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The Assassin's Cloak: An Anthology of the World's Greatest Diarists

4.36  ·  Rating Details ·  193 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
This is an anthology of some of the world's greatest diarists, with over 200 wide-ranging, international contributions. It is laid out day-by-day and a typical date might feature entries from such distinctly different writers as Andy Warhol, Kafka, Pepys and Goebbels.
Paperback, 706 pages
Published August 30th 2002 by Canongate Books (first published 2000)
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Apr 20, 2015 Miriam rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
Disappointing. I have read enough diaries to know that these are not "the world's greatest diarists" -- or rather, some of them are nothing special and the ones who are good diarists benefit not at all from being taken in small out-of-order chunks. I'm giving up after reading the fourth entry on the Titanic in as many pages. I'll stick with just picking people who are actually interesting to me and reading their diaries straight through.

Favorite line: "I never saw Pigg so drunk in my life." --Re
Dec 13, 2009 Ciara rated it really liked it
a former roommate of mine bought this back in 2003 or 2004, & i borrowed it from her for months but never finished it. it's a monster of a book, over 700 pages long. it's excerpts from famous diaries throughout history, from john evelyn & samuel pepys in the late 17th century, up to brian eno & alec guinness writing in the 1990s. every day of the year is represented, with a sampling of excerpts written on said day.

i love diaries, i write diaries myself, & i like reading other pe
Dec 24, 2015 Wanda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Margaret
24 DEC 2015 - spied on Margaret's feed. Sounds interesting.
Dec 31, 2013 Roberta rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2013
A diary is an assassin’s cloak which we wear when we stab a comrade in the back with a pen. – William Soutar

The Assassin’s Cloak è un’antologia di estratti di diari famosi, organizzati in modo cronologico. Molti tra gli autori scelti sono bianchi, maschi e inglesi, ma è una scelta piuttosto trasparente direi. Purtroppo la maggior parte mi è risultata sconosciuta, e quindi mi è stata molto utile la breve biografia in appendice. Alcuni molto interessanti: Louisa May Alcott, E.M. Delafield, Kathe
Feb 23, 2009 wanderaven rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
As another reviewer noted, this book is rather heavily laden with passages from World War Two - so much so that for the last couple hundred pages, when I hit the entries for the late 1930's and 40's, I check for mention of the war and if there is any, I skim or even skip the entry altogether. It becomes a bit tedious and I certainly feel as though I've done my duty by it, having read in depth through the first five hundred pages.

Other than that, I have very little complaint for the book and oth
Jan 25, 2012 Julie rated it it was amazing
I read this book little by little over several months. It's an anthology of diaries from dozens of diarists over the past several centuries, arranged in chronological order. It begins with January 1, featuring a few entries for each date, arranged chronologically. You might get Samuel Pepys, Virginia Woolf and Andy Warhol on one day, and six people you've never heard of on another.

The excerpts are short and lend themselves to dipping in and out. Some, like those of Robert Falcon Scott, whose en
Jan 03, 2012 itpdx rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have never had the discipline to keep a diary or journal for more than a few weeks at a time, so, instead, I am reading these edited and more interesting diary entries a few days at a time this year.
Finally finished...took two years. Not a book to travel with...the edition I have is quite bulky, so got behind when I did some traveling and took the book up again the next year. The book contains many interesting diary entries from the famous, infamous and unknown. There is something very immedia
Jun 04, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing
The Assassin's Cloak is a wondrous book, perfect for dipping into or falling asleep with at night. The editors have chosen multiple diary entries for every day of the year. What is remarkable is the thought that has gone into the choice. Sometimes they might follow one diarist over several days or they might follow one event and its memorial (think coronations, the Titanic's sinking, events in wartime) through time. It reaches back into the seventeenth century with Pepys and John Evelyn, but is ...more
Jul 04, 2013 Cici rated it liked it
The curious title of this book is from a quote of Soutar, the Scottish poet, who made the first line of introduction for this collection. It is a strange quote, as Soutar was saying: a diary "it temps us to betray our fellows also,becoming thereby an alter ego sharing with us the denigrations which we would be ashamed of voicing aloud; a diary is an assassin's cloak where we wear when we stab a comrade in the back with a pen.".

Yet this collection is about people recording the events and feelings
Mark Glover
Jan 12, 2014 Mark Glover rated it it was amazing
The best £1 I have ever spent is all I can say of this volume which itself weighs a few pounds clocking in at almost 600 pages. The perfect bedside companion the Taylor's offer a broad array of diarist's offering up details varying from the personal to the historical and the mundane across a huge scale of time and place. The perfect introduction to many of the figures some of who's works are widely available(Pepys and Anais Nin) to other lesser known figures(Dorothy Wordsworth)each offering a ...more
May 06, 2010 Ilze rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This 644-page book has been sitting on my shelf for more than a year ... I kept promising myself I "would" read it. Now that I have, I can't believe I set aside such a treasure for such a long time! Not only do diarists (e.g. Samuel Pepys) appear - and he wrote in the 1660s (unbelievable that we are still able to read their words so many centuries later) - but the excerpts are so interesting: You find out what people wore, what they ate, what they saw, what they felt ... and then the pang of ...more
Terry Clague
I didn't read the whole book cover to cover, but I read entries from people I'd heard of. Not the first time in my life I've been grateful for my own ignorance given the length. I will dip in and out of the rest of the book for years to come.

Having finished my selection of entries, I'm now thinking of acquiring the diaries of Byron, Alec Guinness, Brian Eno, Peter Hall, Charles Darwin, Barbara Castle, and I'm deciding how to spread the genius of Alan Bennett's diaries over the rest of my life.

