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We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction
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We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction

4.48  ·  Rating Details ·  1,301 Ratings  ·  95 Reviews
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

Joan Didion’s incomparable and distinctive essays and journalism are admired for their acute, incisive observations and their spare, elegant style. Now the seven books of nonfiction that appeared between 1968 and 2003 have been brought together into one thrilling collection.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem captures the counterculture of the sixties
Hardcover, 1122 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by Everyman's Library
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Jan 29, 2014 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five.


We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely... by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria — which is our actual experience.
― Joan Didion

Having just finished Political Fictions, I have now killed this 1122 pg collection of Joan Didion's nonfiction (Slouching Tow
Aug 29, 2010 Jake rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
Joan Didion is the Shakespeare of things that don't quite add up. Situations where what's being said and what's being done are at odds and places where the postcard picture hides ugly, painful truths. Her non-fiction is the opposite of easy reading: the sentences uncurl slowly, and sometimes you don't quite know where she's taking a paragraph or a page until the last few words, when suddenly everything stabs into focus. And given the length of this book (1122 pages), the time-span it covers (for ...more
Feb 11, 2012 David rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012
This big fat collection clocks in at over 1100 pages and comprises the seven books of Didion's nonfiction that appeared between 1968 and 2003. These are

Slouching Towards Bethlehem
The White Album
After Henry
Political Fictions
Where I Was From

What can I add to what's already been said about Joan Didion's writing? The standard review cliches come to mind - spare, taut, elegant, polished, not a word out of place.

All true. And yet, I admire these pieces, but I don't love them. There's a c
Feb 20, 2009 Tessa rated it it was amazing
My soulmate is a 74 year old woman.
Nov 20, 2007 M rated it it was amazing
I am almost done with this tome of non-fiction from one of my favorite writers. Before this book, I had only read The Year of Magical Thinking (which I *loved*) but Didion had always held a certain fascination for me because I had the hugest crush on Ed O'Brien of Radiohead for the longest time and he said Joan Didion was his favorite writer and his dream woman. So of course I set about finding out who this lady was, and whether she was worthy of this praise. :) The crush has long since faded (t ...more
Aug 13, 2012 Margaret rated it really liked it
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live is a collection of Didion's nonfiction work, including Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album, Salvador, Miami, After Henry, Political Fictions, and Where I Was From, stopping in 2003 before the deaths of her husband and daughter. I got bogged down in the more historical and political essay collections and took a long break after Miami but picked it back up and finished reading.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album are stellar, with Di
Aric Cushing
Incredible. The nonfiction piece 'Dreamers of the Golden Dream' I have read over and over through the years. An incredible depiction of California desert life, and the 'true crime' murder of a dentist. I cannot do it justice here because I am writing quickly, but this POSITIVELY is a MUST READ, if not just for the first nonfiction piece in this voluminous collection.
Aug 07, 2007 Peter rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, sociologists
Just read another great essay, written in the 70's, on the development of shopping malls as pictures both of American ingenuity and the aimlessness of modern consumer culture (from The White Album). Her nonfiction continues to impress me.
Anne Walbridge
Apr 18, 2009 Anne Walbridge rated it it was amazing
Joan Joan Joan! God the woman can write! Some of her essays get a little tiresome as she tries to shock, but you have to remember she was writing them back in the '70s.
David Anderson
Jul 07, 2015 David Anderson rated it really liked it
By way of commentary, I can do no better than to direct everyone to this piece from The New Yorker, "Out of Bethlehem: The Radicalization of Joan Didion" by Louis Menand. Ostensibly a review of Tracy Daugherty’s "The Last Love Song" (St. Martin’s), a biography of Joan Didion, this article is really an overview of Didion's career and the evolution of her world view.

The only thing I would like to add is this quote from John Leonard in his introduction to th
Apr 05, 2011 Jon rated it it was amazing
This is the last book to have rocked my world. Before this I'd only read "The White Album" and upon beginning this book I felt the same thrill that I felt discovering some of my other favorite authors, people like Harry Crews or Dennis Cooper.

