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Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  5,541 ratings  ·  483 reviews
"All first-rate criticism first defines what we are confronting," the late, great jazz critic Whitney Balliett once wrote. By that measure, the essays of Christopher Hitchens are in the first tier. For nearly four decades, Hitchens has been telling us, in pitch-perfect prose, what we confront when we grapple with first principles-the principles of reason and tolerance and ...more
Hardcover, 788 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Twelve (first published September 1st 2010)
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Ted

Barbarism is not the inheritance of our prehistory. It is the companion that dogs our every step.
(Alain Finkielkraut, quoted in Hitchens' Introduction)



Christopher Hitchens in 2007


4 1/2 stars

Background

Christopher Hitchens doesn’t need much of an introduction. Just a few words here, condensed from the following Wiki articles: Hitchens, Political views and New Atheism.

He was born in England in 1949, died in the U.S. in 2011. Educated at Oxford, he moved to the United States in 1981, as part of an “
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David
OK, so if (like me) you start this collection with the notion that there was something iffy about this Hitchens bloke -- I mean how can one dude's stuff be everywhere you look, Vanity Fair, Esquire, The Atlantic, all over the damned internet -- and he had that whole British obnoxiousness down to a T, and if you're predisposed to find a reason to dislike him, let me point you to the one demonstrably brain-dead essay of the hundred or so in this collection. It's on page 389, it's called "Why Women ...more
Cora Judd
‘Arguably’ is great but it is not of the ‘god is Not Great’ genre; it's a choice selection of Christopher Hitchens’ own essays, and of a vaster scope than the global-fallout-from-religion that the 'god' title focuses on. (Although, a reader hungering for a Hitchens-style treatment of atheism in essay form can be repeatedly sated by his introduction to 'the Portable Atheist'.) It is riveting in just the same way, however, and the temptation to adopt Hitchens' lucid opinions as my own is also sim ...more
Cheryl
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was one of our foremost essayists, humanist, intellectual and metaphysical skeptics. He was possessed of an allergy to dullness. There are 107 essays in this final collection selected by him. He died of cancer in December, 2011.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!
Edward
Introduction

All American
--Gods of Our Fathers: The United States of Enlightenment
--The Private Jefferson
--Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates
--Benjamin Franklin: Free and Easy
--John Brown: The Man Who Ended Slavery
--Abraham Lincoln: Misery's Child
--Mark Twain: American Radical
--Upton Sinclair: A Capitalist Primer
--JFK: In Sickness and by Stealth
--Saul Bellow: The Great Assimilator
--Vladimir Nabokov: Hurricane Lolita
--John Updike, Part One: No Way
--John Updike, Part Two: Mr. Geniality
--Vidal Loco
...more
Melanie
Let me begin my saying that I'm in love with Christopher Hitchens' brain, and have been so since reading 'Hitch-22' and 'God is not great.' So when I was in Bolen Books yesterday evening, perusing the new books that appear on the Man Booker Prize short list and the Giller Prize long list (plenty of tasty reading to come, there, as well), and I was arrested by Mr. Hitchens' stern demeanor. Needless to say, $40 disappeared from my bank account then and there for the work of this logophilic writer. ...more
Madeline
GAH! I can't look away from this cover that Goodreads provided. My copy of Arguably is plain, blinding yellow, which sometimes gives me a headache but at least it doesn't stare into my soul. I feel sorry for anyone who actually owns a copy with this particular cover of doom on it.

Before his death, I had a vague awareness of Christopher Hitchens, having read some of his contributions to Vanity Fair, but he never struck me as someone I should be paying close attention to until after he had died a
...more
Rick
Hitchens, famously an atheist, famously a leftist accused of being reactionary, famously a man who writes, drank, and smoked nearly non-stop, famously a man now living on borrowed time with an incurable cancer stalking his days, is nobody’s fool, except, like the rest of us, perhaps his own. This elephantine book, some 750 pages, the size of a Collected Essays, is just his most recent output. Some essays were written and first published at the very end of the 90s but the vast majority of essays ...more
Claudia
Reading this book was like having a conversation with an insanely well-read, well-traveled, and well-spoken friend. Some of the essays I'd already read when they were first published, but many were new to me.

There were some definite serendipities, such as a run of essays on authors I too like very much (Waugh, Greene, Powell, Wodehouse, Nabokov), and some discussions that made me want to rush out and look again at others (I've only started the Flashman series, and he kept bringing it up). The po
...more
Tom
"Arguably," Christopher Hitchens' last book to be published before his death from esophageal cancer in December 2011, is largely a collection of book reviews written for "Vanity Fair," "Slate," "The Atlantic," "Foreign Affairs," "The New Statesman," "The Wilson Quarterly," and sundry newspapers here and in Britain. Most were written in the preceding ten years.

