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The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 1

(The Best Creative Nonfiction #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  362 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Lee Gutkind, proclaimed the "Godfather behind creative nonfiction" by Vanity Fair, along with the staff of his landmark journal Creative Nonfiction, has culled alternative publications, 'zines, blogs, podcasts, literary journals, and other often overlooked publications in search of new voices and innovative ideas—essays and articles written with panache and power."The ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton Company
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Jan 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Sometimes I get bored reading nonfiction- but this book lived up to its name. I really enjoyed Eula Biss' "The Pain Scale" (comparing her experience of chronic pain to the numeric "pain scale" they use to quantify pain in medical settings), Rebecca Skloot's "The Truth about Cops and Dogs" (her investigation into a pack of abused wild dogs that tore her pet dog to pieces and terrorized her Manhattan neighborhood), and Heather Sellers' "Tell Me Again Who Are You?" (describing her attempt to be ...more
Dec 04, 2008 rated it liked it
Spotty quality here, but the great essays make up for the less successful ones. If you were to do an accounting:

Total number of pieces: 27
Excellent enough to redeem the whole: 6
Quite good but could have been better/more depth: 4
Skipped after 1-2 pages due to being bored: 7
Skipped after 1 page due to it being about death: 2
From blogs;worthwhile: 5;2
Non-traditional style, successful;unsuccessful: 3;2
Almost loved until it was ruined by its conclusion: 1

I would have given this a 4 if it weren't for
Feb 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
I may never finish this book. I'm reading, savoring little by little, picking and choosing and digesting each piece. Enormously evocative.
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction17
Good collection of creative nonficiton pieces - as always some connect more than others depending on areas of personal interest and appeal, but even the ones that didn't speak to me as loudly were still quality writing. Looking forward to the the other two volumes in this set.
DNF I did not like the first six essays at all. There was nothing spectacular about any of them. Disappointing.
Dawn Meyers
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I flew through this book. There were a lot of really good reads in it. I highly recommend it.
Pam Laine
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, writing
A mixed bag. Some real gems amongst a fair amount of duds. My favorites: 'Mbriago and The Truth About Cops and Dogs.
Jun 10, 2008 rated it liked it
A mixed bag. The editor, Lee Gutkind, has clearly labored in assembling such a varied collection. The presentation is great: appealing and understated cover design, thoughtful introduction, etc. Gutkind subscribes to a notion that the most exciting writing comes from new faces, unafraid to push and even break down conventional notions of the form. There are no big names, and there shouldn't be: It's all about experimentation.

But as with most experiments, there are a number of duds, particularly
L. Alexandra
It is difficult to review a collection comprised of a genre rather than a theme, comprised of dozens of authors, rather than the renowned or requited works of one. Do you let your favorite stories, masterful and mindblowing, cast a halo around those that required sheer force of will to work through, or do you meet in the middle letting some of the gilt rub off the good for the sake of telling the truth about the bad? I chose to meet in the middle, in a very literal sense, giving this book three ...more
Ploni Almoni
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
A mixed bag, but some of it is truly excellent. Heather Sellers “Tell me again who are you?”; and particularly Karl Taro Greenfeld “Wild Flavor”.
Dec 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Stories in this anthology fall into predictable categories. The better, more coherent and structurally sound pieces are those selected from major publications ("The Truth About Cops and Dogs," from New York, "Wild Flavor," from Paris Review, "The Cipher in the Room," from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "What is the Future of Diagnostic Medicine," from Popular Science), presumably because such publications have editors with more exacting standards. Stories from small-circulation journals vary in ...more
Feb 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Abby by: Samantha
I finished this book while out of town and then immediately lent it to someone to read "The Pain Scale." So, I can't write the thorough review of it I wanted to, but will hopefully do so when I get the book back.

Overall the book was better than I expected, but uneven as compilations usually are. There were a number of gems, of which "The Pain Scale" (as mentioned below) was the best, plus a memoir of a high-class prostitute, a student seducing former professor story told in the form of a list, a
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
I received this book for Christmas and then read it in Puerto Rico. It was perfect for my short attention span on the beach.

North Pole, South Pole, Sea of Carcinoma was an essay written by Dev Hathaway about the last year of her life after receiving a diagnosis of renal cancer (a bad deal). I have always wondered what the patient feels, because I think the experience is often sugar coated or medicalized.

My favorite story in this book, by far, was The Truth about Cops and Dogs. It involves the
May 21, 2013 rated it liked it
I normally find reading or reviewing anthologies as tedious, because there is so much good mixed in with the bad. This particular anthology started off strongly, the stories in the beginning were beautifully written, the subjects were interesting and kept my attention. Towards the end of the book, I found the subject matter of the stories to be boring, and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Ever read something that someone wrote because they thought it would make them seem edgy or a more ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Creative non-fiction is one of my favorite genres to read and this book demonstrates why. While not every selection struck me, the whole book was worth it just for "North Pole, South Pole, the Sea of Carcinoma" by Dev Hathaway, a radiantly-written account of the author's last year of life. Reading this essay brought me psychically close to my own death, which felt a little frantic and important.

