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Arguably: Selected Essays

4.2  ·  Rating details ·  7,929 Ratings  ·  603 Reviews
The first new book of essays by Christopher Hitchens since 2004, Arguably offers an indispensable key to understanding the passionate and skeptical spirit of one of our most dazzling writers, widely admired for the clarity of his style, a result of his disciplined and candid thinking.

Topics range from ruminations on why Charles Dickens was among the best of writers and th
Hardcover, 816 pages
Published 2011 by Signal (first published 2010)
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Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
OK, so if (like me) you start this collection with the notion that there was something iffy about this Hitchens bloke -- I mean how can one dude's stuff be everywhere you look, Vanity Fair, Esquire, The Atlantic, all over the damned internet -- and he had that whole British obnoxiousness down to a T, and if you're predisposed to find a reason to dislike him, let me point you to the one demonstrably brain-dead essay of the hundred or so in this collection. It's on page 389, it's called "Why Women ...more

Barbarism is not the inheritance of our prehistory. It is the companion that dogs our every step.
(Alain Finkielkraut, quoted in Hitchens' Introduction)

Christopher Hitchens in 2007

4 1/2 stars


Christopher Hitchens doesn’t need much of an introduction. Just a few words here, condensed from the following Wiki articles: Hitchens, Political views and New Atheism.

He was born in England in 1949, died in the U.S. in 2011. Educated at Oxford, he moved to the United States in 1981, as part of an “
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, aere-perennius
“The people who must never have power are the humorless. To impossible certainties of rectitude they ally tedium and uniformity.”
― Christopher Hitchens, Arguably: Selected Essays


It is hard to not love Hitchens. Or hate him. God I miss him. He was one of those journalists and public intellectuals (yes, that is a tired phrase) that constantly made me feel I needed to up my game a bit. I would read a (no I will NOT use an) Hitchens article in Vanity Fair or Slate or about anywhere and realize that
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A Provocative Chest of Treasures
What Is As American as Apple Pie? [answer is be-low]
[updtd 5/4/17]

This is the cynosure of all essay collections. It's too bad that most of my goodreads friends will likely skip this review in its entirety (basing this guess on 17 likes in a couple of years and two improvements/updates).

In any case, I cannot find the right words to describe how much I love this book. I go back to it often to sharpen my thinking and writing and arguing skills. His wit was nearly as
Cora Judd
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
‘Arguably’ is great but it is not of the ‘god is Not Great’ genre; it's a choice selection of Christopher Hitchens’ own essays, and of a vaster scope than the global-fallout-from-religion that the 'god' title focuses on. (Although, a reader hungering for a Hitchens-style treatment of atheism in essay form can be repeatedly sated by his introduction to 'the Portable Atheist'.) It is riveting in just the same way, however, and the temptation to adopt Hitchens' lucid opinions as my own is also sim ...more
Nov 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
GAH! I can't look away from this cover that Goodreads provided. My copy of Arguably is plain, blinding yellow, which sometimes gives me a headache but at least it doesn't stare into my soul. I feel sorry for anyone who actually owns a copy with this particular cover of doom on it.

Before his death, I had a vague awareness of Christopher Hitchens, having read some of his contributions to Vanity Fair, but he never struck me as someone I should be paying close attention to until after he had died a
MJ Nicholls
A supersize blimp of prime Hitch. All the pieces in here are charged with an intellectual and polemical heft unlike what pours from most men’s brains. The opening batch ‘All-American’ contains the infamous ‘Vidal Loco’, a scathing and accurate takedown of the former master’s lapse into rambling crank. The literary essays in ‘Eclectic Affinities’ favour the British canon for their focus, however, the superlative takes on Rebecca West and Dickens make up for this clannishness. The finest polemical ...more

