In the proliferation of year-end book roundups, journalistic nonfiction and novels dominate the lists. And there are usually a few memoirs, especially if the author is Barack Obama or Mariah Carey.
What often gets left out are collections of essays. And of course, if a book wasn’t published that year, it won’t make the cut.
But as an avid reader of essays and a teacher of creative nonfiction, I prefer to read — and share with my students — a mix of new and not-so-new. With that in mind, here’s a list of ten nonfiction titles that stood out for…
Kill your darlings.
William Faulkner (or Ernest Hemingway, or George Orwell, or Oscar Wilde)
Kill your darling, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.
Like many familiar quotations, “Kill your darlings” has long ago lost its meaning, and along with it, its potency as real writing advice. It’s also both wildly misattributed and mildly misquoted. Still, it continues to be passed along as gospel to aspiring writers. …
Truth: This essay is supposed to be about an impossible grief.
Truth: This essay is supposed to be about power.
Lie: This essay is about what it’s supposed to be about.
We’ve all heard famous women defend famous men who have been accused of abuse, of rape, of sexual harassment and violence.
We blame the men, the abuser himself, but we also blame, or call out or in, or “cancel” the women who defend them. We remind them that abusers don’t abuse everyone, that your story, your experience of a person doesn’t negate someone else’s story or experience of the…
In California, something is always burning. During the autumn of Y2K, scheduled electricity blackouts rolled through my freshman year dorm, and we huddled under dim, generator-powered fluorescence in the halls because our rooms were too dark and too hot. Enron execs manipulated the lines and raked in Death Star money. Governor Gray Davis floundered. He couldn’t get our lights back on. We tried hard to study, or we didn’t try at all. We played a game called Mafia that I could always win. In Mafia, it’s mafia versus police and town. …