Didion is quite unlike the writers I tend towards. She's much more a child of the New Yorker reading, grad school attending, fans of Saul Bellow and more recently David Foster Wallace set, if that makes sense to anyone besides myself. People consider her s
sam Eccleston
Sep 25, 2007 sam Eccleston rated it liked it
Probably as much Didion as anyone needs to own. Doesn't include "Year of Magical Thinking," which is cool by me. Since "Play It as It Lays" stands in my mind as one of the more obnoxious books I've ever read, I'm always a little askance of Didion. But the first 2/3 of this is pretty live. Though this might be a purely idiosyncratic choice, the tales of decrepit Californian rurality got me where I lived (pun!), and I really liked her distaste for hippies. But "Political Fictions" is one of the mo ...more
Sep 01, 2012 Angie rated it it was amazing
This is the most amazingly clear writing that I've ever read. Didion writes what she observes, clearly and precisely. She doesn't use judgmental words, but since she writes so clearly about her subjects, we can get an idea of what she thinks about said subjects.
I'm not yet finished with this collection, but will tell you that as a younger baby boomer, reading "Slouching Toward Bethlehem" gave me a better, nonglamorous picture of the sixties than anything else I've ever read.
As an aspiring write
Tiffoknee the 3rd Conner
Mar 07, 2008 Tiffoknee the 3rd Conner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: indispensable
Ah, where to begin when it comes to Didion. I adore her. Plus, when she was younger she was totally smokin'! I sh*t you not. Go google some photos of the broad. Hottttttt! And intelligence. I'm a bigger sucker for intelligence.

I've read a few of the books in this collection on their own, but once this collected essay edition came out I peed my pants. All of this Didion in one place? It's like a dream come true for me.
Jenalyn C
Nov 03, 2016 Jenalyn C rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Too long and negative.
David Gross
Jun 09, 2007 David Gross rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
First, a disclaimer: having read Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album, and Where I Was From before, I skipped those sections of the anthology and read the parts I hadn't seen before.

Joan Didion is a first-class writer and journalist, so much so that even reading today about the behind-the-scenes intrigues of a 25-year-old Los Angeles mayoral race remains gripping.

Her best journalistic virtue is not that she gets the scoop that nobody else gets, but that she reports the interesting things
Jan 15, 2009 Clare added it
I'm fond of the Everyman's Library editions: nice type, pages smell good, there's a ribbon to keep your place, a chronology of the author's life matched up with a chronology of world events (though there is something unsettling in reading and comparing the two columns, the individual and all the history she has lived through), and, most of all, the photographs chosen to illustrate the covers of the Contemporary Authors editions are excellent. Joan Didion is photographed leaning out the driver's ...more
Jun 28, 2007 Marissa rated it liked it
Shelves: politics, non-fiction
Ok, so I got three quarters of the way through the book, but after reading through the first couple sections in Political Fictions I finally just gave up and "accidentally" left the book at my parent's house. Certainly, Joan Didion is really insightful and there is some very beautiful writing in the book. Unfortunately, way too much of her best work is concentrated in the first two parts of the collection which are introspective, while also having a certain time capsule effect of the era she was ...more
Dec 15, 2012 Poupina rated it it was amazing
All of Joan Didion's nonfiction writing on place, politics, lifestyle, and cultural figures from the 1960s to 2003 together in one volume? What a dream. Her devotion to detail, shrewd observations, and concise, lyrical language does it for me EVERY TIME.
In order of my appreciation: "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" captures the counterculture of the sixties, its mood and lifestyle, as symbolized by California, Joan Baez, Haight-Ashbury. Her profile of Joan Baez (“Exactly where…she wants to be seems
Feb 10, 2017 mattu rated it it was amazing
Because I've read every available word of Didion in various forms, the only reason for my owning this book is to have it all in a single volume. In that, it fulfills my expectations. I didn't expect, however, that I'd be so in love with the writing that I'd reread it all. Oh, and the John Leonard intro is precisely the right tone.
Sep 22, 2016 Sharon rated it really liked it
I haven't finished this whole book yet, but I wanted to get some thoughts down before I lose them. This is a compilation of several previous books. Which are all collections of non-fiction journalist essays.
The first essay really struck me, it was so beautifully written. When I was finished, I had to keep double checking to make sure it was non-fiction. I then felt the need to search for what had happened since it was written in 1965. I had also just finished reading a couple of books of short
Jan 23, 2012 Michaela rated it it was amazing
As always, Ms. Didion is brilliant as she blithely cuts through the misconceptions on topics ranging from Old Hollywood and Los Angeles to Cuban-Miami-D.C. relations and the Contras. Her take on politics and how the democratic process has largely been destroyed and manipulated into something else entirely is must-reading. A quote to illustrate, "the moment in which the determination of the Republican party to maximize its traditional low-turnout advantage was perfectly matched by the determinati ...more
Jan 19, 2017 Diana rated it it was amazing
Recently I developed this particular interest for the North American journalistic narrative, quite unknown to me. We tell ourselves stories in order to live, however, it's a lot more than that: It begins with some sort of chronicle and continues with unclassifiable short texts. All of them with a certain common feature highlighted by the style, sense of humor, intelligence and ability to connect the anecdotes of a writer - sometimes inexperienced, sometimes renowned - with the land and its time. ...more
I am a great believer in buying collections, despite them generally depriving me of the sense of having finished something. I've now re(read) the essays from The White Album and Slouching Towards Bethlehem. I'll pick up the rest later...