All American
--Gods of Our Fathers: The United States of Enlightenment
--The Private Jefferson
--Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates
--Benjamin Franklin: Free and Easy
--John Brown: The Man Who Ended Slavery
--Abraham Lincoln: Misery's Child
--Mark Twain: American Radical
--Upton Sinclair: A Capitalist Primer
--JFK: In Sickness and by Stealth
--Saul Bellow: The Great Assimilator
--Vladimir Nabokov: Hurricane Lolita
--John Updike, Part One: No Way
--John Updike, Part Two: Mr. Geniality
--Vidal Loco
Petra X
Oct 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Best, best, best book of the year.
A review to follow, probably next year!
Dec 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Hitchens, famously an atheist, famously a leftist accused of being reactionary, famously a man who writes, drank, and smoked nearly non-stop, famously a man now living on borrowed time with an incurable cancer stalking his days, is nobody’s fool, except, like the rest of us, perhaps his own. This elephantine book, some 750 pages, the size of a Collected Essays, is just his most recent output. Some essays were written and first published at the very end of the 90s but the vast majority of essays ...more
Let me begin my saying that I'm in love with Christopher Hitchens' brain, and have been so since reading 'Hitch-22' and 'God is not great.' So when I was in Bolen Books yesterday evening, perusing the new books that appear on the Man Booker Prize short list and the Giller Prize long list (plenty of tasty reading to come, there, as well), and I was arrested by Mr. Hitchens' stern demeanor. Needless to say, $40 disappeared from my bank account then and there for the work of this logophilic writer. ...more
Reading this book was like having a conversation with an insanely well-read, well-traveled, and well-spoken friend. Some of the essays I'd already read when they were first published, but many were new to me.

There were some definite serendipities, such as a run of essays on authors I too like very much (Waugh, Greene, Powell, Wodehouse, Nabokov), and some discussions that made me want to rush out and look again at others (I've only started the Flashman series, and he kept bringing it up). The po
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, my first of his, will stay with me for my remaining years. Be warned, this report may be lengthy. I tend to enjoy intelligent essays on topics with which I’ve wrestled (with my limited knowledge and far inferior intellect), especially when they are not aligned with my own. It may be the scientist in me that seeks out alternative views from my own (hopefully at least, I’m addressing my biases) and I knew that “Hitch” held at least one for me (his support of the US war in Iraq). Of cour ...more
Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Upton Sinclair, Vladimir Nabokov, John Updike, Hilary Mantel, Charles Dickens, Edmund Burke, Rebecca West, George Orwell, Jessica Mitford, Evelyn Waugh, Isabel Allende, Anthony Powell, Stieg Larsson--just to name a few of the authors whose work Hitchens reviews and discusses in this collection (Like Larsson, Hitchens is a feminist. Who would've thunk it? He doesn't say so, but it is all there, between the lines).

Boy was this man well-read. As you can probably tell
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Arguably," Christopher Hitchens' last book to be published before his death from esophageal cancer in December 2011, is largely a collection of book reviews written for "Vanity Fair," "Slate," "The Atlantic," "Foreign Affairs," "The New Statesman," "The Wilson Quarterly," and sundry newspapers here and in Britain. Most were written in the preceding ten years.

In its entirety, the book is a massive tribute to Hitchens’ eclectic erudition. The collection is a feast of brilliant, impassioned argume
Nov 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A line appearing somewhere near the midpoint of this collection of essays is revealing: “Stay with me. I've been doing the hard thinking for you.” Christopher Hitchens does a lot of hard thinking apparently; keep up if you can. This may suggest that considerable ego is involved, and given the author's reputation you can be sure that it is, but on display too is considerable erudition.

The book is composed of six sections roughly dividing the essays on theme. Most important for an understanding o

From deadly serious discussion of political martyrdom and suicide bombers ... to blowjobs: I honestly cannot think of another single non-fiction book I've encountered in all my days that contains such a range of sacred and profane, triviality and gravity as one human mind often does.

The full-scale electronic edition is almost as infuriating as Hitchens' views on Iraq; it's 750 pages of unindexed text, and the table of contents is impossible to scroll. (Or that might just be my [Kindle] Touch.)
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ever the contrarian, the late Hitchens was a member of that rare, dying breed of journalists/public intellectuals that managed to elicit some very strong reactions from all sides of the political spectrum. Especially in the later phases of his career, he regularly sought out - and indeed, relished - battle with whichever group that displeased him, liberals and conservatives alike. Everyone, or so it seemed, was at risk of being subjected to his savage criticisms at some point. Indeed many did, e ...more
Giant collection of Hitchens essays separated by category. Originally they appeared in many places, but chiefly Slate, Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, and other high-toned, high-paying markets. This was my first exposure to Hitchens. Top-rate mind on this guy, and a loss on the contemporary scene with his recent death. Lots of repeating tropes, such as the Middle East, Islamic fundamentalism, George Orwell (and specifically 1984, mentioned umpteen times), history, nationalism, politics, etc. The man ...more
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it

Brilliant, just brilliant.
Hitchens writes with such clarity, force and humour. There are about 100 essays in this compilation, mostly from the decade just before he died, and about half are book reviews. So it didn’t take a year read, thanks to some time off in NZ, but I did have to read the essays twice at least to allow full absorption by my tiny brain.

