Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays” as Want to Read:
Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  3,179 ratings  ·  441 reviews
"[These essays] reflect a lively, unselfconscious, rigorous, erudite, and earnestly open mind that's busy refining its view of life, literature, and a great deal in between."
-Los Angeles Times

Split into five sections-Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling, and Remembering--Changing My Mind finds Zadie Smith casting an acute eye over material both personal and cultural. This
Paperback, 306 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Penguin Books (first published November 12th 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Changing My Mind, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Changing My Mind

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I'm going pop off this quick little salvo and then move on to other things. Zadie Smith never calls the novel dead in this book. She also never tries to bury the lyrically realistic novel, one gets the feeling that she enjoys the more experimental side of literature but she seems more to want both sides to be able to live, breathe and grow together. She never calls the novelistic form she works in antiquated. I don't think there was a poor reading done of her, I think there was a willful misread ...more
Since Mr. David Giltinan has already said everything I wanted to say about this book, plus a lot of other stuff I didn’t want to say but can certainly live with, please turn to his review now:

For my money—and that’s Canadian money, so beware: it’ll fuck up your gumball machine—Changing My Mind is notable for three pieces: "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men", a tribute to David Foster Wallace that’s so astute and generous that it’d almost be worth dying if

So there it is: Zadie Smith ties the brooding Karl Ove Knausgaard for Biggest Literary Obsession of 2013.
Why I have waited this long before getting to her work is a little baffling to me but she has been a force in my intellectual and imaginary landscape for some weeks now, never relenting, never weakening, only gaining in speed and strength, like a hurricane.
And obsessed I shall remain, especially after reading these essays which are as varied and wide-ranging as can be, crackling with wit an
As nearly every single review of Changing My Mind goes out of its way to emphasize, Zadie Smith is a smart person. A smart, smart, smart person. And in this collection of essays—which span from literature to cinema to autobiography and many places between—intelligence is on full display. But what makes Smith stand out from the vast majority of intelligent people who write today is that she has a knack for taking intricate theoretical issues and making them comprehensible for, well, if not exactl ...more
Of the fifteen essays in this collection, there is only one out-and-out dud (Zadie reports on the Oscar weekend). The rest range from good to amazing. Even the superficially unpromising pieces have something to offer. The final essay, an appreciation of David Foster Wallace, is altogether terrific. Her remarks about DFW's deliberate choice to make his writing difficult for the reader are smarter than almost anything else I've read on the subject. She obviously loves his work, but not to the poin ...more
Smith treats a plethora of subjects in this collection; praising Forster and George Eliot, arguing for the demystification of Kafka, illuminating the Black cultural idea of soulfulness, detailing and analysing her visits to Liberia and to LA for the Oscars; recalling episodes from her father's life, and passionately advocating an appreciation of David Foster Wallace.

I feel affection and empathy for Smith throughout this book, admiring her eloquence and sharing her literary and political sensibil
I gave Zadie Smith's book of essays three stars, instead of four, because it's clear she's still in the process of formation. There are two paths laid out before her, and two personae she adopts in these essays: the Public Intellectual/Star Academic/Writer, and the Reader/Writer.

The two roles are easily discernible as distinct entities in her writing, even as it's clear that they may not be so separate in her own mind. In her first role as Public Intellectual, she has pen, will travel, then writ
Jen Padgett Bohle
I've been daydreaming about Zadie Smith being both my professor and my best friend. We'd go for a sandwich in Camden discussing Jean Rhys or George Eliot and then recount the details of the latest Jud Apatow film and the handsome stranger over by the drinks...

What can’t this woman do? And with such charm and perspicacity! She was analyzing postcolonial literature and Zora Neale Hurston when I was still stuck on Sweet Valley High as a 12 year old. She really knows her literary shit. But I really
Karina E
3.5 stars. I wish I could have given it more stars but there were just some essays I, personally, didn't care about. My favorite parts were BEING and FEELING in their entirety, as well as, most essays from the READING section. I didn't care much for the section on movies and old Hollywood stars (even though her feelings for Katherine Hepburn accurately describe how I feel about Beyoncé haha) and the last 50 pages of REMEMBERING weren't able to capture my attention for long. I still recommend it ...more
Elli (The Bibliophile)
As with other collections, whether they be short-stories or essays, Changing My Mind contained selections that I loved, as well as sections I did not find as interesting. Despite this, I have to say this was a very good collection of essays! The essays that I liked, I really loved, and I didn't really dislike any of the essays in particular, I just didn't connect to the topics. Some of my favourite essays from this collection include
"Rereading Barthes and Nabokov," "That Crafty Feeling," Zadie
One of Ms. Smith's projects in this rather sprawling collection is an assembly of the disparate. That sounds Foucauldian and I think I am wide of the mark with my designation, but only just. Such strange pieces are collected between these soft covers and I remain on the margins of my wits to discern the "what for." It speaks of my amateur treatment of essays that I regard the value of such in its ability to persuade me to the author's perspective. By my metric the early essays were failures. I d ...more
MJ Nicholls

