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The Best American Essays 2007 Paperback – October 10, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"If there's a better reading companion for a long flight or a short vacation, I can't think what it might be." (Buffalo News)

"universal insights [that] take us deep inside the writers' minds" (Miami Herald)

About the Author

ROBERT ATWAN has been the series editor of The Best American Essays since its inception in 1986. He has edited numerous literary anthologies and written essays and reviews for periodicals nationwide.
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Product Details

  • Series: Best American
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 2007 edition (October 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618709274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618709274
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

"Afternoon of the Sex Children" reprinted from N+1 was very good.
SORE EYES
This definitely colors my opinion (for instance: I thought the best essay was DFW's intro), but I really enjoyed most of the pieces.
Sergey Feldman
Although I really likes several of the essays in this collection, there were many that I skimmed or didn't read.
JustMelissa

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 17, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The diverse collection of 22 essays address some of the most urgent issues we're facing today. Here are some highlights:

"A Carnivore's Credo" by Roger Scruton: He writes a unique defense of meat-eating and rebukes vegetarianism.

"What Should a Billionaire Give--and What Should You?" by Peter Singer. He presents what many will find to be an extreme view of charity.

"Dragon Slayers"by Jarald Walker. The author, an African American, refutes a definition of embattled victimization as too limiting to African Americans.

"Apocalypse Now" by Edward O. Wilson. Wilson's attempt to bridge the gulf between science and religion in a "letter" to Baptists challenges the practices of both the scientific and religious community.

"An Orgy of Power" by George Gessert. The author shows the disturbing use of torture in US policy as being out of bounds historically.

"Loaded" by Garret Keizer. A "progressive" defense of gun ownership rooted in a Hobbesian worldview lays out the gun debate in a way I've never seen.

"What the Dog Saw" by Malcolm Gladwell. The author profiles "dog whisperer"and shows that many American dog owners unwittingly harm their dogs when they treat their pets like humans.

"Petrified" by John Lahr. He shows the curse of stage-fright and self-consciousness and why there is a moral imperative to overcome these afflictions.

"Onward, Christian Liberals" by Marilynne Robinson. The author rebukes "fundamentalism" by arguing that it is a betrayal of real Christianity.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By David M. Giltinan on January 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
A typical anthology in this series has about two dozen essays and merits a 3-star rating. This book is no exception. With essays by Ian Buruma, Malcolm Gladwell, Cynthia Ozick, Marilynne Robinson, Richard Rodriguez, Elaine Scarry, Louis Menand, John Lahr, Peter Singer, Edward O. Wilson, and an introduction by David Foster Wallace, there is no shortage of big-name contributors. Unfortunately, name recognition doesn't always guarantee quality and, for me, the gems in this collection came from authors I was unfamiliar with until now.

In addition to a terrific introduction by DFW, there were four essays among the 22 in this collection that I found exceptional:

"Werner" by Jo Ann Beard
"Shakers" by Daniel Orozco
"Dragon Slayers" by Jerald Walker
"Fathead's Hard Times" by W.S. DiPiero

Several essays covered political topics: Mark Danner on Iraq, George Gessert on torture, Garret Keizer on gun control, Phillip Robertson on Iraq, Elaine Scarry on America's compliance with the Geneva Convention, Roger Scruton's "A Carnivore's Credo", Ian Buruma on multiculturalism, Edward O. Wilson on responsible environmental stewardship, Peter Singer's "What should a millionaire give - and what should you?" It might be just a testament to my shallowness, but the only two of these essays that didn't feel like homework were those by Elaine Scarry and Peter Singer.

Gladwell's profile of Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer) is interesting, but only moderately so. Personal reminiscences are provided by John Lahr, Molly Peacock, Cynthia Ozick, and Marione Ingram.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By SORE EYES on November 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
After reading Best American Non-Required Reading 2007 and being disappointed, I was reluctant to buy Best American Essays 2007. I am happy to report that I wasn't disappointed with this book. What a difference great editing makes!

The essays in this book are daring. "Afternoon of the Sex Children" reprinted from N+1 was very good. I am suprised that anyone has the courage to put sex and children in the same sentence much less explore Nabakov's themes in the age of Britney Spears grinding in pigtails and "no sex education in schools". It's been refreshing to read essays that don't go over the same tired themes that magazines repeatedly explore. When this book did reprint essays that explored some unoriginal people or themes, they were the best essays on those subjects I'd read. For example, I didn't think I would want to read another essay on Cesar The Dog Whisperer because I 've read something about this guy everywhere and I was disappointed to see this book include another story about him. But "What The Dog Saw" was so well written I begged my husband to read it so that we could discuss it.

This is a good collection of essays. I took off one star because I felt there were too many short stories in a collection that should have been devoted to essays. Not that the short stories weren't good. The collection opens with a short "Malcolm" which was one of my favourite pieces in the book. A good argument is made by David Foster Wallace that these are narratives and therefore eligible for inclusion. But these contributions read and felt like short stories to me and I really wanted essays as there is another book in this series devoted to short stories.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael on January 11, 2008
Format: Paperback
I picked up this volume with some trepidation, only because I had walked around the whole bookstore and nothing had yet quite caught my eye. How could someone choose "the best essays" out of the abundance of magazines and wouldn't the winners have to be low-to-middle-brow to sell copy? Well, I was happily mistaken. The volume is terrific.

I haven't read every essay in the book, but I have read more then half and no one picks up these books to read them cover-to-cover. Only a couple have disappointed. Most others were real page-turners. A few essays in particular caught my attention:

"A Carnivore's Credo" - Roger Scruton explains why vegetarians are right in being appalled by the modern food system, but wrong in their solution of skipping meat. Almost got me to start eating meat again.

"The Freedom to Offend" - Ian Buruma offers a short polemic on why we give up our free speech for sensitivity only with peril.

"Afternoon of the Sex Children" - Mark Greif leads us through a tour of today's seriously messed up relationship with sexual youth. On one hand, pedophilia is more stigmatized (rightly) than ever before, but on the other hand our celebrity culture, our literature, our advertising and our pornography celebrate sex with young people. What happened?

Sereval Iraq-related essays - If you've been paying attention, the specifics aren't news, but several essays do a great service of compiling and presenting coherently the chaos that has been the American intervention in Iraq.

Sophiscated, funny, insightful. Reading this book isn't that different than reading the New York Times Magazine, VQR, Atlantic Monthly, or many other magazines that are well-written and don't condescend. Except that this book is, after all, a selection of the "best," without the inevitable filler (and ads!) of a weekly, monthly, or even quarterly rag.
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