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The Best American Essays 2007 (Best American Essays)

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3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  1,019 ratings  ·  133 reviews
The twenty-two essays in this powerful collection -- perhaps the most diverse in the entire series -- come from a wide variety of periodicals, ranging from n + 1 and PMS to the New Republic and The New Yorker, and showcase a remarkable range of forms. Read on for narrative -- in first and third person -- opinion, memoir, argument, the essay-review, confession, reportage, e ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 10th 2007 by Mariner Books
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(showing 1-30 of 1,936)
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Teresa
I suppose I shouldn't be rating this because I didn't read all the essays, but I did skim the ones I didn't read fully.

I originally checked this out of the library merely to read Jo Ann Beard's "Werner," which was great and on its own deserves 5 stars. It reads like a short story, which is probably one of the reasons I liked it so much. The style of Daniel Orozco's "Shakers" was different and interesting. I also liked Jerald Walker's "Dragon Slayers," which I'm guessing is the one that guest-edi
...more
Joshua
Jan 17, 2008 Joshua rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone wants to understand the current world
Shelves: anthologies
I was reticent to pick up this anthology. While I generally buy whatever comes out in the The Best American Series each year, this years editor of the American Essays, David Wallace Foster, is a writer I don't particularly care for. Truthfully, I think his writing is on a different level than most. He is extremely smart, and very witty. Stylistically, he writes like the whole universe exists purely so we can read his words. And that's basically what I dislike about him. I don't really care for ...more
Mike
Picked this up dirt cheap at Powell's back in February and finally read it. Mainly was interested in DFW's introductory essay, but I wound up very much liking some of the selections and reading the anthology cover to cover. The essay "Operation Gomorrah," which is about the Allied firebombing of Hamburg in World War II, inspired me to pick up about five extra copies of the book to share with friends.

The other balls-out stand-up essays in the book are "Shakers" by Daniel Orozco, and "In the Mosqu
...more
Joseph
Best of the Best

David Foster Wallace's introduction is even more poignant and reflective about our culture after his passing earlier this year.

Danner's essay on the Iraq war is a complex, nuanced, insightful look at the reasons for going to war and the reasons the public was told that the US was going to war.

Keizer's essay on gun rights / violence didn't necessarily change my opinions on the issue but did help me empathize with the other side.

Lahr's essay about stagefright is anecdotally amusing
...more
Chris
I thought the first half of the book (the 11 essays ending with Louis Menand's) was mediocre and probably worthy of 2 stars. I thought the second half of the book (the 11 essays beginning with Daniel Orozco's) was excellent and probably worthy of 4 stars. So, as a result, this book gets 3 stars from me.

Being someone who isn't afraid to quit a book after 100 pages or so, I was surprised by DFW's decision to put the best 11 essays at the end of the book and the worst 11 at the beginning. I mean, I
...more
Kate
May 03, 2008 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ye civic-minded citizens of the U.S.A.
I'm about halfway through David Foster Wallace's 2007 essay selections. Sometimes I feel as if I'm reading the Sunday paper--opinion pieces about torture and war, pedophilia and dog hypnosis. My mind reels and it's a slow journey. An afternoon of WWII bombings sent me on a week-long hiatus, for example. But this collection suits me, too. After reading _The Kitchen God's Wife_ and basically hating it, I've been trying to understand the nature of violence. In his intro, Wallace describes the essay ...more
Rob
holy disappointment. i love DFW, so i picked this up. i read his introduction and 9 of the 22 "essays". his intro was vintage DFW. the best thing in the book. great. hilarious, insightful, perceptive, informative. so imagine how excited i was to read 22 essays that this master essayist said he "envied" because they did things with language that he "only wished that he could do".

of the 9 that i read, the first "essay" in the book, Werner, was by far the best. five stars. the only thing is that if
...more
Robin
A solid collection of essays. Favourites include Werner, What the Dog Saw, Petrified, and Rules of Engagement.
Karen
Feb 05, 2014 Karen added it
I like to keep editions of this series around in the guest bedroom for sleepless nights and random perusal. I never read the whole thing, as there are always topics that don't interest me or writing styles that don't appeal. This one seems to be full of Bush/Iraq stuff that might have been engaging at the time but I think I will skip them as I am still weary of war talk.
David
I really enjoy this series, as it was introduced to me many years ago. If I see one I haven't read, I will give it a shot.

I didn't love this one.

Usually the focus of these works, as chosen by a guest editor, is on writing that is beautiful, moving, it has some big revelation to be obtained.

This isn't the route Wallace took. The essays he chose are not bad, but they're not what a typical Beat American Essay reader looks for.


