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The Book of Other People

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  2,731 ratings  ·  371 reviews
A stellar host of writers explore the cornerstone of fiction writing: character

The Book of Other People is about character. Twenty-five or so outstanding writers have been asked by Zadie Smith to make up a fictional character. By any measure, creating character is at the heart of the fictional enterprise, and this book concentrates on writers who share a talent for making
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 2nd 2008 by Penguin Books (first published November 1st 2007)
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3.39  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,731 ratings  ·  371 reviews

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Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
From a simply statistical perspective, this one gets 2 stars from me. It's 23 stories, and after finishing them all, I can say there were only 7 that I really loved and would read again/recommend. They were:

1. "Judith Castle" by David Mitchell
2. "Frank" by A.L. Kennedy
3. "Lélé" by Edwidge Danticat
4. "Puppy" by George Saunders (which I think was a re-read for me)
5. "Rhoda" by Jonathan Safran Foer
6. "Soleil" by Vendela Vida
7. "Donal Webster" by Colm Tóibín

The rest weren't necessarily bad, but they
May 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
I so wanted to like this book. The concept is great - it's a collection of character sketches written by a host of terrific contemporary writers, brought together and sold to raise money for a children's arts charity in NYC. It's edited by Zadie Smith, who I love, and has stories by lots of writers for whom I eagerly await any new book they put out. BUT. This is just not a very good collection. Don't get me wrong, some of the character sketches were great and some were fun and some were thought ...more
Иванка Могилска
Тази книга я чаках с нетърпение, но нарочно я четох бавно. На ден - два по разказ с почивка между тях. Не исках в главата ми да става каша от образи, идеи, похвати, което винаги ми се случва, ако изгълтам бързо сборник с разкази. И не останах разочарована.

Интересно ми беше да сравнявам подходите на авторите, да човъркам кое как е направено и защо, как една история, раказана накратко, може да бъде извадена от битовизма, ежедневното, баналното и вдигната на по-високо ниво с няколко изречения. В т
Zadie Smith propuso una idea a varios escritores: invéntate un personaje. El resultado, la presente antología, ’El libro de los otros’. También hay que reseñar que los fondos obtenidos con la publicación de este libro están destinados a 826 NYC, una ONG dedicada a perfeccionar las habilidades lectoras y escritoras de niños y jóvenes entre seis y dieciocho años. Pero dejando este punto aclarado, los relatos incluidos me han parecido bastante decepcionantes. Nombres de relumbrón, la mayoría, que n ...more
MJ Nicholls
As other esteemed Goodreaders have opined, this anthology fails to deliver consistent excellence, despite the all-star cast.

The best contributions are from Hari Kunzru, Daniel Clowes, ZZ Packer, Chris Ware, Nick Hornby, Miranda July & Jonathan Lethem. These stories kept my arse welded to the chair, with zero distracted fidgety impatience.

The others are merely average: fragments, unfinished doodles or tossed-off oddities. Jonathan Safran Foer, hardly a prolific short story writer, seems to ha
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I like the concept, but stories themselves are a bit of a hit and miss, there are 1 or 2 interesting ones but the rest is pretty forgettable.
I really liked the concept of this - great author asks a bunch of other great authors to each contribute a fictional character sketch, leaving them to interpret that instruction however they wish, with proceeds going to charity - but while parts of it were excellent, most of it was hit-or-miss. I suspect different readers will enjoy different contributions, but for me, this was disappointing.
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
Anthologies are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get. Some pieces will be your favourite combination of ingredients, others will start off promising but leave a bitter aftertaste, while yet others might even trigger your allergies.
And now that I've milked this second-hand metaphor for all it's got, I'll mention the pieces I did like. A.M. Homes's "Cindy Stubenstock" is charming in its description of high snobiety. Miranda July's "Roy Spivey" is a cute little "what could
Feb 21, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: short-stories
This is a collection of short stories to benefit some young writers' program in NYC. I was drawn to it because of the Charles Burns cover-art and because one of my favorite comic book artists, Daniel Clowes, did a short piece for this book (disappointing) as did C. Ware (writer/artist of Jimmy Corrigan.) Three of the stories are written comic/graphic style and the others are just regular non-illustrated short stories. The title of each story is the name of a person (or animal/creature) as each i ...more
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
This mostly stellar collection of stories is made up of authors who were given one simple instruction: Make somebody up. It's a book of characters, a book of other people. I did only read half of the stories, but there's some serious good work over here by everyone I read.
First off, Charles Burns does the art on the front and back covers, and it's perfect. What's more, you get a hilariously depressing (what I think of as Clowes-ian) short comic about a film critic by Daniel Clowes, and a seriou
Христо Блажев
Книга за другите е многолика:

