ephron

“Here is Nora Ephron at her funniest, wisest, and best, taking a hilarious look at the past and bemoaning the vicissitudes of modern life. In these pages she takes us from her first job in the mailroom at Newsweek to the six stages of email, from memories of her parents’ whirlwind dinner parties to her own life now full of Senior Moments (or, as she calls them, Google moments), from her greatest career flops to her most treasured joys. Filled with insights and observations that instantly ring true, I Remember Nothing is a delightful, poignant gift from one of our finest writers.”

3. Undaunted Optimist: Essays on Life, Laughter and Cheerful Perseverance by Chris Rodell

“Ever wonder how old you’ll be in heaven? Why couples always sleep on the same side of the bed? How to respond when a stranger mistakes you for an old friend? What happens when you get tick bit in a ‘sensitive’ place? Or how you will feel when your daughter tells you she doesn’t want to dress up for Halloween anymore? And, gee, if marriage is so great then how come there’s no Mrs. God?

“Chris Rodell wonders about stuff like that all the time.

“He wonders about holidays, occupations, traffic, marriage and if refrigerating your deodorant adds zing to your morning.

“Yes, it’s a wonder-full life.

“It’s a complicated world out there and it takes a nimble mind to sort it all out. Rodell does it with style, warmth, an engaging euphoria and undaunted optimism that lets every reader know he enjoys being human and enjoys human beings.

“‘Rodell writes about America the way Sinatra sings about New York, unflinching about the gritty realities, but with abiding affection and relentless positivity about the future.’—Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge”

4. The Best of Royko: The Tribune Years by Mike Royko

“For more than 30 years, Mike Royko was a part of the daily fabric of Chicagoans’ lives, penning often humorous and always honest columns first for the Chicago Daily News, then the Sun-Times, and finally the Tribune. Culled from thousands of his Tribune columns and edited by his son David Royko, this collection offers up his best material from the last stage in his career, which was cut short by his premature death in 1997.”

5. Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

Notes is the book that established Baldwin’s voice as a social critic, and it remains one of his most admired works. The essays collected here create a cohesive sketch of black America and reveal an intimate portrait of Baldwin’s own search for identity as an artist, as a black man, and as an American.”

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UNDAUNTED OPTIMIST by Chris Rodell