I love Zadie Smith. Her essays are so fluid and learned and passionate, so intimate and insightful and intelligent, how could I not love her? Among the pieces collected here include the moving "Dead Man Laughing" about her father (Smith comes from an atypical family background), a horrifying report on Liberian aid workers, and the dissertation "The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace."

Essential fodder for the passionate modern reader.
Before anything else is written, Chapter Seven "That Crafty Feeling", is perhaps one of the best essays regarding writing that I've ever read. "One Week in Liberia" gave me chills and the need to learn more about what kinds of progress are actually happening in Liberia. "What Does Soulful Mean?" is the love letter to an author I wish I could write. This collection was the bits and pieces of the world I hadn't thought about in too long, and it was perfect in that way.

In many of the reviews of th
Carrie Lorig
it's not imperative to read this book. but zadie smith is so wonderful. i want all of her super powers. it's such a pleasure to admire her. she's as humble as she is intelligent and able to engage in literature from many angles because of it. (she writes about kafka as effectively as she writes about tom mccarthy and joseph o'neill.) she's every bit the kind of dynamic woman she argues kat. hepburn was. plus, everything she says about 50 cent's movie is fucking weird and straight out of the blog ...more
Mary McCoy
Some of the essays in Changing My Mind made me want to pick up books I haven't touched since college. Others made me want to pick up a notebook and pen, or my copy of The Philadelphia Story, or the phone to call my parents and tell them I love them.

The thing that impressed me most about this collection is how nimble Smith's mind is, and how good she is of living up to the credo of E.M. Forster, one of her literary heroes: "Only connect." (There's a good essay about him in here, too.)

In one of my
Hannah  Messler
Oh, Zadie Smith. I wish this were a novel. But proofs of collections of essays are good for reading on the train when your home fiction book is a fat old heavy hardcover. And I see that you will be talking about DFW in the end! So . . . good.

Oh man! This was comPLETEly great. Zadie Smith is clever as a devil. And her memoriam to David Foster Wallace is beeaauuutiful.

Except some creepy asshole was trying to crush me into the dumpster with his giant behind while I was finishing the last page. Whi
Essay collections are difficult to rate. It's a given that some essays will speak more to some than others. An essay I find a witty and brilliant encapsulation of truth, you might find boring and obtuse. And in the same collection there will be pieces that bring me to tears with their insight and beauty and pieces that I can barely slog through. Zadie Smith is obviously well-read and thoroughly educated on a wide variety of subjects; she combines topics you never would have thought went together ...more
Zadie Smith is pretty damn smart, and has read widely and deeply from the Western Canon. In this collection of essays, she deals with some extremely important literary topics, some of which are very close to my own heart. (Note: I only skimmed some of the autobiographical essays and her short film reviews, and her lectures on the craft of writing. They are interesting but not nearly as interesting, in my opinion, as her literary criticism.)