In its entirety, the book is a massive tribute to Hitchens’ eclectic erudition. The collection is a feast of brilliant, impassioned argume
...more
Cheryl
Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Upton Sinclair, Vladimir Nabokov, John Updike, Hilary Mantel, Charles Dickens, Edmund Burke, Rebecca West, George Orwell, Jessica Mitford, Evelyn Waugh, Isabel Allende, Anthony Powell, Stieg Larsson--just to name a few of the authors whose work Hitchens reviews and discusses in this collection (Like Larsson, Hitchens is a feminist. Who would've thunk it? He doesn't say so, but it is all there, between the lines).

Boy was this man well-read. As you can probably tell
...more
Gregory

A line appearing somewhere near the midpoint of this collection of essays is revealing: “Stay with me. I've been doing the hard thinking for you.” Christopher Hitchens does a lot of hard thinking apparently; keep up if you can. This may suggest that considerable ego is involved, and given the author's reputation you can be sure that it is, but on display too is considerable erudition.

The book is composed of six sections roughly dividing the essays on theme. Most important for an understanding o

...more
James
This 800 page collection of essays and book reviews serves as a wonderful addendum to Hitch’s marvellous memoir, Hitch-22, where we learn so much about Hitch the man but very little about Hitch the provocateur and Hitch the critic.

There are a hundred essays in this tome; the most dazzling of which cover Hitch’s favourite writers. What’s interesting about his peculiar love of literature is that most of his favourite and most obsessively read authors have political and religious views quite oppos
...more
Petra X smokin' hot
Best, best, best book of the year.
A review to follow, probably next year!
Will

Brilliant, just brilliant.
Hitchens writes with such clarity, force and humour. There are about 100 essays in this compilation, mostly from the decade just before he died, and about half are book reviews. So it didn’t take a year read, thanks to some time off in NZ, but I did have to read the essays twice at least to allow full absorption by my tiny brain.

The range of topics is simply amazing, and I can do little more than simply list some of the more memorable ones so I don’t forget. The books
...more
Mac
This book, arguably, is just right for the Kindle, in that it has very few typographical oddities (the footnotes can be counted on one hand), and weighs nearly as much as my computer. However, I carried it around for weeks, and feel that I've accomplished something.

All of these articles have appeared in print or online (and many, if not most, are still available there), so some tend to be more topical than others. Considering he writes a column for Slate once a week, it must have been hard to de
...more
Stela
Funny how in a book you didn't particularly enjoy reading (I'll explain) you find a super quote, so perfect that you become obsessed with for days in a row. Check it out: "A point, like a joke, is a terrible thing to miss."
I was so enthusiastic with this point of view discovered in the first pages of this enormous book that I kept reading for a while before acknowledging that it's pointless to continue in a systematic manner and I began browsing and skipping.
The journalist's work is condemned t
...more
Jerry Delaney
Yes, there are positions taken that will piss you off, no matter who you are or what your beliefs may be. But we are so seldom challenged these days because it is so easy to read, watch, listen to and Facebook friend only those who have the same opinions we do. Hitchens is bound to have some opinions you don't like, whether it's his strong support for the invasion of Iraq or his distaste for organized religion. Plus you know that he's smarter than you are, which is always annoying.
But what took
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John
I read the first quarter of this book, and, despite finding it very well written, I don't think so many people would have bought it had it been written by someone other than Hitchens. Hitchens' work has spawned a particularly rabid pedigree of fans who will happily devour anything he offers, regardless of topic. I, not being a fan, was disappointed to find that the first half of this tome consisted mostly of one book review after another, and it often being unclear even as to what book Hitchens ...more
Antonomasia
Feb 08, 2015 Antonomasia marked it as started-2011-12  ·  review of another edition
From deadly serious discussion of political martyrdom and suicide bombers ... to blowjobs: I honestly cannot think of another single non-fiction book I've encountered in all my days that contains such a range of sacred and profane, triviality and gravity as one human mind often does.