I don't agree with her on a lot of issues but what I love about her writing is that she refuses to let things be narrated to her - she creates her own narratives and does so beautifully. I find it quite inspiring because I'm not an 'original' person and it's just
Jul 23, 2013 Melanie rated it it was amazing
One of the longest running arguments between myself and a close friend is our reading habits. I read haphazardly, with not much regard to following an established canon or order. I reread, for one thing, an action that is unconscionable in his eyes.

He picks an author and reads nearly everything by that author in chronological order. I buy books cheaply and in individual copies, whereas he saves and buys the Everyman or Library of America anthologies.

This is the one instance in which I believe h
Dec 18, 2009 Jet rated it liked it
I have been working on this read for two and a half months, in between other lighter - literal and figurative - reading. I struggled with Miami and Political Fictions; the pair of them needing more familiarity with the politics around them than I have, I think. And Political Fictions was, perhaps, too recent to be interesting to me.

I enjoyed with varying degrees the other books in the anthology, most notably Slouching Toward Bethlehem. Didion's turn of phrase is astoundingly engaging, and even
Dec 11, 2008 Liz marked it as to-read
I am going to read this book in bits and pieces (while waiting for other books to arrive at the library) and even allow myself to skim/skip the essays that don't interest me. So far I've read Slouching Toward Bethlehem and most enjoyed "Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream," "Marrying Absurd" and "Goodbye to All That." The introduction does such a good job of introducing Joan Didion that even though I haven't read "The Year of Magical Thinking," the essays in "Personals" and other more introspectiv ...more
Sep 03, 2007 Kelly rated it liked it
I'm a fan of Didion. This compilation of all (?) of her books is only tedious in the detail describing some of the recent past events she covered as a journalist. Maybe the history is too recent to engage me as much as the length of her writing commands. In other words, I like the stuff about her personal life more than the stuff about Miami, more than her disapproval of Bill Clinton's campaigning. (I've been there and I don't care to read any more beating of Bill. On today's political playing f ...more
Dec 11, 2015 Sandra rated it it was amazing
Well after reading this lengthy (over 1100 pages) collection of seven of Didion's books of non-fiction (Slouching Towards Bethlehem; The White Album; Salvador; Miami; After Henry; Political Fictions &
Where I Was From) and loving her "Year of Magical Thinking" a few years ago, I think it's safe to say that Joan Didion is now officially one of my favorite non-fiction writers.

As evidenced by this collection of works spanning from the 1960s to the 1990s (before the Year of Magical Thinking) Did
Nov 23, 2011 J rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This is a collection of short non-fiction pieces on various topics, sometimes working into a larger work and other times, standing alone. The subject matter is fascinating to me since most of it takes place in the 60s and early 70s when I was barely a twinkle in my father’s pants. This is the first time I’ve knowingly read Didion. I say knowingly because she seems somehow familiar to me, like an old friend. She’s neurotic in a way that I am not, but I still like her. She has a very conversationa ...more
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Worcester Public ...: Slouching Towards Bethlehem 1 5 Jun 11, 2013 12:13PM  
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Joan Didion was born in California and lives in New York City. She's best known for her novels and her literary journalism.

Her novels and essays explore the disintegration of American morals and cultural chaos, where the overriding theme is individual and social fragmentation. A sense of anxiety or dread permeates much of her work.
More about Joan Didion...

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