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The Best American Essays 2006 (Best American Essays)

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3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  372 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
"The essays in this volume are powerful, plainspoken meditations on birthing, dying, and all the business in between," writes Lauren Slater in her introduction to the 2006 edition. "They reflect the best of what we, as a singular species, have to offer, which is reflection in a context of kindness. The essays tell hard-won tales wrestled sometimes from great pain."

The twen
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 11th 2006 by Mariner Books
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N
Sep 29, 2015 N rated it liked it
This BAE is solid. According to my check mark system, five essays received single check marks (they were good):

- Emily Bernard's "Teaching the N-Word"
- Adam Gopnik's "Death of a Fish"
- Kim Dana Kupperman's "Relief"
- Alan Shapiro's "Why Write?"
- Lily Tuck's "Group Grief"

And two essays received two check marks (they were great):

- Michele Morano's "Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood"
- David Rieff's "Illness as More Than Metaphor"

I have mixed feelings about Lauren Slater's writing, but as BAE edi
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Anittah
Oct 01, 2013 Anittah rated it really liked it
Notes:

"We occasionally fall into brief brackets of health, only to return to our fevers, our infections, our rapid, minute mutations, which take us toward death even as they evolve us, as a species, into some ill-defined future." -- Lauren Slater, 2006 Editor, in her Introduction

"Acclaim of any kind is wonderful, except when it goes to someone else." -- Alan Shapiro, in Why Write?

"You need to be cynical about publishing in order to not be cynical about writing, in order to protect and preserve t
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Jessica
Mar 18, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it
Buy it for Poe Ballantine's "501 Minutes to Christ", and Emily Bernard's "Teaching the N-Word," stay for Marjorie Williams's "A Matter of Life and Death." This is a really strong collection. My only complaint is the over-representation of The New Yorker pieces, especially since these pieces stood out as the weakest in the anthology. Most innovative essay award goes to Michelle Morano's "Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood." When I read an essay like that, I realize what people are missing when ...more
Suzanne Moore
Feb 03, 2013 Suzanne Moore rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
I thought these essays really were deserving of the title “Best.” The majority of works in this collection revolved around topics of death and dying. They made me think of my own journey through life and how short life really is. I felt a bit melancholy while reading these, but I was drawn in by the voices of each author's reflections. The humanness examined in these essays, reminds me that the most important things in life aren't things.
Lexie
Sep 18, 2011 Lexie rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
I love the essay form ... It's nothing like the horrifying 'essay' that high school students dread being assigned. As Lauren Slater writes in her introduction to this 2006 collection, essays are written in "language rapturous and vivid ... with tentative reflections ... [and] outright contradictions" that capture "the moving, morphing human mind." Essayists mine for meaning through questions, curiosities, character paradoxes, and liminal spaces among what has been, what is, what might be ... All ...more
Kate
Jul 11, 2007 Kate rated it liked it
Recommends it for: essay nerds
I'm a Best American Essay junkie. I spend all year waiting for the new edition. I read it feverishly and all at once. I take notes in the margins and copy my favorites essays to distribute to other writerly friends. I re-read at least four essays from the collection a dozen times.

Not this year.

I appreciate Lauren Slater's attention to death and dying--we spend a lot of energy in America trying to avoid that unpleasantness: It's gauche to talk about dying. Sickness reeks of weakness and lack of s
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cathy
May 10, 2007 cathy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Essay lovers and anyone without a death anxiety.
Shelves: non-fiction-read
Lauren Slater must have been in a real funk when choosing the cream of this year’s crop of Best American Essays. The collection is a contemplation on mortality, with stories of terminal illness, decline in old age, and facing grief alone and in the company of others. I’m currently reading a great deal about death and dying for a work project, so these personal essays were of professional interest to me; however, I can see how they might be tough to take if reading for pleasure. Sprinkled among t ...more
Lucas Johnson
Jan 30, 2016 Lucas Johnson rated it really liked it
Pretty good prose, but some of it seems written for the purpose of inclusion in year-end collections like the one on offer. The references to insidery writing clubs and retreats just smacks of back-rubbing and favoritism. I am not eager to gather up all of these collections when I see that sort of self-dealing.
Mclaughlin175
Apr 27, 2011 Mclaughlin175 rated it it was amazing
I'm not ranking the entire collection here but offering the five star rating for just one essay called "Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood" by Michele Morano. It's a masterful piece because it takes the subjunctive mood of the Spanish language and weaves its rules and uses through a meditation on travel, long distance, study abroad, and mental health issues. I won't say specifically which because as I recall it comes as a surprise. This piece is worth seeking out to see how amazing the essay ...more
Scott
Feb 04, 2010 Scott rated it it was ok
Shelves: essays
These essays are all well written, but I found the recurring theme of death and dying, repetitious and tiresome. I guess I just expected more diversity from a collection of the year that drew from writers across America. There seemed a great variety to choose from when viewing the section listing notable essays written in 2005. This collection did get off to a strong start with: Kinsey and Me, 501 Minutes To Christ, and Teaching The N-Word. Then came a long procession of stories pertaining to th ...more
Kate
Jan 31, 2016 Kate rated it liked it
Definitely not my favorite in this series.
Kathryn
Feb 26, 2007 Kathryn rated it liked it
First of all, everyone I know should probably go read Michele Morano's essay "Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive Mood." If you have a single psychologists' impulse in your body, you will find yourself yelling advice from time to time, but it's worth it. Extremely clever.

