Essays of E.B. White
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Essays of E.B. White

4.36 of 5 stars 4.36  ·  rating details  ·  1,626 ratings  ·  169 reviews
The classic collection by one of the greatest essayists of our time.
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 12th 2006 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics (first published 1977)
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Joe
Like the majority of American liberal artists, I know E.B. White principally from his editorial work. The Elements of Style was the principal explicit force behind my own understanding of the sentence and the essay, and I assumed its writer would possess that bright cogency that tickles the alert reader into giggles.

I also knew E.B. White as the author of books for children, and though it has been nearly two decades since I read Charlotte's Web, I remember vividly the story and the prematurely...more
David
Here are some of the opening sentences found in this collection of essays.

To come upon an article in the Times called "The Meaning of Brown Eggs" was an unexpected pleasure.
Someone told me the other day that a seagull won't eat a smelt.
I spent several days and nights in mid-September with an ailing pig.
Mosquitoes have arrived with the warm nights, and our bedchamber is their theater under the stars.
I wasn't really prepared for the World's Fair last week, and it certainly wasn't prepared for...more
Andrew
I took my time reading these essays, one at a time, over the past summer. It ended up being one of the best reading experiences I've had.

To quote E.B. White - "As a writing man, or secretary, I have always felt charged with the safekeeping of all unexpected items of worldly and unworldly enchantment, as though I might be held personally responsible if even a small one were to be lost."

That's exactly the thought behind each of these pieces, and reading them, you're always anxious to discover whic...more
Rosemary
It turns out E. B. White is clever, warm, and eloquent-- the writer of Elements of Style ought to be. He writes about pretty much everything: books, politics, the city, the country, his rattletrap car, the debate on brown vs. white eggs, all with both ease and conviction.

"All that I ever hope to say in books is that I love the world. I guess you can find it there, if you dig around." That's what E. B. White has to say for himself. And if you don't love the world already, reading these essays is...more
Kris
I knew this would be a five-star book after reading the very first line. I often find that a large amount of non-fiction books are written by people who White calls (himself included), "sustained by the childish belief that everything he or she thinks is of general interest." So White admits this elephant in the room straight away, so you can get on with reading the rest of his works. It is quite amazing how, though he wrote closer over half a century ago, many of the ideas he discusses are stil...more
David
I picked up this book for three reasons: simple booklust; my life-long infatuation with E.B. White's writing; and the inclusion of the essay "Here is New York."

In the preface, White wrote of "Here is New York" that it had been seriously affected by the passage of time, and that the city he described in the summer of 1948 seemed to him to have disappeared and been reborn. But a lot of it still sounds right to me.

Here, then, are the opening lines of "Here is New York":

"On any person who desires s...more
Barbara
i read this to learn how it's done when it's done in finest form. i read this to shout hallelujah at the end of a marvelous sentence, or at the choice of a word that takes my breath away. i read this to wipe tears from my cheeks. i read this to laugh out loud and mercilessly.

this book is the holy mecca for those of us who can't stop believing in the power of word to burrow deep within the human heart and take us hostage, to clomp onto a brain cell and draw pictures we've never seen before. the...more
Alison
I spent the winter reading this book. I have always loved E.B. White's fictional books, and reading them again out loud with my kids was a treat twice because I got to see them enjoy them and I got to enjoy them anew as an adult. Is there anything so wonderful as the sadness of Wilbur in Charlotte's Web? And I really think that Trumpet of the Swam might be one of the best books ever written about living with a learning disability -- for adults or kids.

But earlier this year when I went searching...more
Brynn
"In New York, a citizen is likely to keep on the move, shopping for the perfect arrangement of rooms and vistas, changing his habitation according to fortune, whim, and need. And in every place he abandons he leaves something vital, it seems to me, and starts his new life somewhat less encrusted, like a lobster that has shed its skin and is for a time soft and vulnerable." (7)

"No matter what changes take place in the world, or in me, nothing ever seems to disturb the face of spring." (17)

"I woul...more
Tress Huntley


I recently read a different collection of White essays from the New Yorker called Essays from the New Yorker that was compiled by someone other than White, and while I enjoyed both, I liked that first collection better. In this collection, White selected which of his essays to include. Some of his choices leaned heavily toward the nostalgic which probably pleased him but less so the reader. I guess that's bound to happen.

