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My Salinger Year

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  8,816 ratings  ·  1,200 reviews
Poignant, keenly observed, and irresistibly funny: a memoir about literary New York in the late nineties, a pre-digital world on the cusp of vanishing, where a young woman finds herself entangled with one of the last great figures of the century.

At twenty-three, after leaving graduate school to pursue her dreams of becoming a poet, Joanna Rakoff moves to New York City and
Hardcover, 252 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Knopf (first published March 1st 2008)
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Aeroman380 I read it on ebook from my library on overdrive.

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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  8,816 ratings  ·  1,200 reviews

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Julie Christine
If I had a category for Most Charming Read of the Year, there would be one entrant for 2014: My Salinger Year, Joanna Rakoff’s blithe memoir of her tenure at the Agency, the arch moniker she gives to Harold Ober Associates—one of Manhattan’s most venerable literary agencies.

I know, I know: the year still has many months and reads ahead, but I’m calling this one right now. My Salinger Year shimmers with Wilt Stillman Bright Young Things, and it's imbued with a Woody Allenesque-patina that warms
Helene Jeppesen
Sep 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm rating this book 5 stars well-aware that this book is not for everyone, which actually makes it a weird 5 stars for me. It is a very simple book, and I'm sure that not everyone is going to love its simplicity as much as I did. However, I always review books based on how I personally feel about them, and this one was perfection in my eyes.
This is a fictional piece of work based on facts. It's about Joanna Rakoff who, as a 24-year-old, obtains a job in New York at a literary agency. With time
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Vivid, precise, utterly absorbing. I was reading this as I made my son scrambled eggs this morning...I could not tear myself away. I loved the descriptions of the venerable agency's refusal to enter the digital age; I loved Joanna's vulnerability and youth; I love the descriptions of New York in the 1990s; I loved her awful, fake-Communist, arrogant boyfriend; I love imagining a boss smoking cigarettes in her large office; I love the way Salinger is at the edges of Joanna's story, and also centr ...more
Kim G
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
You've read this book before. Twenty-something girl from a privileged background (with an expensive but mostly useless private school degree) heads off to the Big Bad Apple, where she struggles with performing the basic functions of her practically unpaid but oh so glamorous job, realizing that her shitty boyfriend is shitty, and ruining her fancy shoes on the cold, hard streets. As it happens, this girl got to talk to J.D. Salinger a few times, which would have been interesting if more of the b ...more
Diane S ☔
Jun 02, 2014 rated it liked it
A fun and light hearted read about Joanna, who leaves her degree program and her college boyfriend, and finds a job with a literary agent. Simply called "The Agency, this is the agency that represents Salinger. Although she expects to find herself busy reading manuscripts, she instead finds herself typing letters on a typewriter and answering phones. Although this is the mid nineties, the office, or least her boss, defies technological advances in favor of the archaic way the agency has always r ...more
Much to my surprise, I loved this book. It captures what it's like to be young and directionless in New York so well. Granted, I never lived in Brooklyn with my faux-Communist boyfriend or walked in on a roommate shooting up, and I've only been to one NYC party that could have been featured on Girls - but somehow, I really connected with Joanna and was completely drawn into her story.

The best memoirs read like novels, and that's true of this book too. I loved the writing and the narrative (how y
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
My Salinger Year is a book in the vein of The Best of Everything: a book ostensibly about publishing that is really about being young and wanting to do something larger than what's available to you--but wondering if that is the right decision to make.

Rakoff's book took me right back to my first few years working in publishing. Her descriptions of the time and place are perfect. I visited that Williamsburg apartment! I know that agent who wouldn't allow computers in the office! It all rings incr
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A love letter to literature and New York, clear and candid self-exploration, funny and moving at the same time... This memoir is really special to me. It may not be the page-turning, stay-up-all-night-to-finish story, but Joanna Rakoff's writing draws me into her world in a rare soothing way, like how cuddling up with a blanket in front of a fireplace during a New York winter would be like. Although I've never experienced either winter at home, a fireplace warmth, or even New York. But I'm prett ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The very first thing I did upon closing the last page of this excellent book was to go to Amazon and wish list Franny and Zooey – a book I’ve been meaning to read for years. My Salinger Year made me understand – all over again – why J.D. Salinger was such a phenomenon…”because the experience of reading a Salinger story is less than reading a short story and more like having Salinger himself whisper his accounts into your year.”

But make no mistake, this book is not about J.D. Salinger. Not really
(3.5) First of all: this is a memoir. This might seem like a fairly obvious fact given that the blurb clearly says it's a memoir, but somehow, until I read the author's introduction, I remained convinced that it was at least partly a fictionalised version of reality. In a way, I was right. While it's autobiographical, it is written in a very novelistic style.