За мен в целия сборник, очаквано или не, се отличава Дейвид Мичъл (“Облакът атлас”, “Хилядите есени на Якоб де Зут”, “Слейд Хаус”) с чудесен трагикомичен разказ за жена, която най-сетне е открила мъжът на живота си и хич няма намерение да го пусне. Много добро впечатление ми направи и Джонатан Сафран Фоер (“Да ядеш животни”), който прави показно за къс разказ, в който се вмъква здравият разум на възрастта. Дейв Егърс (“Кръгът”
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
I borrowed (read: temporarily stole) this book from my best friend's bookshelf, because I've been eager to read it since it came out. Finally I get around to it and it's pretty much just as I was expecting - great, obviously, but not perfect. It is a short story book, edited by Zadie Smith, on the behalf of Dave Eggers' non-profit organisation that helps children with their reading and writing. The premise was that each writer would pen a short story piece on a character, whose name would become ...more
Jan 06, 2008 rated it liked it
From the literati club that is the Dave Eggers 826 empire comes this collection of short stories, written by authors for free to benefit 826 New York. The stories were written from the prompt that editor Zadie Smith basically describes as "create a character"-- and mixed results ensue. Smith's story, for example, is a mediocre effort about a father-son relationship that leaves much to be desired. Eggers goes mythical and writes about giants, while Vendela Vida, his wife, delivers straight up rea ...more
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable and a good book for summertime when you have ten or fifteen minutes to read here and there. Lots of well-known contemporary authors write short stories -- some just a few pages -- each focusing on a character of their choosing. The whole collection is worth reading, but if I had to pick my three favorites, they would be: "Thor" by Dave Eggers (writing about a sad giant); "Roy Spivey" by Miranda July (about a woman who sits next to a heartthrob celebrity on a plane ride); and "Pupp ...more
Jun 07, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Eugenie by: Jarrett
I most liked the pieces in this collection that were real stories rather than fragments. Despite the impressive cast of writers, too many of the pieces felt like obligatory, though inventive, answers to a character sketch assignment for a writing class. And I think it was just a coincidence, but most of them are pretty bleak. If you read just one, let it be Dave Eggers' achingly beautiful "Theo," about a lovelorn giant. Miranda July, Vendela Vida, and George Saunders also contribute sharp, poign ...more
Tattered Cover Book Store
This is an anthology that collects the works of some of today's coolest authors. Jonathan Lethem, Chris Ware, Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith, A.M. Homes, David Mitchell, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nick Hornby, and Z.Z. Packer all made contributions. I especially liked Mitchell's and Saunder's contributions. I must say, the fact that this is a collection of character sketches rather than short stories is
incredibly intriguing to me. Oh. The proceeds from the sales will be donated to that literacy center that
Jun 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good collection of short stories from an odd array of writers - picked it up and set it back down whenever I was done with a few each time. Nothing world shaking, but worth the time if you enjoy the people that were tapped to write for it (Zadie Smith being the draw for me, though most of the stories were fine enough.)
Jul 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I loved reading this book. There were many times through out this book where I stopped to re-read a sentence and soak it in because of it’s poetic nature. I loved the gathering of authors that contributed to this book, this book that focuses on character alone. Also another plus of this book is that some of the proceeds of the sale go to a children’s literacy fund in NY.
James Anderson
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable and filled with authors that I enjoy reading. There were a couple of stories I'd read in The New Yorker previously, but, instead of feeling like I was wasting my time reading them again, it felt like visiting old acquaintances.