I particularly enjoy the essays that reflect on White's youth, like the Y...more
Mark
what i loved about these essays--i read most but not all--was how white so effortlessly moves around from idea to story to idea, and so on. "the drift" of his prose, as my friend dana put it. there's smart, elegant meditations on life and death as filtered through e.b.'s hobby farm experiences, interesting tales of his adventures as a younger man, and a number of essays, written in the fifties and sixties, that handle the topic of racial segregation. it struck me as i read those, that i'd read a...more
Mike
There's no excuse for not having read this much, much sooner. When I wasn't laughing at White's dry humor, I was marveling at how incredibly well-crafted each sentence was, each turn of phrase. Nearly every other page featured a passage that I wanted to copy out or add to my Goodreads quotes. I did skip a few essays that seemed dated or didn't interest me, but almost every other one was a gem, including his account of a trip to Alaska, his reflections on life in rural Maine, his elegy for the ra...more
Liz
I am embarassed to admit that I had previously only read "Once More to the Lake" (in college) and "Here Is New York" (which I have a lovely, old illustrated edition of that I treasure). White's writing is so vivid, the joy with which he manipulates language so palpable, and his ability to structure his thoughts so elegant that I couldn't put this down once I started reading. It's the first book in a long time that I found myself cancelling plans and being late to appointments in deference to. An...more
Ed Cottingham
This is a great collection of White's essays and includes several that have frequently appeared in general anthologies. Among my favorites are: The Eye of Edna, Bedfellows, Farewell My Lovely, and The St. Nicholas League.

*****Spoiler alert...exerpts ahead****

Farewell My Lovely is White's famous tribute to the Model T Ford and its era. This was a time when no one expected to motor very far without flat tires -- at the least -- and very likely some more serious mechanical problems. One particularl...more
Lauren
As a child, I enjoyed several of E.B. White's novels; "Charlotte's Web", "The Mouse and the Motorcycle", and "The Trumpet of the Swan" come to mind primarily when I think of him as an author. Reading White's essays provided another perspective on both his writing and his worldview. I will admit that I have never been a great fan of the essay; I much prefer reading novels to reading nonfiction, but White's skilled prose and ability to create a sense of nostalgia in his descriptions drew me in. Am...more
Jennifer
Some of these essays are five star worthy and timeless as well as elegant. Others didn't hold my interest as well but mostly due to the topic itself. White's zest for life and all things living is beautiful. I was surprised at his humor and loved his wit. I definitely found a kindred spirit and will ponder some of his musings for a long time.
Margaret
These essays are utterly brilliant: fresh, clear, and graceful, witty, thought-provoking, and often prescient. I'd only ever read White's children's books and bits and pieces of his New Yorker writing before, but I can see that I'm going to have to delve more deeply. Anyone know a good biography?
Elizabeth
Just read the final essay last night. As I drifted off to sleep I thought of how wonderful it is that a man who was born in 1899 was able to write about things that happened in his life and how I felt so connected to his world. Truly he was one of the best.
Lynn
Since this has been heralded as a classic, I'm surprised that some of the essays wander in their focus, leaving me wondering, what was he trying to say here?
“Once More to the Lake” is my absolute favorite in this collection. Last summer I heard the essay for the first time and immediately thought of my daughter and mother entwined by intergenerational connections, the time-travel of the mind of not knowing whose hands were holding the pole. My second favorite was “The Years of Wonder” as I enjoy...more
Ann
Not every essay is a favorite, but a couple of them I go back to again and again. "Homecoming," which opens with one of the funniest descriptions of home town life I've ever come across, recounts the author's drive up Route 1 to his farm for Thanksgiving, "Familiarity is the thing- the sense of belonging. It grants exemption from all evil, all shabbiness. A farmer pauses in the doorway of his barn and he is wearing the right boots....and the light that leaves the sky at four o'clock automaticall...more
Anthony
"The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest...Only the person who is congenitally self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays."

