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All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,982 ratings  ·  279 reviews
From columnist and critic Alana Massey, a collection of essays examining the intersection of the personal with pop culture through the lives of pivotal female figures - from Sylvia Plath to Britney Spears - in the spirit of Chuck Klosterman, with the heart of a true fan.

Mixing Didion's affected cool with moments of giddy celebrity worship, Massey examines the lives of the
Hardcover, 244 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Grand Central Publishing
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Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hmmm. On the whole, I appreciated the intelligence of these essays and there are some incredibly sharp turns of phrase throughout. I kept wanting more from the essays--more depth, mostly. Too many of the essays felt like a good start to something that demanded longer, more complex treatment. The range of pop culture addressed here is really great. And the author's obsessions come through clearly, which is also something I like. I enjoy knowing what a writer cares about the most. ...more
Diane S ☔
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: lor
3.5 I had a decidedly mixed reaction to these essays. I am and am not the ideal target reader, as a woman I four d them interesting, but I have never been the type, not even in teen years, to idealize nor base my perception of life on the famous, or infamous. Still I did like some of these much more than others. Some I understood the message was not familiar enough with the subjects, such as Fiona Apple or Little Kim. The essay on Sylvia Plath was very interesting. The cult of followers that she ...more
Nat K

"Sisters are doin' it for themselves
Standin' on their own two feet
And ringin' on their own bells…”

- Words and music: Annie Lennox & David A. Stewart
- Vocals: Annie Lennox & Aretha Franklin

My head hurts from reading this. It’s that good.

Do I want to live other people’s lives? Probably not. Do I like to read about them? Yes. Do I imagine what they’d be like? Often. The cover is why I bought this book. I can be that shallow. I admit it. I’m attracted to pretty, shiny things. And the title is ca
Once, for my birthday – I can't remember which one, some late-teens birthday – I asked for just about every book I'd been able to identify about the Smiths and Morrissey. Family and friends dutifully bought them; on my birthday, I unwrapped a pile of thick biographical paperbacks. And I never read a single one of them. I'm not sure I even opened some of them. They sat and gathered dust until I sold them on eBay years later. The one Smiths book of mine that ended up being-well thumbed was The Smi ...more
A smart book about the intersections of pop culture and our personal lives. In this sharp set of essays, Alana Massey dissects and reimagines some of the most talked about women of our time: Lana Del Ray, Courtney Love, Lil' Kim, Britney Spears, Joan Didion, and many more. Her analysis delves deep into the double standards we create for women even when their male counterparts mess up over and over again, the racism that musicians like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift have wielded against artists suc ...more
Corey Kindberg
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
While many authors have tried to make the case for the coexistence of high and low-brow art as equally important in public consciousness, I have never seen it done so seamlessly and with such good humor as in All the Lives I Want. Massey doesn't belabor the point that Britney and Anna Nicole have profound significance to culture or struggle to argue that Joan Didion is relatable. Her confident prose makes it clear that she doesn't have to over-explain these points, and her style and research ren ...more
I read the first three essays in this book, which were about Gwyneth/Winona, Britney Spears, and Amber Rose. I really liked the concept, but the essays were ham-handed and read like a college senior's gender studies paper. It seems like Massey has some interesting stories to tell that didn't need to be filtered through celebrities. When she tries to, you end up with the mess of the Gwyneth/Winona essay, which attempts to make a redemptive arc for Winona Ryder by describing her in a Rag & Bone ca ...more
Sam Escobar
Dec 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've loved Alana Massey's writing online for a long time, and All the Lives I Want does not disappoint whatsoever. I realize how cliche this sounds, but it genuinely did make me laugh and cry throughout, which was therapeutic — I hadn't read a book in a while (for a slew of embarrassing as well as less-embarrassing reasons), so it was a solid catharsis to have my first after a long break be so energizing.

It doesn't matter if you consider yourself "not the kind of person who cares about pop cultu
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A stunningly frank and insightful collection of essays centered around famous (or infamous) women that tell the tale more of the author herself. Th essays cover topics of body image, the "crazy ex-girlfriend" trope, and general vilification or celebration of women by the public.

