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The End of the End of the Earth: Essays

3.49  ·  Rating details ·  750 ratings  ·  138 reviews
A sharp and provocative new essay collection from the award-winning author of Freedom and The Corrections

The essayist, Jonathan Franzen writes, is like “a fire-fighter, whose job, while everyone else is fleeing the flames of shame, is to run straight into them.” For the past twenty-five years, even as his novels have earned him worldwide acclaim, Franzen has led a second l
Hardcover, 230 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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3.49  · 
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 ·  750 ratings  ·  138 reviews

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Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Sigh. Franzen can write. He is intelligent. His nonfiction is just not my cup of tea. There is an authorial distance I find offputting but I understand why he might write with that distance. As a whole, the collection is uneven. There is a set of rules for the novelist that feels like he jotted some ideas on a napkin and included them in the book. The essay on Edith Wharton.... yikes. He spends quite some time discussing that she was unattractive and like, has he seen male writers throughout his ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, travel
”If you stand in a forest in Southeast Asia, you may hear and then begin to feel, in your chest, a deep rhythmic whooshing. It sounds meteorological, but it’s the wingbeats of Great Hornbills flying in to land in a fruiting tree. They have massive yellow bills and hefty white thighs; they look like a cross between a toucan and a giant panda. As they clamber around in the tree, placidly eating fruit, you may find yourself crying out with the rarest of all emotions: pure joy. It has nothing to do ...more
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Before you denigrate yourself for picking up a collection of essays instead of a novel, Franzen makes a brazen argument early on in "The End of the End of the Earth" for its importance (the essay's) in our lives & in Litland as a whole. An essay is a mirror to the writer, to society, to the reader. He gives it a valid worth; these little nuggins are all worth their weight in gold.

Please go read "The Corrections." &, yeah, even "Freedom" has its good parts. But essays? Like what personal
Andrew Smith
The two prevalent themes in this collection of essays by the celebrated fiction writer are climate change and birds. They often crop up in tandem too, and sometimes unexpectedly interrupt the discourse on another subject. Birds are certainly the author’s passion, they represent his hobby (he’s a lister he says, keeping records of every bird he sees and sub-dividing his lists to ensure he can track his captures by timeline) and global warming and all its resultant ills seems to be the nightmare s ...more
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: usa, 2018-read
Birds, birds, birds, birds, birds, and more birds - listen to the cover, not the blurb: Most of these texts deal with the before-mentioned flying animals, how they are threatened, what it means to Franzen to be a birdwatcher, and why birds are generally awesome. In my opinion, Franzen is also generally awesome, but the bird overload in this essay collection was really testing my patience. There is nothing wrong with writing about your favorite animal, but the book marketing appears to make an ef ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: yuck
I don't feel the need to read every essay in this collection, but I do feel the need to defend Edith Wharton's honor. I also have a personal anecdote about running into Franzen...or Franzen running into me.

In 2012, which was the 150th anniversary of Wharton's birth, Franzen wrote a piece about her for The New Yorker entitled "A Rooting Interest." For what it's worth, I am a Wharton fanatic. I wrote my MA thesis on her, I've read almost every secondary source about her that was published before
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Reading this book was a bit like being chained to a radiator for 5 hours while an old eccentric yells at you about birds.
The cover is accurate: there are LOTS of birds in these essays. Unless you’re a birdwatcher or have a burning interest in the plight of birds threatened by hunting and habitat loss, be prepared to skim or completely skip over the multiple pieces on traveling to a particular place to appreciate its endemic or migratory bird species. I enjoyed the more autobiographical pieces: his temporary friendship with William Vollmann, what it was like in New York City two days after 9/11, and taking a two-we ...more
Kasa Cotugno
Nov 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
By any measure, Jonathan Franzen is a fortunate man. For one thing, he has a God-given talent for writing (both fiction and non-). He has not been without controversy, but has managed to rise above it and when he churns out one of his lengthy, involving novels every seven years or so, is rewarded with a loyal readership. Another way in which he is lucky is that he has an all consuming passion -- he loves birds. Anyone favored with such an interest can be considered lucky. Having something to aim ...more
I once worked with a grumpy old coot with a lot of opinions, and despite the fact that I generally agreed with him re: environmental horror, the contradictions of capitalism, etc., I generally wanted him to shut his damn trap – I'm already bummed out, and I'd rather be bummed out by a brilliant essay in Dissent or Current Affairs then listen to an aging boomer talk about... anything.

It's the same with this volume of Franzen essays. He's a grumpy old coot too, albeit one with writing chops.

But do
Feb 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
“We spend our days reading, on screens, stuff we'd never bother reading in a printed book, and bitch about how busy we are.” 