The range of topics is simply amazing, and I can do little more than simply list some of the more memorable ones so I don’t forget. The books
Sep 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book, arguably, is just right for the Kindle, in that it has very few typographical oddities (the footnotes can be counted on one hand), and weighs nearly as much as my computer. However, I carried it around for weeks, and feel that I've accomplished something.

All of these articles have appeared in print or online (and many, if not most, are still available there), so some tend to be more topical than others. Considering he writes a column for Slate once a week, it must have been hard to de
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: absolute, ebook
I'm redundant in writing this. My love for Hitchens is redundant by now. This tome of I have no idea how many essays of his, published in Vanity Fair, New Statesman and other magazines is a very good collection of (maybe) his finest journalistic pieces. To be fair, it's pretty useless to read it in one sitting. The ammount of references and crossings of a miriad of ideas plucked out of a million other different works is astonishing, and I wonder if Hitchens just has a super-human memory or a ver ...more
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is a delightful book, a wide sampling of Hitchens' thought. Although he is most renowned for his antitheism and fierce condemnation of all organized religion, he reveals himself to be a very entertaining and extremely well-read thinker.

Comes in a bit short at a page shy of 750. I'd love to talk more with this man, fiery and funny as he may be.
Sep 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Funny how in a book you didn't particularly enjoy reading (I'll explain) you find a super quote, so perfect that you become obsessed with for days in a row. Check it out: "A point, like a joke, is a terrible thing to miss."
I was so enthusiastic with this point of view discovered in the first pages of this enormous book that I kept reading for a while before acknowledging that it's pointless to continue in a systematic manner and I began browsing and skipping.
The journalist's work is condemned t
May 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
I read the first quarter of this book, and, despite finding it very well written, I don't think so many people would have bought it had it been written by someone other than Hitchens. Hitchens' work has spawned a particularly rabid pedigree of fans who will happily devour anything he offers, regardless of topic. I, not being a fan, was disappointed to find that the first half of this tome consisted mostly of one book review after another, and it often being unclear even as to what book Hitchens ...more
Jerry Delaney
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes, there are positions taken that will piss you off, no matter who you are or what your beliefs may be. But we are so seldom challenged these days because it is so easy to read, watch, listen to and Facebook friend only those who have the same opinions we do. Hitchens is bound to have some opinions you don't like, whether it's his strong support for the invasion of Iraq or his distaste for organized religion. Plus you know that he's smarter than you are, which is always annoying.
But what took
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I have finished this book, but I'm not finished with it. If you've read Hitchens, you know what I mean.
I don't think I've read any Hitchens before. I knew who he was, sort of, but really? I had no idea. Well-read, intellectual and articulate don't even come close - he was beyond each of those. He was astonishingly clever - and he knew it - but how could he not? He was arrogant and polemic, but justifiably so. I don't agree with all his opinions, but his logic and his writing are just so bloody impressive. I want to read more of his stuff. I want to meet him and have dinner with him and just sit t ...more
Dec 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Ah, these politically polarized days we live in. We are constantly fed the idea that we must accept one of two predigested slates of beliefs. If you're a "conservative", you must be pro-gun rights and anti-abortion. If you're "liberal", you must be critical of Christianity, but "culturally sensitive" enough to be tolerant of the worst excesses of Islam. No matter that the belief system you've been handed is often internally inconsistent. Just believe! No thought required! Pick up one of these si ...more
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Prose like Hitchens ? 3 24 Sep 06, 2015 03:46PM  
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  • The Meaning of Life
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Christopher Eric Hitchens was an English-born American author, journalist and literary critic. He was a contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, World Affairs, The Nation, Slate, Free Inquiry and a variety of other media outlets. Hitchens was also a political observer, whose best-selling books — the most famous being God Is Not Great — made him a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits. He was ...more
More about Christopher Hitchens
“Teasing is very often a sign of inner misery.” 25 likes
“The people who must never have power are the humorless. To impossible certainties of rectitude they ally tedium and uniformity.” 21 likes
More quotes…