All the Lives I Want is well-written and sharp-witted. Focusing on famous celebrities, authors, and other female figures, the author delivers sharp commentary on aspects of how it is to live as a woman in a society where
Karen Germain
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Thank You to Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a copy of Alana Massey's, All The Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen To Be Famous Strangers, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- In her essay collection, All The Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers, Alana Massey explores female icons, and their role in popular culture. She looks at how these celebrities influence us, and how society molds them, making the idea of celebrity a
Almost there but not really there.

I liked the concept for the book. While I am not big on pop culture it was great getting some history and tidbits about certain celebrities eg. The Olsten twins were selected for their roles because they didn't cry during auditions.... Crazy right...

So yes, I liked the concept explored I just felt Massey had really great notes that needed to be developed further. It's like being given a really great trailer to a movie that didn't deliver. Overall an ok read tha
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved these essays. Some felt a little short -- my favorites were definitely the longest ones, which also tended to be the ones that folded in the most memoir-ing. The most personal essays were mostly heartbreaking, in a great way.

I love that "pop culture analysis w an emphasis on how the patriarchy has fucked over famous women" is increasingly a genre of its very own.

Ps. Ban men.
Suzan Eraslan
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
There are tens of thousands of essays on women and celebrity in the world, and yet Alana Massey manages to cut a path perpendicular to this well worn road. Bypassing the traditional sociological analysis of the influence these women and girls have on our culture, Massey examines how our culture influences them. In “There Can Only Be One,” she litigates the media-created feud between Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim as the product of cultural misogynoir that will only “allow” one tough and sexy Black wom ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a solid book of essays about important female celebrities, largely from the past 30 years or so. I love getting a peek into other people's fandom and reading analyses of the public figures they obsess over, partly because it makes me feel like I'm not crazy for obsessing over famous strangers. Massey keeps it interesting even if you know nothing about the people she's talking about.

My favorite essay was the last one, "Emparadised". I feel Massey's writing is at its best here, particular
Arianna Rebolini
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, newsletter
I know I'm biased as someone who knows and loves Alana Massey, but the only reason we ever met was because of her work — work which has moved me, consistently, for over two years now. This book is no exception. Like Massey herself, the collection is almost impossible to categorize, moving seamlessly from fresh (really, truly fresh!) and incisive cultural analysis, to brutally honest confessions, to joyful and often hilarious celebration. I saw bits of myself in this book, but also — and more com ...more
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a beautiful read. The essays in this collection are as intelligent and thought-provoking as they are accessible. I have long been simultaneously infatuated with/afraid of the complex, difficult, and hard to define (in myself and mirrored back to me by other women), and this book was a fascinating unpacking of that feeling. The author's own vulnerability present throughout made her feel more like a friend, lovingly laying bare experiences many of us have lived in secret, setting us free ...more
Jan 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is setting my 2017 reading off right. I love the perfect mix of intelligent insight and light readability. The essays on Sylvia Plath, Courtney Love and Left-Eye Lopes were particularly great, and made me think differently about how we consider and discuss female celebrities. I also had a soft spot for the chapter on Being a Winona vs. Being a Gwyneth (Winona forever, obvs). Buy a copy of this book for yourself, then more copies to give to all the 15-35 year old women you know.
Trina Marie
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I kind of wanna gush about this book of essays. It is full of my own favorite iconic women of pop culture: Winona Ryder, Fiona Apple, Scarlett Johansson, Princess Di, the Olsen twins, Joan Didion. The intricate thoughts/stories/anecdotes about each life is a dream. Alana writes v deeply about each woman and her plain perspective is what I find most fascinating. Weird read at times, but I do love it regardless.
Paris (parisperusing)
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Alana Massey's writing is explosive, heart-warming, operative and clever. There's a degree of suspense with which she writes that made me excited to turn these pages as fast I could. Cannot wait to see what she does next.

