The Book of Other People
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Book of Other People

3.39 of 5 stars 3.39  ·  rating details  ·  1,941 ratings  ·  303 reviews
A stellar host of writers explore the cornerstone of fiction writing: character

The Book of Other People is about character. Twenty-five or so outstanding writers have been asked by Zadie Smith to make up a fictional character. By any measure, creating character is at the heart of the fictional enterprise, and this book concentrates on writers who share a talent for making...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 2nd 2008 by Penguin Books (first published 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. RowlingEclipse by Stephenie MeyerThe Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniCity of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Best Books of 2007
142nd out of 536 books — 618 voters
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank BaumAnd Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieCharm & Strange by Stephanie KuehnAll the Right Stuff by Walter Dean MyersA Life In Books by Warren Lehrer
Graphic Cover Art
28th out of 38 books — 7 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I so wanted to like this book. The concept is great - it's a collection of character sketches written by a host of terrific contemporary writers, brought together and sold to raise money for a children's arts charity in NYC. It's edited by Zadie Smith, who I love, and has stories by lots of writers for whom I eagerly await any new book they put out. BUT. This is just not a very good collection. Don't get me wrong, some of the character sketches were great and some were fun and some were thought...more
MJ Nicholls
As other esteemed Goodreaders have opined, this anthology fails to deliver consistent excellence, despite the all-star cast.

The best contributions are from Hari Kunzru, Daniel Clowes, ZZ Packer, Chris Ware, Nick Hornby, Miranda July & Jonathan Lethem. These stories kept my arse welded to the chair, with zero distracted fidgety impatience.

The others are merely average: fragments, unfinished doodles or tossed-off oddities. Jonathan Safran Foer, hardly a prolific short story writer, seems to ha...more
This is a collection of short stories to benefit some young writers' program in NYC. I was drawn to it because of the Charles Burns cover-art and because one of my favorite comic book artists, Daniel Clowes, did a short piece for this book (disappointing) as did C. Ware (writer/artist of Jimmy Corrigan.) Three of the stories are written comic/graphic style and the others are just regular non-illustrated short stories. The title of each story is the name of a person (or animal/creature) as each i...more
I borrowed (read: temporarily stole) this book from my best friend's bookshelf, because I've been eager to read it since it came out. Finally I get around to it and it's pretty much just as I was expecting - great, obviously, but not perfect. It is a short story book, edited by Zadie Smith, on the behalf of Dave Eggers' non-profit organisation that helps children with their reading and writing. The premise was that each writer would pen a short story piece on a character, whose name would become...more
From the literati club that is the Dave Eggers 826 empire comes this collection of short stories, written by authors for free to benefit 826 New York. The stories were written from the prompt that editor Zadie Smith basically describes as "create a character"-- and mixed results ensue. Smith's story, for example, is a mediocre effort about a father-son relationship that leaves much to be desired. Eggers goes mythical and writes about giants, while Vendela Vida, his wife, delivers straight up rea...more
There are a lot of stories in this book, I liked some more than others. My favourites were:

Judith Castle by David Mitchell
Justin M. Damiamo by Daniel Clowes
Gideon by Z.Z. Packer
Jordan Wellington Lint by Chris Ware
Roy Spivey by Miranda July
Cindy Stubenstock by A.M. Homes
Theo by Dave Eggers
Jun 07, 2008 Eugenie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Eugenie by: Jarrett
I most liked the pieces in this collection that were real stories rather than fragments. Despite the impressive cast of writers, too many of the pieces felt like obligatory, though inventive, answers to a character sketch assignment for a writing class. And I think it was just a coincidence, but most of them are pretty bleak. If you read just one, let it be Dave Eggers' achingly beautiful "Theo," about a lovelorn giant. Miranda July, Vendela Vida, and George Saunders also contribute sharp, poign...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
This is an anthology that collects the works of some of today's coolest authors. Jonathan Lethem, Chris Ware, Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith, A.M. Homes, David Mitchell, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nick Hornby, and Z.Z. Packer all made contributions. I especially liked Mitchell's and Saunder's contributions. I must say, the fact that this is a collection of character sketches rather than short stories is
incredibly intriguing to me. Oh. The proceeds from the sales will be donated to that literacy center that...more
I loved reading this book. There were many times through out this book where I stopped to re-read a sentence and soak it in because of it’s poetic nature. I loved the gathering of authors that contributed to this book, this book that focuses on character alone. Also another plus of this book is that some of the proceeds of the sale go to a children’s literacy fund in NY.
A good collection of short stories from an odd array of writers - picked it up and set it back down whenever I was done with a few each time. Nothing world shaking, but worth the time if you enjoy the people that were tapped to write for it (Zadie Smith being the draw for me, though most of the stories were fine enough.)
I enjoyed it quite a lot, more than I'd expected. Zadie Smith and Colm Toibin were particularly good, but I also enjoyed Adam Thirlwell, Miranda July, A. M. Homes and Jonathan Lethem.
I did not like the stories by Hari Kunzru and David Mitchell - they felt gimmicky and cruel.
Talk about an anthology of stories by snobby hipsters. The only thing truly wonderful in this book is the story by Chris Ware, but mostly they are stuffy overwrought pieces that fail to deliver.
gets four stars because there are some 2 and some 5 star stories in the collection. but it's more than worth a read, if only to give a clue to some authors that you haven't read yet...
Anina Ertel
best story in this book...magda mandela by zz packer...i read it about 9 times this weekend and i never do that
Let's get this out of the way right now: I heart Zadie Smith. So when I got this book home and saw the tiny "edited by" on the cover, I was disappointed, but only for a second. Yes, I do love Zadie, but I love short stories even more.

In the introduction, Ms. Smith says: "*The Book of Other People* is about character. The instruction was simple: make someone up." The resulting collection is a true grab-bag of...stuff about people. Some are stories, some are vignettes, some are sketches, one is a...more
So far, it's amazing! I love the characters, especially Judith Castle, the uppity, overly-dramatic, manipulative Judith.

Every day I go to read one of the short stories and end up reading 3 or 4. It's addicting. I haven't come across any I hated and only a few that left me indifferent.

I enjoy the varieties of characters from the eccentric to ordinary. I identified with Miranda July's what-ifs, Judge Gladys Parks-Schultz's blame game, and Gabrielle's ingenuity in saving her father from a temptre...more
This turned out to be a largely fantastic collection of stories. It's always going to be difficult to please one reader from start to finish in a book like this with so many authors and different styles and voices. But I was loving it more than I wasn't throughout. The concept, put forth by editor Zadie Smith, was "make somebody up". So the book is a study in characters and all of the different ways they can be introduced and presented to readers. I found myself drawn into so many different worl...more
Zadie Smith propuso una idea a varios escritores: invéntate un personaje. El resultado, la presente antología, ’El libro de los otros’. También hay que reseñar que los fondos obtenidos con la publicación de este libro están destinados a 826 NYC, una ONG dedicada a perfeccionar las habilidades lectoras y escritoras de niños y jóvenes entre seis y dieciocho años. Pero dejando este punto aclarado, los relatos incluidos me han parecido bastante decepcionantes. Nombres de relumbrón, la mayoría, que n...more
Dec 21, 2008 Brittany rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: People looking to discover new authors, Fans of short stories, Fans of these authors
Recommended to Brittany by: Glamour magazine
How I Came To Read This Book: Thanks to some skilled books publicity mongrels, this book showed up in a few magazines I read, and I spotted it at Chapters, and just generally wanted to read it. I bought it about a year ago maybe?

The Plot: Erm, well, the 'idea' behind the book is Zadie Smith is the editor of this collection of short stories - all profits go towards a writing program for underprivileged youth. The caveat of the stories is they are all supposed to revolve around the creation of a...more
THESE days, it seems that the best way to make it in the literary world is not to slog away at submitting short stories to journals, but to write an epic novel at a dazzlingly young age -- see young and acclaimed writers like Zadie Smith, Jonathan Safran Foer, David Mitchell and Dave Eggers. Thus, it can seem as if the art of crafting short stories seems all but lost, or at least increasingly irrelevant.
Still, every once in a while a publishing house will come up with a collection of short stori...more

Originally posted HERE.

The Book of Other People is a collection of short stories about, well, other people. Fictional people, that is – Zadie Smith’s introduction clarifies that the instruction to the contributors was simply to make somebody up. So 23 talented writers made somebody up, wrote a story about them, and here is the finished product: The Book of Other People.