My other favorites were "The Pain Scale" by Eula Bliss, "Pimp" by Olivia Chai-Lin Lee, "The Answer
Being that I wanted an overview of current creative nonfiction, I thought this would be a good place to start. Published by the Pittsburgh literary journal of the same name, I found a good mixture of creative nonfiction styles and topics. A few of the essays I couldn't get into such as Biss's "Pain Scale," which I felt was a little melodramatic. I also found O'Donnell's "Consumption," while thought-provoking and engaging, maudlin. I did enjoy Lee's "Pimp," which is apparently part of a larger ...more
Aug 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
Reading anthologies, you're bound to enjoy some stories over others, but this batch was very disappointing. I would rate only about 25% of the stories worthy of "Best." I'm not a fan of stream of consciousness writing and/or poetic prose, and this book featured several pieces of that type.

Among the more enjoyable chapters were Carol Smith's "The Cipher in Room 214," Debra Marquart's "Chores," Eula Biss's "The Pain Scale," Rebecca Skloot's "The Truth About Cops and Dogs," and "Wild Flavor" by
Sep 04, 2012 rated it liked it
The genre of creative nonfiction was very interesting to me. I enjoyed the reporting and educational aspects that were delivered by personal stories. It was very interesting to me and I can tell how difficult to perfect. Some stories had more reporting while others were more personal. I learned a lot from some. Most were good and written in interesting ways, but some were very boring and hard to stick with.
Kevin Fanning
Nov 19, 2008 rated it liked it
A couple pieces were skippable, but most of it was really good. And I like that they pulled stuff from websites, not just journals. More of that! Awesome.

It was a little weird though, that the stories that first appeared online were printed here in a different (sans serif) font. What's that about? And also that the web stories weren't given an introduction like the others were. Maybe I'm still a little sensitive about second-class status, but still. It was a little strange and pointless.
May 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
A decent bus/break book. I did find a lot of the writing to be a bit dramatic (over-thought?) though. Possibly because a lot of it came from the memoir genre and it was a bit odd to be given snippets from random people. I go for memoirs when there is something specific about it, or the author, that I'm drawn to and I didn't find I was drawn to any of the included pieces, so that could be the issue.
Mar 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Anthologies are always kind of strange experiences because one piece might be the greatest thing ever, and the next one might leave me cold. This is no exception, but most of the pieces are pretty good. I think my favorite is the piece on James Frey; I'll probably even use that in classes, because he always, always comes up. I also like that they included some blog posts.
Jan 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, non-fiction
"Wild Flavor" by Karl Taro Greenfeld was, by far, the stand-out story of this compilation for me, but all of them were excellent and the pieces were very well spaced out--a short one here, following a long one, a funny and a slightly more serious one following that, etc. I can't wait to read the other volumes.
Sep 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I am one of the bloggers that appeared in the book...but I have to say that I really enjoyed the whole thing. I think that they did a good job at representing the genre...although I am curious to hear what other people think about how they offset the blogging pieces with a different type. I am on the fence.
Lee Kofman
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this anthology. I love how inventive the structure of the many included works there is and how many of them are really bordering on poetry. A great variety of topics too, including eating competitions, chronic pain and Italian migrants in the USA.
Oct 30, 2009 rated it liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed about half of the pieces in this collection, but the rest were mediocre and the editor's introductions to them were annoying. I'm glad to have read the book, but it's not one I'd buy.
Nov 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I bought this to entertain me during a four-day vacation; I finished it within the first plane ride. Obviously, I'm a big non-fiction fan, and the short stories in this book range from funny to terrifying to schmaltzy to heartbreaking. The best part? They're all TRUE.
Aug 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: recentlyread
I just finished this a day or two ago. It was actually really good. Tons of different and interesting topics. Some really pieces. Some were boring as fuck but most of them were pretty cool. I liked the style of the ones that were originally blogs the best but all of the styles were interesting.
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Pretentious people who pretend to like crappy writing
A lot of the essays were total pretentious crap, which really sucked because, due to my love of creative nonfiction and the beautiful, beautiful cover art, I had high expectations. Read The New Kings of Nonfiction instead. I promise, this isn't very good.
Sep 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: couldnt-finish, 2009
i liked what i read (everything but the last 2 bits) but it was the same sort of sensation i get from reading around on my rss feeds. i found myself turning to instapaper rather than to this and just got tired of carrying it around while looking at the exciting prospects on my reading table
Justin Feinstein
Aug 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Despite the occasional odd selection, this is an excellent anthology of contemporary creative nonfiction. Karl Taro Greenfeld's fascinating essay "Wild Flavor" makes it more than worth the price of admission.
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Lee Gutkind has been recognized by Vanity Fair as “the godfather behind creative nonfiction.” A prolific writer, he has authored and edited over twenty-five books, and is the founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction, the first and largest literary magazine to publish only narrative nonfiction. Gutkind has received grants, honors, and awards from numerous organizations including the National ...more

Other books in the series

The Best Creative Nonfiction (3 books)
  • The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 2
  • The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 3