Feb 29, 2008 Bap rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: diaries
First of all, great title. This is an anthology from great diaries. In the days before blogs, diaries were kept to set the record straight or to just leave a record for posterity. It is a way of keeping score or settling scores or just have a running dialogue with oneself with regrets, fears, boasts, accusations, lies, and occasionally the unvarnished truth.

Best left close to the bedside to read an entry a day. It is arranged by chronological order with a multiple entries by the date of the year
Lucy Lang
Aug 12, 2016 Lucy Lang rated it it was amazing
This big fat book is a concentrated but very rewarding read. It is an anthology of the world's greatest diarists from Franz Kafka to James Boswell. In fact, anyone who was famous and wrote a diary is included. I found this book fascinating and as a diary keeper myself, I found it all the more interesting. The book is cleverly divided into chapters of the twelve months of the year. That way, whatever month you happen to be in you can look up what, for example, Sylvia Plath was up to on the 12th ...more
Jul 15, 2013 Roddy rated it really liked it
This was one of those strange coincidences. I had just finished reading William Soutar's "Diary of a Dying Man" and found this anthology in a charity shop. It wasn't until I took it home and read the introduction that I found that the title was a quote from William Soutar! "A diary is an assassin's cloak which we wear when we stab a comrade in the back with a pen." A very interesting and enjoyable collection of diary entries from a wide range of historical figures - I read it over the past year ...more
Diane Condon-Boutier
Mar 30, 2010 Diane Condon-Boutier rated it really liked it
This is one of those great reads you find yourself turning to again and again. It's a work you consult, ponder over and absorb. As a budding writer, I find it intruiging to slip behind the scenes of, say, Virginia Woolfe, or Steinbeck or even Byron, stealing a glimpse of what went on in their minds on a specific date. And it's a somewhat private glimpse, as these diarists might not have honed their words for a specific audience....
Miss Lemon
Jun 03, 2016 Miss Lemon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book I am appreciating every day! The husband and wife editors gathered 100's of diaries and using the calendar as their format put 2 to 5 entries all from different people's diaries into each day of the year. So I read today's entries, takes just a few minutes every day and it is a hoot! some of the entries are bazaar (Gerbel's diary is strange) but most are marvelous! Just little glimpses into great and not so great minds on a daily basis.
An interesting book on the whole. Every date has at least two entries from different famous people's diaries. This are random so you might see an entry in January for one person and then not see another entry until March. The main problem for me is that some of the diaries were really dull so when I came across a further entry I skipped it. Perhaps it is a book for dipping in and out of which is bot my style of reading!
Philip Reilly
Dec 30, 2015 Philip Reilly rated it it was amazing
If you like reading a couple of pages in bed before turning out the light this is the book for you. A huge compendium of diary extracts over 500 years. Some just insights into everyday concerns and others that stop you in your tracks. If you like this try Alan Taylor's other compendium Country Diaries.
Kevin Sheppard
Mar 31, 2015 Kevin Sheppard rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure how good this would be and how it would be formatted. I couldn't put it down then I got so busy I had to break before I read the second half. It cuts across the years, professions, and the stratus of society from that cad Samuel Peyps to Warhol. If you're a voracious reader like me you'll love it.
Oct 05, 2011 Minnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm re-reading this wonderful anthology and am once again completely enamoured by the variety and spice of the book, from the name dropping of Noel Coward to the innocence of Anna Frank. It's a wonderful book that can be picked at and briefly perused...but if you're like me, I am so easily lead astray and before I can stop myself I've read much much more than I had intended!
Jul 28, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
received this book as a gift, it is one big book so I decided to read it a day at a time for a year reading each days corresponding entries, there is such a varied selection you can never be bored, you'll get the famed diarists of course popping up several times quite rightly but some lesser known gems too, recommended!
Vicky Sharratt
Feb 28, 2012 Vicky Sharratt rated it it was amazing
Diary entries from over 170 diarists covering hundreds of years of history and day to day life. Easily readable in 1 day sections this is a book for the whole year. It's one to go back for many times once that initial read is over.
Feb 23, 2013 Rae rated it it was amazing
I don't think I will ever "finish" this book. I've been skipping around and reading entries for a few months. I especially love the Samuel Pepys entries, I need to get my hands on a copy of his complete diaries!
Apr 06, 2012 Nicole marked it as to-read
I have read excerpts from this and it is amazing -- full of brilliant writers, some of whom I knew, some I had to look up. I am now looking for my own copy and I plan to read each day's excerpts on the appropriate day.
Richard Smith
Nov 06, 2011 Richard Smith rated it it was amazing
I've been reading this book for three years and finally come to the end. it's full of the most wonderful diary entries from a wide range of people from the 17th century to the 1980s. the only bad thing is the terrible title.
Richard Thomas
Nov 25, 2014 Richard Thomas rated it it was amazing
A good anthology to be returned to often by dipping and sampling at will. It has led me to buy some of those therein.
Edward Wakefield
This leans very heavily on World War II diaries; this is not a criticism, but nor is it what I expected. Vast, sprawling, funny, tragic. Brian Eno throws some unbelievable curve balls!
Mar 13, 2015 Karen-Leigh rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly enjoyed this book and every time I had to put it down I eagerly looked forward to getting back into it. Well done and good choices from diaries and journals.
Elizabeth Webber
Oct 15, 2013 Elizabeth Webber rated it really liked it
What a great idea for a book! I've been reading the dates in the book on the current date. It really engages my imagination to think of people writing on the same date in years past.
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