From a Winona, with love.
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Smart, well-written essays about famous women & society, mixed with personal experiences.
I loved some of them & liked the rest - definitely a strong collection.
Alice Lesperance
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm really loving the influx of personal essay-pop culture crit written by women coming out lately. I thought overall this collection was very good, though some essays were stronger than others. I never thought I would want to read another essay about ~reclaiming~ Sylvia Plath, but hers was quite good. None of the viewpoints are particularly revolutionary in 2017, and many are very similar to Sady Doyle's Trainwreck, another recent release in the same genre. What makes Massey's collection unique ...more
Eric Snow
Feb 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A marvel of a debut from an incredible essayist. These stories are steeped in critical, emotional, literary, and cultural insight the likes of which I haven't quite encountered before. I'm reminded of the best and worst parts of myself, equally comforted and challenged, and filled with the deepest desire to see the bitter truth and astonishing beauty of humanity in the faces of everyone I encounter.

This is an amazing book that I will read again (which I rarely do with anything), and I will be f
Morgan Jerkins
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I have been in love with Alana Massey's writing for a little over a year and a half and she never disappoints, especially with her debut essay collection. Funny, witty, and engaging, Alana has a talent for being able to do deep-dives into character analyses and mind-boggling comparisons that reveal how interconnected we are to the celebrities we may never know. ...more
Beth Shultz
Jan 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This was an entertaining read. Very good writing. Won this book from Goodreads giveaway.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Couldn't relate to this author or her experiences. ...more
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
I love pop culture, and I like the author's voice in this book, but the analysis/connections seemed a little forced for most of the essays. ...more
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book. She’s written a love letter of sorts to pop culture icons that have influenced her in one way or another. It’s an interesting group she’s put together—the Lisbon sisters from the virgin suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, Winona Ryder juxtaposed against Gwyndth Paltrow, Courtney love, Joan didion and the concept of the ‘crazy’ ex as enacted by princess di and Lisa left eye Lopez. Oh and an ode to lil Kim. And a beautiful tribute to Anna Nicole smith which made me cry. She wr ...more
Mary Clare
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full review!

In this collection of essays, Massey explores her own identity and understanding of the world through the lens of writing about celebrities who she loves or finds fascinating. A mix of confessional-style personal writing and media criticism, this collection is an enjoyable and enlightening read from start to finish.

I was very intrigued by the concept behind this collection. I put it on my Amazon wishlist the minute that I first read the title. I'm a sucker for personal essays and for
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I came to this book after reading one of the essays (about Fiona Apple, Lana Del Rey, and Dolly Parton) online, and while some of the pieces left me wanting more, the overall collection didn't disappoint. Alana Massey is a talented pop culture critic, the kind who knows when to sideline her own personal stories' places in the celebrity narratives and when they warrant a more center-stage presence (her work as a stripper served the Amber Rose essay well). The result is less of a memoir and more o ...more
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
A brilliantly written collection of essays that left me reevaluating how I see myself in a world that judges you for everything.

What is it about?
Pop culture columnist Alana Massey examines her personal life along side those of female celebrities such as Winona Ryder, Lana Del Rey, and the Olsen Twins in this startlingly honest collection of short essays. Featuring 15 short essays and over 20 celebrity figures, this book explores personal relationships, the struggles of being in the entertainment
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33 likes · 2 comments
“I’ve come to see “Bitches be crazy” as less a statement by men that women are crazy or even a reappropriated statement by women defending their own madness. Instead, I see the phrase and imagine a colon after “bitches,” rendering it a command to other women, a battle cry. It is a way of saying, “We took back ‘bitch’ already. And now we have come for ‘crazy.” 11 likes
“Sylvia was an early literary manifestation of a young woman who takes endless selfies and posts them with vicious captions calling herself fat and ugly. She is at once her own documentarian and the reflexive voice that says she is unworthy of documentation. She sends her image into the world to be seen, discussed, and devoured, proclaiming that the ordinariness or ugliness of her existence does not remove her right to have it.” 8 likes
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