There are several other good pieces, although I have caveats with all of them. "501 Minutes to Christ" makes me glad I stayed in school, for example. The writing life apparently sucks from many angles.

Anyway, for what it is, this y
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Vasha7
May 29, 2011 Vasha7 rated it really liked it
Essays I found particularly notable: Laurie Abraham - "Kinsey and Me"; Emily Bernard - "Teaching the N-Word"; Ken Chen - "City Out of Breath"; Eugene Goodheart - "Whistling in the Dark"; Kim Dana Kupperman - "Relief"; Michele Morano - "Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive"; Sam Pickering - "George"; David Rieff - "Illness as More Than Metaphor"; Oliver Sacks - "Recalled to Life"; Peter Selgin - "Confessions of a Left-Handed Man"; Alan Shapiro - "Why Write?"; Marjorie Williams - "A Matter of Life and ...more
Joan
Dec 28, 2008 Joan rated it it was ok
My least favorite of the series so far. Slater chose some I wouldn't even consider essays, and she chose an unusual number dealing with illness and death. However, there were a few gems in the mix, including Marjorie Williams "A Matter of Life and Death," and Adam Gopnik's "Death of a Fish" (see what I mean about theme?)
Jane
Jun 27, 2007 Jane rated it liked it
Recommends it for: writers, teachers
A hit or miss collection. Essays that surprised or delighted me are these: "501 Minutes to Christ" (Poe Ballantine), "Grammar Lessons: The Subjunctive" (Michele Morano), "Confessions of a Left-Handed Man" (Peter Selgin), and "Group Grief" (Lily Tuck). This anthology introduced to me these writers, so it has done its job.
Audrey
Sep 22, 2016 Audrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I suppose that's why they're referred to as the best essays ... I picked this book up on a whim on my way out of the library (I was looking for a light paperback that would travel well), and I've been very pleasantly surprised with the essays I've read so far.
Joslyn
May 24, 2009 Joslyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, shorts
kudos to the editor - these miscellaneous, unrelated essays are sequenced like a mix tape: a common name or theme popping up in the next, imposing an artificial but pleasing sense of order and commonality...
James
Jul 04, 2007 James rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Strong collection overall. Seems like a wider range of perspectives and topics than in past years, and the writing is stronger. Highlights: Emily Bernard's "Teaching the N-Word" and Sam Pickering's "George."
Mark
Sep 11, 2007 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
This isn't much help, but while I don't remember the details of most of these essays, I read every single one and enjoyed them. Probably the same thing I could say about most positive events in my life.
Renata
Jan 08, 2015 Renata rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These essays were indeed very good, although Slater picked A LOT of essays about death. Spouses, pets, oneself... did no one write any happy essays that year? Still though, good. Obvi.
Jennifer D. Munro
May 22, 2010 Jennifer D. Munro rated it really liked it
Solid collection, though surely there was a better essay in the country that year than the one by Susan Orleans. Not that it was bad, but the top pick of the year?
Jackie Desmarais
May 16, 2007 Jackie Desmarais rated it liked it
Some essays were a little boring, but it explores a variety of subjects and voices; so its good if you are looking for examples of how to improve your own writing
Will
Aug 29, 2009 Will rated it it was ok
Death death death deathdeath death. Death death, death death death—death deathdeath, death—death deathdeath death. Dying.

There. That’s the skinny.
Kristen
Jul 27, 2011 Kristen rated it liked it
Some of the essays were really good, but it seemed that most of them were depressing. Apparently people like to write about sickness and death.
Greg Linster
Dec 04, 2013 Greg Linster rated it liked it
There were a few gems in this collection, namely Eugene Goodheart's "Whistling in the Dark" and Joseph Epstein's "The Culture of Celebrity".
Wendy
Oct 12, 2007 Wendy rated it it was ok
Shelves: essay, anthologies, memoir
I've always found Lauren Slater's writing to be more whining than literature, and here she's gone and gathered a whole collection of whining.
Amy
May 15, 2010 Amy rated it liked it
I love reading these collections. My first one, from 1988, is tattered with lots of notes written throughout. It's still my favorite.
Lori
Jul 13, 2007 Lori rated it it was ok
A good way to catch up on the New Yorker articles I've passed over (the cartoons are so much faster to read) the past year.
Jimileek
Jun 24, 2013 Jimileek rated it really liked it
I didn't mind the death theme. A wonderful collection of writers I've never read. Poe Ballantine's piece was a delight.
Edith
Jan 13, 2008 Edith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this series. Especially 1998's edition. Last year's is good too.
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Lauren Slater is a psychologist and writer. She is the author of numerous books, including Welcome To My Country, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir, Opening Skinner’s Box, and Blue Beyond Blue, a collection of short stories. Slater’s most recent book is The $60,000 Dog: My Life With Animals.

Slater has been the recipient of numerous awards, amongst them a 2004 National Endowments for the Arts Award, and
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More about Lauren Slater...

Other Books in the Series

Best American Essays (1 - 10 of 32 books)
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