This book is lovely and certainly worth reading even if you haven't heard of any of the contributors (but I bet you have.)
Mar 03, 2014 rated it liked it
There are a lot of stories in this book, I liked some more than others. My favourites were:

Judith Castle by David Mitchell
Justin M. Damiamo by Daniel Clowes
Gideon by Z.Z. Packer
Jordan Wellington Lint by Chris Ware
Roy Spivey by Miranda July
Cindy Stubenstock by A.M. Homes
Theo by Dave Eggers
Dec 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, owned
I enjoyed it quite a lot, more than I'd expected. Zadie Smith and Colm Toibin were particularly good, but I also enjoyed Adam Thirlwell, Miranda July, A. M. Homes and Jonathan Lethem.
I did not like the stories by Hari Kunzru and David Mitchell - they felt gimmicky and cruel.
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
gets four stars because there are some 2 and some 5 star stories in the collection. but it's more than worth a read, if only to give a clue to some authors that you haven't read yet...
Jan 04, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed but didn't love most of these. But, the ones I loved made reading the whole book worthwhile.
May 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
best story in this book...magda mandela by zz packer...i read it about 9 times this weekend and i never do that
Rebecca Rosenblum
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wrote a review of this one on my blog--
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
Talk about an anthology of stories by snobby hipsters. The only thing truly wonderful in this book is the story by Chris Ware, but mostly they are stuffy overwrought pieces that fail to deliver.
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Judith Castle" by David Mitchell
"Justin M. Damiano" by Daniel Clowes
"Frank" by A. L. Kennedy
"Gideon" by ZZ Packer
"Gordon" by Andrew O'Hagan
"Hanwell Snr" by Zadie Smith
"J. Johnson" by Nick Hornby with Posy Simmonds
"Lélé" by Edwidge Danticat
"The Liar" by Aleksandar Hemon
"Jordan Wellington Lint" by Chris Ware
"Magda Mandela" by Hari Kunzru
"The Monster" by Toby Litt
"Nigora" by Adam Thirlwell
"Judge Gladys Parks-Schultz" by Heidi Julavits
"Puppy" by George Saunders
"Rhoda" by Jonathan Safran Foer
Oct 28, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, short-stories
The Book of Other People contains 28 short stories, created to fulfill a very simple assignment – write a story about a character. This can mean pretty much any kind of story, and the ones in this collection are indeed diverse, from monsters to quite regular citizens, expressed in different ways like illustrations and traditional prose. My enjoyment differed much too. Some pieces I couldnt get anything out of, most I thought were okay and none evoked any higher praise than quite good. It was how ...more
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
This year was to be my year of short stories so I grabbed this one. I like Zadie Smith. More than half of these should have been returned to contributor with the note “you clearly did not take this exercise seriously.” Nick Hornby's seemed like it was written 5 minutes before a deadline.

But some good’uns! I’m usually immune to Colm Toibin but I enjoyed his contribution. Same with Jonathan Safran Foer. Others are reliably good: Edwidge Danticat, George Saunders, Zadie Smith herself.

I don't regre
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018
This short story collection was just OK.

I was intrigued by the cover at my local library (I know, I know, never judge a book by its cover... but I do), and liked the idea behind the author's forward.

The stories themselves were all very different ranging from typical short stories to an out there comic. They were also hit or miss for me. I did not end up really reading them all, but read enough to consider this book "finished".
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This book is not by Zadie Smith. 2 41 Aug 24, 2012 03:48PM  
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Zadie Smith is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, and NW, as well as a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. Swing Time is her fifth novel.

Visit for more information.
“It wasn’t any one writer or article he was worried about, but the font. The meaning embedded, at a preconscious level, by the look of the magazine; the seal, as he described it, that the typography and layout put on dialectical thought. According to Perkus, to read the New Yorker was to find that you always already agreed, not with the New Yorker but, much more dismayingly, with yourself. I tried hard to understand. Apparently here was the paranoia Susan Eldred had warned me of: the New Yorker’s font was controlling, perhaps attacking, Perkus Tooth’s mind. To defend himself he frequently retyped their articles and printed them out in simple Courier, an attempt to dissolve the magazine’s oppressive context.” 1 likes
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