My Salinger Year is Joanna Rakoff's account of her first job in a New York publishing agency. It's 1996, and the Agency (as it is always c
Sara Nelson
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there existed a world in which writers used typewriters, publishers and agents sent manuscripts (on paper!) via the U.S. Postal Service, and starry-eyed ambitious young people moved to New York to try their luck in the literary world. (Okay, so that last bit still holds true.) It was the late ‘90s when writer-to-be Joanna Rakoff got her first job in New York publishing as an assistant to the woman who represented the great reclusive author J.D. Salinger. I ...more
Aug 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2014, memoir
The big picture of My Salinger Year is an enjoyable read: Fresh from dropping out of Grad School, Joanna Rakoff moves to NYC, falls in love with an older, Socialist wanna-be writer, and lands her first grownup job. Over the next year, Rakoff is forced to examine who she is and who she wants to be, and like all of us, makes that painful transition into adulthood. Because the year is 1996, Rakoff is also able to capture a time right on the cusp of going digital -- which was particularly momentous ...more
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you've ever wondered what it's like to work in publishing, read this book. If you were young once but forgot what it's like to be overwhelmed by the force of your own dreams, read this book. If you are currently young, and you're wondering why you'd rather live inside a book than in the world, read this book. If you love J. D. Salinger or any writer to the point that you'd trust him or her to guard the lining of your soul, read this book. For, dear readers, this is an exquisite, brilliant, an ...more
“Salinger was nothing like I'd thought. Nothing. Salinger was brutal. Brutal and funny and precise."

Rakoff's writing is not earth-shattering, but enjoyable. How cool it must be to have a small piece of history with "Jerry," no matter how erratic and reclusive. This really makes me want to read Salinger again soon.
Jessica Woodbury
Oh, I am skimpy with 5 star reviews and I am not a big memoir reader. But I was so caught up in this book. For literature lovers it's a lovely and romantic look at the life of an assistant at a big literary agency whose boss represents J. D. Salinger. Even better, at the time Rakoff had never read any Salinger at all, so you get to see him through fresh eyes.

Her own life is a little lost. She has a boyfriend, Don, a socialist would-be novelist who is the kind of boyfriend you have in your early
Andrew Smith
I’ve read Catcher in the Rye several times, though not for a dozen or so years. I can't actually recall that much detail about the book, though it clearly made an impact on me. When he was very young, I bought a copy for my son to read – I stowed it away, knowing it would be essential reading for him at some point. So when I spotted this book and sensed an opportunity to learn more about the famously reclusive author it was a no-brainer for me, I had to read it.

Set in 1996, it's a memoir written
Julie Ehlers
There's no possible way I could've not loved this book, given its subject matter--by which I mean publishing, not Salinger. Still, even though I haven't read Salinger since I was a teenager, this book managed to bring back that feeling of being 13, looking at the first page of Catcher in the Rye and realizing I was about to read something unlike anything I'd ever read before. This memoir also made me want to reread Franny and Zooey--I was too young to really get it the first time around, and I k ...more
Diane Challenor
This is a very readable, entertaining and interesting memoir giving an intriguing window into J.D. Salinger and his work. I loved the writing style Joanna Rakoff used to share a year in her life working as an assistant at a literary agency in New York. It was very rhythmic and heart felt. I listened to the book as an audiobook; the narrator was the author; she did a really good job.

Because I edit and assist an author (J.A. Wells) publish his works, I have an interest in all the facets of publis
Book 7 of 2020 - My Salinger Year

My Salinger Year is actually the year 1996, and Joanna Rakoff has managed to bag a graduate job at “The Agency” - a literary agency whose most prominent clientele includes the titular JD Salinger. (I’m sure if you’re internet-savvy and care enough, it’s easy to find out The Agency’s actual name.)

It’s quickly apparent however (especially if you’ve read any of the top reviews for this book) that Salinger is only a peripheral figure here. He is a specter that symbol
Larry H
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read more fiction than nonfiction, but quite often when I read memoirs they tend to recount the challenges, tragedies, or dysfunction that the authors have experienced or overcome. That's one of the reasons I found Joanna Rakoff's My Salinger Year so refreshing.