The first story in the collection, Judith Castle, is from one of my favorite writers, David Mitchell. One of my friends from th...more
After a beautiful day of skiing, my luck remained with me as I plucked this book off the Free Shelf in Telluride.
What's inside this small book is a huge collection of amazing, unique short stories (and a few comics), by the heavy hitters in modern American (and British, and Irish, and probably some more) fiction. The unifying theme is that each story is about a character, and that this book was a fundraiser for 826 New York, a youth literary project in New York.
I skipped around, changing order...more
It's annoying to have to judge this as a collection, as it's so variable. The good stories are very bloody good. I love the fact that Zadie Smith (ed) included comics/graphics. The Chris Ware story is one of the best things I've ever read. The Daniel Clowes good. Hari Kunzru ace - wanna read some of his. Miranda July good. Dave Eggers, Colm Toibin, Aleksander Hemon all well written, nice nice.

But it all kicks off with David Mitchell. I've not read Cloud Atlas or any of them and I ain't doing if...more
Izetta Autumn
What a gem! I truly enjoyed this collection of short stories, edited by Zadie Smith. As the title indicates, Other People's Lives, is character focused, designed to act as a window into the lives of each protagonist. The result is a collection of inspired writing - and the bonus is that the sale of the book benefits 826 Valencia, a non-profit organization that works with young people to develop their writing skills. Without a doubt each author brings to life an intriguing character, peeling back...more
Kiera Healy
I don't really like Zadie Smith, the editor of this anthology, but I do like some of the other authors involved, so I gave it a go. I was glad I did: the first story, by David Mitchell, was really good. I haven't read any of his other work, but I definitely will - his contribution was both funny and poignant, and I finished it feeling excited for what was to come.

Sadly, what was to come was pretty much uniformly disappointing. There were some highlights - 'Magda Mandela' by Hari Kunzru and 'Nigo...more
As stated in the introduction, the brief was simple - "make somebody up". Such a potential goldmine, but sadly little actual glitzy content extracted in the end. The majority of the stories felt too "literary", like excerpts from incredible dense novels which aren't so much about the characters or a plot as about notions of the world around us. Or something. Perhaps within this imaginary context, these tales would have made more sense. Presented as freestanding short stories, it all comes off as...more
The four stars are mostly because I am left with a generally happy feeling after reading this book.
Of course, different authors' short stories means, just like everyone has said, that the quality level was different for each. In fact, the enjoyment level was clearly also different for each reader, because there's many different picks in the reviews I've read so far, here, there, and everywhere.
Quite a few of those stories I really liked, most of all Perkus Tooth, but also Puppy (unfairly overlo...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.

edit: Review written for book club project as "suggested summer reading," but I can't muster the time for a more in depth review at current.

Admittedly, the cover-art is tempting: two columns and eight character sketches that line either side of the front cover with a single strip of red down the center, giving it a Brady Bunch-esque vibe with something missing. As it turns out, what was missing was the plot-line. The Book of Other People is just what the cover proposes: character sketche...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
This book is not by Zadie Smith. 2 39 Aug 24, 2012 03:48PM  
  • Phoenix Noir
  • The Apocalypse Reader
  • American Supernatural Tales
  • Masked
  • One Hundred and Forty Five Stories in a Small Box: Hard to Admit and Harder to Escape, How the Water Feels to the Fishes, and Minor Robberies
  • Today the Sky is Blue and White With Bright Blue Spots and a Small Pale Moon and I Will Destroy Our Relationship Today
  • My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead: Great Love Stories from Chekhov to Munro
  • Women and Other Animals: Stories
  • The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers
  • The Brutal Language of Love: Stories
  • The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Sixth Annual Collection
  • The Lineup: The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives
  • A Good Fall
  • Everything Was Fine Until Whatever
  • Salmonella Men on Planet Porno: Stories
  • The Collected Stories
  • Best Food Writing 2010
Zadie Smith (born Sadie Smith October 27, 1975) is an English novelist. To date she has written four novels, and is widely regarded as one of England's most talented young authors; in 2003, she was included on Granta's list of 20 best young authors.

See also

More about Zadie Smith...
White Teeth On Beauty NW The Autograph Man Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

Share This Book