First, most of the articles are political in nature. The topics of tortur
...more
Will
bought it for the intro, which was very good.

essays of note:
-Mark Danner's "Iraq: The War of the Imagination," Elaine Scarry's "Rules of Engagement" and Phillip Robertson's "In the Mosque of Imam Ali" are excellent looks at wartime from different angles.
-Garret Keizer's "Loaded" is a funny and profound defense of gun rights
-Daniel Orozco's "Shakers" and Richard Rodriguez's "Disappointment" are both set in California
-Mark Greif's "Afternoon of the Sex Children"...once you get past the title it's
...more
Jeff Lacy
David Foster Wallace has chosen a wide range of subjects to include in the 2007 edition of Best American Essays. There are essays addressing the important issue of torture, a great informative piece on how a dog whisperer gets control of disobedient dogs, an interesting essay on stage fright suffered by stage actors, an insightful and honest essay that speaks the truth into the crowd that physical and mental change is inevitable despite one's efforts counter them. The most creative was the essay ...more
Nick Fagerlund
Jun 28, 2008 Nick Fagerlund rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: essay eaters
Every once in a while, I get a powerful urge to read a _whole bunch_ of really good essays. The form fascinates me, and I love that the blogging revolution has kicked off a new golden age for it. But the thing about blogs, even the best ones, is that they're more or less uncurated, and the best treasures drift through the feeds with no more fanfare than the clicks and hisses of daily life do. It's not a good medium for bingeing. Thus, the only thing to do when the hunger hits is to hole up with ...more
Chris
In lieu of a traditional composition reader, I decided to trust my students to know what to take from these essays to improve their academic writing and what to leave. I started reading the collection in preparation for the class on September 3. On September 12, when I was about halfway through guest editor David Foster Wallace's introduction, he took his own life. It was at least a week or two before I was able to return to the collection, feeling spooked and sad to realize this was probably on ...more
Tiffoknee the 3rd Conner
Feb 19, 2009 Tiffoknee the 3rd Conner marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: Essay lovers . . . where you at?
I'm addicted to this series. While the writing is not always nearly as ambitious as I would like it to be, there is usually an essay or two which stops me dead in my tracks and leaves me wanting. I find it's a nice way to discovery new, emerging essayists, and go out and read more of their work.

Here's an excerpt from one of the essays I finished recently:

"That was a time when you still heard people whistling everywhere, in hospital corridors and buses, in workplaces and on the street[ . . .] It
...more
Andrew
this collection was okay. wallace's introduction was probably the most entertaining. the intro speaks of his (in his opinion) really useless job. he chooses essays he liked from a stack of finalists, is pressured by the series editor (who clearly had an anti-bush/anti-torture agenda) to include some essays that wallace may not have put in if left to his own devices.

of the essays he mentioned in the intro,
werner
iraq:the war of the imagination
a carnivore's credo
what should a billionaire give - a
...more
Arpita
Of the Best American collections I have read, this one is my least favorite. Wallace describes the mission of this collection in arguably the best essay of the book, which is ironically the introduction. He states that the essays above all have taught him "how to think" in this world. Though admirable for its ambition, many of the essays are more successful at fulfilling an agenda than at evoking a range of emotions within the reader. The words Iraq War, torture and liberal feature many times, s ...more
David
A typical anthology in this series has about two dozen essays and merits a 3-star rating. This book is no exception. With essays by Ian Buruma, Malcolm Gladwell, Cynthia Ozick, Marilynne Robinson, Richard Rodriguez, Elaine Scarry, Louis Menand, John Lahr, Peter Singer, Edward O. Wilson, and an introduction by David Foster Wallace, there is no shortage of big-name contributors. Unfortunately, name recognition doesn't always guarantee quality and, for me, the gems in this collection came from auth ...more
Elizabeth
I'm loving this so far...some years of these collections are stronger than others, depending on the editor, their approach and their agendas. David Foster Wallace's introduction is a pleasure to read in itself, and one of the best, if not the best, intros to this series I have read.

Some highlights to this point:

There's an essay about California and about writing about California, called "Disappointments" by Richard Rodriguez that I wanted to argue with and agree with all at once. I want to rea
...more
Jessica
The "more matter, less art" edition of this series, DFW chose more pieces of investigative journalism than anything else. There's nothing wrong with that, but perhaps another series titled "Best American Investigative Journalism" or "Best American Political Manifestos" could be initiated? I hate to take on DFW at this date, but his assertion in the introduction, essentially that memoir/personal essays are uninteresting in a time of war, is just wrong. It was precisely a lack of understanding of ...more
Frank
In his editor's introduction, David Foster Wallace notes that most people he knows treat these anthologies like Whitman Samplers. It's an apt comparison, and this volume offers a particularly tasty and substantive collection of treats.