In the late 1990s, Joanna takes her first "real" job post-graduate school, as the assistant to the main agent at a prestigious literary agency. For years, "the Agency" has been a lion in the literary world, represents some true legends,
Robin Black
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I devoured this in two sittings. The word that keeps emerging is "elegant" but that doesn't do the book justice, though it does describe both the beauty of the prose and the economy of the story-telling. Memoir, it details the year in Rakoff's life when she worked for a literary agent whose central job in life - central in many ways - was to represent JD Salinger. Rakoff, young, young, young, becomes entangled with this pursuit, fending off Salinger's fans which sometimes leads to their spewing ...more
Britta Böhler
Nov 20, 2015 rated it did not like it
I had such high hopes for this book, reading all the praise on goodreads, from readers whose opinion I value. But I just didnt like it. Probably because I expected something different, something less 'Sex in the City at a literay agency'. I was looking forward to reflections on Salinger's work but all I got was gossip. And lots of boyfriend-ex-boyfriend-stuff which just didnt interest me. And I felt the description of Rakoff's work at the agency was so repetitive that I was bored after a while ( ...more
Kris Parker
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
I did enjoy reading this book --It's set in NYC about the time I moved to NYC the first time (give or take a five years) and I took the same train, knew the same spots, recognized the same people, same lofts, same parties, same bars. And her office environment is fascinating (smoking! dictaphones!). But there were times when I thought this book was really less about her self discovery as a young person, and more about her expelling an arsenal of evidence against her boyfriend of the time--how sh ...more
Jun 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, non-fiction
I'm not a big Salinger fan so when Joanne Rakoff came to speak at a local bookstore I decided to skip it. DAMN!!! File this under Mistakes-I-Have-Made-Lately (a bulging file, I assure you.)

When I was finally convinced that the book wasn't about Salinger and decided to pick it up I loved it!! I don't know that I would call this great literature that will change your life but it's completely charming and thoroughly entertaining. Rakoff has a great voice and I could have read about her life experi
Francesca Marciano
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Loved it. This is the real story of Joanna Rakoff who worked for a year at the literary agency that represented J.D. Salinger. His presence/absence looms through most of this slim book. For the protagonist J.D.S. is just a voice at the other end of the phone (he does, though, make one single appearance) but the book is about much more than just that: life, being young, broke, shy, bright, being in new York in a special place at that special time when nothing is making sense yet but everything is ...more
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, adult
Salinger had not always been Salinger. Salinger had once sat at his desk, trying out what made a story, how to structure a novel, how to be a writer, how to be.

I think this book is ultimately for people who love J.D. Salinger, not just his work, but who he was as a person. It's not just a book you read because the synopsis sounds interesting, it's more than that. It's a book written for people who love books, for people who need to turn off the world sometimes, for people who are extremely lost
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Salinger was brutal. Brutal and funny and precise. I loved him. I loved it all."

After reading everything except Nine Stories and Hapworth in the past six months, I read Rakoff's My Salinger Year. Kind of appropriate to do so.

I grew obsessed with Salinger this year and this book portrayed all my emotions about him. The way she starts associating every incident with a Salinger story, yes, I do that too. I guess that's Salinger for you.
Clif Hostetler
Dec 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This is a novelized coming-of-age memoir of a twenty-four year old, fresh out of grad school, and landing her first job with a New York literary agency. The time is 1996 and businesses are learning to adopt the technology of the new information age. However, there's no new technology at the office of "the Agency" where she is employed. At her office there are no computers, everything is typed on the IBM Selectric, and the Dictaphone is used by her boss. One of her friends describes the work plac ...more
Publishing, books, life. It seemed possible to get one right. But not all three.”

I’ve hardly read any Salinger, but that’s okay – neither had Joanna Rakoff until about two-thirds of the way through her year working for the legendary recluse’s literary agency in New York City. One long weekend she gorged on his complete works and found – in a man she’d previously encountered only as a shouting elderly voice on the phone – a kindred spirit.

This was 1996, and Rakoff was 23 years old, living with a
May 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writers, biography
In the The Bell JarSylvia Plath told the story of women in publishing, 1950's style, personal and professional. In this book Joanna Rakoff tells the story, 1990's style, personal and professional. While their venues are different, both are overqualified glorified secretaries. Both are seeking love. Rakoff and her "suitors" have greater knowledge of one another, less parental interference, but not much more satisfaction.

Rakoff shines in her description of "The Agency" and its staff. More companie
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Joanna Rakoff's novel A Fortunate Age won the Goldberg Prize for Fiction, and was a New York Times Editors' Choice, an Elle and Booklist Best Book of 2009, and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Seller.

Her memoir, My Salinger Year, is a semifinalist in the 2014 GoodReads Choice Awards! You can vote for it here!

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“Writing makes you a writer,” he’d told me. “If you get up every morning and write, then you’re a writer. Publishing doesn’t make you a writer. That’s just commerce.” 34 likes
“So we’re all doing a pretty good job not revealing our emotions, right? But if you can’t reveal your emotions, how do you go on? What do you do with them? Because, you see, I keep crying at odd moments.” 13 likes
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