One of her most touching and important essays is about Z
Picked up while browsing the Portland (Maine) public library, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays is, maybe somewhat strangely, my first introduction to Zadie Smith, whose fiction I have always heard all manner of raves about. But I was looking for something in a non-fiction narrative vein--seems to be the mood I am in right now--and a number of the essays in this collection seemed intriguing. I may not read the whole collection, but given the variety of subject matter that she covers, I think I ...more
In one of her essays, Zadie Smith discreetly mentions something about her husband. This was a wise choice, because after reading her prose countless men (and perhaps more than a few women) will have decided that this is the woman they want on the other side of their breakfast table. I found these essays a delight, even when she is discussing literature I haven't read (e.g. David Foster Wallace, Zora Neale Hurston and others), or movies I haven't seen. My favorite essay is about her family's come ...more
The essays collected by Zadie Smith in CHANGING MY MIND: OCCASIONAL ESSAYS are scholarly looks at authors (Iris Murdoch, E.M. Forster, Kafka, George Eliot, Roland Barthes, Nabokov) styles and contributions. An appreciation of David Foster Wallace's complexity in mind and writing is addressed after his suicide in 2008. Cultural icons (Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo) attract the author's insatiable curiosity. Even at 34, Ms. Smith wanted to take a second look at issues and ideas to evaluate her co ...more
Hermano Cerdo
Cambiar de idea lleva en su edición original el subtítulo "ensayos ocasionales". Con ello Zadie Smith indica que no hay en este libro una intención unitaria, como excusándose a sí misma desde el prólogo: estos textos "se escribieron para ocasiones concretas, para editores concretos" entre 2003 y 2009. Hay artículos para el New Yorker y The Guardian, tres conferencias, un prólogo, relatos autobiográficos y críticas de cine. Si creyéramos a la autora parecería que aquí no encontraremos más que fra ...more
Jack Wolfe
If "Changing My Mind" has a theme, it's multiplicity. The essays here are diverse as a collection-- there is both a trenchant, Joan Didion style piece of journalism on Liberia and a movie review suggesting that 50 Cent is the new Sidney Poitier-- and in themselves, with Smith often ceding the spotlight over to other voices, other perspectives. This generosity is Smith's great strength, I think (you rarely see writers this smart who are also this humble), but occasionally a bit of a handicap. The ...more
This book made me laugh out loud several times, and tear up just as often. Something special about reading the words of someone you admire when they are talking about things you love (Katherine Hepburn! Phillip Seymour Hoffman! Fawlty Towers! Buffy the Vampire Slayer! DFW!).
I fear that I'm not the marrying type. Maybe it's youth, or a certain disposition of mine, or numerous social aspects of marriage that make me hesitate to participate in it, but I can't really see myself walking down the aisle. At least not any time soon.

After reading this book, however, I'd like to propose to Zadie Smith. If these essays are any indication, Zadie (I feel as though if I'm going to ask for her hand in marriage, I may as well use her first name) seems exactly my "type" (to the ext
For Books' Sake
The essays in Changing My Mind cover delightfully random topics like a trip to Hollywood during Oscars season, the arduous process of writing a novel and why Date Movie is the worst film ever made.

This being Zadie Smith, the writing is an absolute joy to read. Every sentence is considered without sounding laboured. There’s genuine emotion but not soppiness. And her signature dry humour peppers every page. But entertaining as Changing My Mind is, it’s more than just a collection of musings and ha
Clare Herbert
I’m a big Zadie Smith fan. Every since my first greedy, rushed reading of ‘White Teeth’, I’ve loved her prose, her sense of a story, her impeccable eye for nuanced detail. Her work is among the best in modern literary fiction: energetic, precise and very readable.

This, her most personal book to date, is a collection of essays ranging from film reviews of Date Movie and Shopgirl (among others) to literary criticism of Barthes, Kafka and Forester. She explores Obama’s use of language, her childhoo
James Murphy
Changing My Mind is subtitled Occasional Essays. They were written on commission and for specific publications. For that reason, maybe, they sometimes lack fire. There are 5 sections of essays: Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling, and Remembering. I enjoyed the first, Reading, the most because I think in writing about such people as Forster or Kafka, or novels like Middlemarch, she has penetrating things to say and ways of seeing. Because she so enthusiastically experesses many things about reading ...more
Laura Lee
I am not giving this book a star rating. It comes down to one of those philosophical quandaries about book ratings. The only thing a person can truly rate is one's own relationship to a book. Yet the star ratings and often reviews tend to be taken as an assessment of the objective value of the book. So do you give a star rating based on how you responded to the book, did it give you 1 or 5 stars worth of enjoyment, edification, entertainment, thought or do you try to put aside your subjective ex ...more
Alyssa Udall
During my recent pillage visit to the Orem Public Library, I picked up a work of non-fiction along with my stack of 15 young adult novels: Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith. I had read Zadie Smith's On Beauty and some of her interviews online, so I knew this book would be good for me.

But, because this book is good for me (good to exercise my mind, good to get me out of the habit of reading through books in an almost semi-conscious state) I don't exactly like reading it. This boo
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Zadie on Katharine Hepburn 1 7 Jun 06, 2013 12:38PM  
  • The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000
  • The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.
  • The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
  • Otherwise Known as the Human Condition: Selected Essays and Reviews
  • Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays
  • Karaoke Culture
  • Art and Ardor
  • Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003
  • This Is Running for Your Life: Essays
  • At Large and at Small: Familiar Essays
  • Pulphead
  • Finding a Form
  • When I Was a Child I Read Books
  • Seduction and Betrayal: Women and Literature
  • The Fun Stuff: And Other Essays
  • The Common Reader
  • Both Flesh and Not: Essays
  • Sex and the River Styx
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...

Share This Book

“Nowadays I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own.” 62 likes
“It’s such a confidence trick, writing a novel. The main person you have to trick into confidence is yourself. This is hard to do alone.” 16 likes
More quotes…