Wallace believes that the U.S. is in a state of emergency--that, for example, "There is just no way that 2004's re-election could have taken place ... if we had been paying attention and handling information in a competent grown-up way." His selections for the boo
...more
Mary Jo
i did not initially like the foreword by David Foster Wallace, it reminded me a little of Dave Eggers at his most egotistical, but i might go back and try to read it all the way through seeing that David Foster Wallace so recently passed. I have skipped some of the essays I am not into - you know torture, iraq, mel gibson, sex and children in the same story. Some of the other essays are really good - the first one, Werner, starts quick and kept me interested. Fathead's Hard Times was good and on ...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
Of course, the intro essay was fantastic and, in spite of his self-deprecating comments to the contrary, one of the best parts of the book. It makes me even madder at DFW for killing himself. Such a loss to all of us. He talks about how the best essays help us make sense of the glut of information that surrounds us, that somehow add to our understanding of the world rather than just our information about it. The first essay, Werner, about a man who escapes a fire, was absolutely amazing. So, in ...more
Christy
I picked this up because I [heart] David Foster Wallace. However, I think that after attempting to read both the 2006 and 2007 editions of this series, I must conclude the the series editor is to blame for the overall bland feeling of this collection. I read about three quarters of the essays, and not much stuck with me at all. I did enjoy and recommend Peter Singer's contribution; it made me re-think the efficacy of charity. I also really liked the New Yorker piece about Cesar Milan, but since ...more
Michele
These "Best American" books are usually good reads, and this one is no exception. A broad range of essays this year, some literary, some political, some personal.

As always, the selection is slanted toward the bias of this year's editor, David Foster Wallace. But in his (really good!) introduction, he admits this and then, without apology, the book goes on.

There are several essays about the war in Iraq and Afganistan, mostly leaning on the "against" side of things, but there are also many essays
...more
Steven
Notable essays:
Wallace's introduction, which could've served as a notable essay for the 2008 edition
Ian Buruma's "The Freedom to Offend"
Mark Danner's well crafted "Iraq: The War on Imagination"
George Gessert's "An Orgy of Power"
Malcolm Gladwell's "What the Dog Saw"
Mark Greif's "Afternoon of the Sex Children," which was strong until its flagging end
Garret Keizer's "Loaded"
John Lahr's "Petrified"
Louis Menand's "Name That Tone," which has a good ending
Elaine Scarry's philosophical "Rules of Engagem
...more
Bmac
Jo Ann Beard. Werner
Ian Buruma. The Freedom to Offend
Mark Danner. Iraq: The War of the Imagination
W. S. di Piero. Fathead’s Hard Times
George Gessert. An Orgy of Power
Malcolm Gladwell. What the Dog Saw
Mark Greif. Afternoon of the Sex Children
Marione Ingram. Operation Gomorrah
Garret Keizer. Loaded
John Lahr. Petrified
Louis Menand. Name That Tone
Daniel Orozco. Shakers
Cynthia Ozick. Out from Xanadu
Molly Peacock. Passion Flowers in Winter
Phillip Robertson. In the Mosque of Imam Ali
Marilynne Robinso
...more
Chisho1m
Nov 24, 2007 Chisho1m rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: DFW completists
I wasn't that taken with DFW's intro, which, like a lot of his "Lobster" material, reminded me of earlier Wallace, pretty much the same way "Darjeeling Limited" reminds me of earlier Wes Anderson.

And although I suppose I buy his rationale for including quite so much political material--the collection does end up feeling very much "of the times"--I wish there'd been more emphasis on "Best" and ""Essays," rather than "American" and "2007" (by which we seem to mean 2006). To be fair, I'm not sure w
...more
Rustam
A great bunch of essays edited by one of my favorite writers.

Highlights:
"Loaded" by Garrett Keizer. An essay defending gun-ownership in the context of the current state of American politics: mid-Iraq War, and mid chipping-away-at-yer-Bill-of-Rightz. An incredibly pressing yet nuanced call-to-arms.

"Shakers" a really neat "essay" on the in-real-time phenomena of earthquakes.

"Afternoon of the Sex Children" an at times rambly, but challenging essay about Lolita-esque representation of sex in pop cul
...more
Ryan
Inarguably a terrific resource for anybody who enjoys reading/writing essays. Thought this year's collection selected by David Foster Wallace seems to favor what might be called "the traditional essay." Many of them are a bit didactic instead of engaging with personal experience. Which is fine. But difficult for me to connect to--and that's my bias, I know. Ends up seeming as if DFW was trying to make a statement with his choices...

But, these were favorites: "Werner" by Jo Ann Beard, "Afternoon
...more
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David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it fe ...more
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