The full-scale electronic edition is almost as infuriating as Hitchens' views on Iraq; it's 750 pages of unindexed text, and the table of contents is impossible to scroll. (Or that might just be my [Kindle] Touch.)
...more
Newengland
Giant collection of Hitchens essays separated by category. Originally they appeared in many places, but chiefly Slate, Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, and other high-toned, high-paying markets. This was my first exposure to Hitchens. Top-rate mind on this guy, and a loss on the contemporary scene with his recent death. Lots of repeating tropes, such as the Middle East, Islamic fundamentalism, George Orwell (and specifically 1984, mentioned umpteen times), history, nationalism, politics, etc. The man ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I have finished this book, but I'm not finished with it. If you've read Hitchens, you know what I mean.
Peycho Kanev
A monster of a book from one of the best journalists, essayists, polemicists, and writers. This is a big, hefty volume, good for hours & hours of reading pleasure - and I do mean it; Mr. Hitchens' literary emissions are delicious, sensuous. This book is a fine collection of his opinions and comments regarding both the trivial and the truly critical elements of our culture and world over the past several decades. Most of these essays were originally published in THE ATLANTIC , VANITY FAIR or ...more
Chris
Christopher Hitchens has a way with words. If you enjoy writers like Nabokov and Vidal, you will enjoy his writing. I most value his essays for his careful reading of books. I have never read anything on his recommendation that I did not like. Although he has taken a lot of criticism for his politics and his views are on ample display here, I think many of his detractors simplify his positions to make him into a straw man. I also have several bones to pick, but it is refreshing to read thoughtfu ...more
B0nnie
Nov 06, 2012 B0nnie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
How do you solve a problem like Hitchens? How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand? Hitchens was a provocateur extraordinaire, and would say whatever it took to get people riled up. He'd rather have you angry at something he said or wrote than to feel (or do) nothing.

Here's a link to a great review, http://www.sffaudio.com/?p=42938&... and within that link, is a link to each of the original essays! Going through this list, I'm surprised at how many I've read. My favourites are the literary on
...more
Hadrian
This is a delightful book, a wide sampling of Hitchens' thought. Although he is most renowned for his antitheism and fierce condemnation of all organized religion, he reveals himself to be a very entertaining and extremely well-read thinker.

Comes in a bit short at a page shy of 750. I'd love to talk more with this man, fiery and funny as he may be.
Paul
Next time I start patting myself on the back for being well-read, I'll try to remember to take this off the shelf and thumb through it. Wow.

The sheer breadth of his critical ambit would by itself make this well worth reading, but when you add to that his humor, acerbity and political subtlety, you end up with a book of occasional essays that is dazzling, entertaining, occasionally infuriating, and even educational. Everything from brief evaluations of the oeuvres of (e.g.) John Updike, Saul Bell
...more
Frankie
Clinching my teeth to resist the eponymous pun, I have to say that Arguably is the best and most satisfying set of essays I've ever read. I wish I had paid more attention to Mr. Hitchens while he was around. His departure had the one positive effect of lifting the eyes of would-be readers, like myself, who had regretfully put him off. A few years ago, I knew only of Hitchens as a bulldog of foreign policy, civil rights and Oxfordian lit-crit in both Anglospheres. I've lately become fascinated wi ...more
Nick Smith
Mar 05, 2012 Nick Smith rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with a brain and sense of humour
Among the reasons Hitchens has developed a serious following by readers and writers (and a wide circle of great ones including William Styron and Salman Rushdie as personal friends) alike are his tenacity and eloquent arguments, and thus the title is fitting. I would never like to argue against him, and I cannot, for the prolific and eminent literary buff who was never afraid of controversial topics has died. I did not have an affinity for every subject which is represented in this collection of ...more
Eric Kibler
Ah, these politically polarized days we live in. We are constantly fed the idea that we must accept one of two predigested slates of beliefs. If you're a "conservative", you must be pro-gun rights and anti-abortion. If you're "liberal", you must be critical of Christianity, but "culturally sensitive" enough to be tolerant of the worst excesses of Islam. No matter that the belief system you've been handed is often internally inconsistent. Just believe! No thought required! Pick up one of these si ...more
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Christopher Eric Hitchens (April 13, 1949 – December 15, 2011) was an English-born American author, journalist and literary critic. He was a contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, World Affairs, The Nation, Slate, Free Inquiry and a variety of other media outlets. Hitchens was also a political observer, whose best-selling books — the most famous being God Is Not Great — made him a staple of tal ...more
More about Christopher Hitchens...
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever Mortality Hitch-22: A Memoir Letters to a Young Contrarian

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“A point, like a joke, is a terrible thing to miss.” 12 likes
“Teasing is very often a sign of inner misery.” 9 likes
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