So begins White's foreword to this collection of essays spanning forty years of his career with the effrontery to catalog a broad range of subjects including farm-life, city-life, environmentalism, writing and writers, and odd memories...more
Cleo
Of course I've read E.B. White's children's books (Charlotte's Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little), but I'd never read his essays before, though I did know that he was a famous essayist. And I just loved his essays. Even more than the children's books. He's funny and witty, and he writes about interesting things. There's a quote on the back of the book of his about the essayist, "The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, ever...more
Tami
E.B. White was an extremely talented writer of essays. He wrote thousands of essays for the "New Yorker," from its inception in 1925 to the day of his passing in 1985 at the age of 86. No one would argue that E.B. White was the Master of letters of the 20th century. His writing style is conversational, and his subject matter is interesting and timeless, like a very good story that you just can't put down.

This particular collection of essays contains essays on the demise of the railroad as transp...more
Heather Mize
The world is far too empty of E.B. Whites. Not just the world of writer's, but the world of gentlemen. He is truly an American icon. He once said that he wanted all his books to reveal only that he loved the world. E.B. White's essays accomplish for me as an adult what Charlotte's Web did for me as a child. In 3rd grade my teacher, Mrs. Bama Macon read The Trumpet of the Swans to me. She wasn't the type of teacher to act out the CO-Ho's of the swan, but she read it elequently, and that book came...more
Carole
I like EB White. I like the way he writes.

Since these essays were written for a contemporary audience about 40 years ago, some of them don't have much relevance for me. He writes about some current affairs that are no longer current and assumes some knowledge of contemporaty writers that I had never heard of. But he's still fun to read.

When E.B. White was in his early 20s, he wanted to get a job on a boat, but he couldn't get hired before the boat was going to go off to sea. So he bought a one-...more
Laura  Yan
E.B. White is an American essayist, yet when I read these essays it feels immensely far from the America today. He writes of the boat, the farm, a sick pig, the railroad, Will Strunk, his favorite book--about Massachusetts birds. "Reading the essays, one shares his ecstasy," he writes. While the author of the book of birds might have been occasionally guilty of overblown prose, White never is. Yet reading these essays carry the same joy. It is as much the pleasure of his concise, elegant sentenc...more
Constance
I didn’t know until college-ish that the White of Strunk and White was the same White of E.B. White. And then I didn’t know until pretty recently that this same White was a renowned essayist and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker when it first started. What a charming man!

This collection is really wonderful! E.B. has this straightforward, familiar, and somewhat rambling style that is a pleasure to read. Some of the essays were a little dated, and some were less interesting, but overall th...more
Whitney Archibald
Is it odd that my muse is a man born in 1899? I loved this book so much that halfway through reading my library copy, I rebelled against my inner miser and bought it on Amazon so I could write in it. White is such a beautiful, interesting, and funny writer. I feel like I have a new friend.

My favorite essays were Death of a Pig, (“When we slid the body into the grave, we both were shaken to the core. The loss we felt was not the loss of ham but the loss of pig.”); Coon Tree; Here is New York; Af...more
Randyn
I had this idea that White was a successful writer of young adult literature who was making a bid to be taken more seriously by writing a few essays. So it turns out that I was an idiot. Those kids books (while good) are actually an afterthought to this amazing body of work he's done as an essayist I'm realizing. Really loved the one on NY even though he somewhat disavows it as a period piece. These essays make you think and feel both. The occasional forays into politics of the day naturally fee...more
Heather
I've loved E.B. White since I was a kid, and his book of essays has been on my list for several years. I expected to love them all, and did find something delightful in just about every one.

However, while some essays are timeless, with themes that have direct correlations to political problems today, others seemed dated, particularly in the section entitled "The Planet." (Though being dated wasn't always a bad thing, like in "The World of Tomorrow," about the 1939 World's Fair and the Fair's vi...more
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Elwyn Brooks White was a leading American essayist, author, humorist, poet and literary stylist and author of such beloved children's classics as Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921 and, five or six years later, joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine. He authored over seventeen books of prose and poetry and was elected to t...more
More about E.B. White...
Charlotte's Web Stuart Little The Trumpet of the Swan Here Is New York Three Beloved Classics by E. B. White: Charlotte's Web/the Trumpet of the Swan/Stuart Little

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“One of the most time-consuming things is to have an enemy.” 131 likes
“The subtlest change in New York is something people don't speak much about but that is in everyone's mind. The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition. (Written in 1949, 22 years before the World Trade Center was completed.)” 26 likes
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