Franzen seems to be the most divisive of all living authors. I know he is abrasive and highly-opinionated but so are many artists. I have only read Franzen's The Corrections, which I did love. I always wanted to try his essay work and when I learned that he was such an avid “birder”, I knew I wanted to try this collection. There are birds galore here, so I was not disappo
Shannon A
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was intrigued by the first page;Shared in these essays are the realities we are afraid to voice or even admit silently. The truths gathered here are an intelligent and raw meditation on the various and sundry anxieties that define our collective human guilt.
Arybo ✨
First time with Jonathan Franzen - or an Antarctica Journey

I've just finished this book and I don't know what to say. This was a really interesting read. I've never read a book from this famous author, I didn't know what to expect, and I was surprised. His ideas are clear as crystals and every word expresses its meaning in full power. There are ironic and serious words, dreaming and actual phrases. It was sometimes as if I was missing something, maybe because I'm not a fan of birdwatching. Ther
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
It may be a strange way to begin a book review, but with this book it is best to establish a position early. I enjoy birds. I am a rank amateur but my walks have been made much richer when I see birds around me, can identify both them and their songs, and can sit and watch them in their world which, of course, I share.

So, let’s get one thing straight. Frankenstein enjoys birding, no he loves birding, and many of these stories centre around his experience watching, tracking, and travelling to bir
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
The first essay about climate change and the complicated human response to it is pretty great... The rest is offensively self indulgent and boring.
True confession: I have a bias for Jonathan Franzen after a talk and signing experience back in Rochester a decade ago, shaking like a nervous teen handing him my dog eared copy of Corrections.

But that’s not to say I’ve loved his later works which seemed a bit cloying. Yet with his new release of essays The End of the End of the Earth, Franzen comes back out on top seeming less preachy, and more human.

The human aspect of Jonathan Franzen has always been his instant admission to his pomposity,
Jonathan Maas
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Best of Jonathan Franzen - highly readable, insightful - and a lot of birds

Jonathan Franzen watching birds

As I have mentioned in many previous reviews - I am quite ambivalent towards the much-venerated genre of Literary Fiction.

And yes - that includes ambivalence towards the much-venerated Jonathan Franzen.

In short, I see books through the lens of Aristotle's Telos - which reduces everything to what it is meant to do.

A knife that cuts and a towel that dries are good - their Telos is strong, because that is what they ar
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
First time reading Franzen and probably the last. His prose is lovely, clear, clean and smooth. However his ego is large and gets in the way of his writing being pleasurable. I can't put my finger on anything specific, but I felt like I was being talked down to, that he thinks he is smarter and better than everyone. In one essay he remarks that his girlfriend was extremely grateful to him for being understanding about her needing to move to California to take care of her mother who was alone and ...more
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Jonathan Franzen is a name I have come across for the last ten years, and I finally thought I would read something about his passion before reading the various critically acclaimed books he has written. The End of the End of the Earth is an interesting book, on one hand it covers some interesting insights, but on the other it is a passion book. The book is a mixed bag, but it isn't a poor book by any means.

Franzen splits the book with interacting stories of his passion for birds, while inter
Jun 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Any of the essays herein contained, were I to stumble across one unlooked-for in a magazine, would hold my attention and be an interesting read. Gathered together in a single collection, however, they become too similar, insufficiently distinct, so that the eyes glaze over after a few have been read. I do like Franzen, though, he's a good writer with interesting things to say and, whether you agree with him or not, he says them well.
Mar 31, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Yeah this isn't for me and since 2019 is the year of ruthlessly DNF-ing books that I do not enjoy (and authors that I do not enjoy), this book is going in that pile.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
“We spend our days reading, on screens, stuff we’d never bother reading in a printed book, and bitch about how busy we are.”

The one thing to say about this book is that there is a lot about bird watching, so it is a treat for ornithologists, but maybe not for those, who aren’t one for our feathered friends. Franzen gets around a bit, whether chasing down the Painted Buntings of Texas, the Bee Hummingbirds in Cuba, or Rainbow Lorikeets in Australia and Emperor Penguins in Antarctica.

“The radical
Eric Shapiro
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I feel like I don't have too much to say about this essay collection, since a) the main topic Franzen discusses are birds (and I know nothing about birds and while sympathetic to endangered bird species don't have much to add) and b) this is an essay collection and this genre is difficult to review since each essay has its own topic and I don't want to get into each essay here. But I'll briefly overview my impressions this book made on me as a whole.

For some reason, a lot of people don't like Jo
Lucas Johnston
Apr 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Out of fairness for his last book I thought was a 2.5 and gave a 2, I’ll give this one (that is a 2.5) a 3.

Franzen writes well - however, his content in nearly every essay is the same. He has a passion for birding and it comes through in, I kid you not, nearly every essay in the book. I have read all of Franzen’s non-fiction in relatively short succession and personally am not enamoured by birds. As a result, I’ve grown incredibly tired of reading about his birding escapades.

Franzen has one sh
You're a bad liberal.
But don't worry, Franzen will correct you.

You're a bad environmentalist.
But don't worry, Franzen will correct you.

You don't understand Edith Wharton.
But don't worry, Franzen will correct you.

Jonathan Franzen is one of the greatest living English writers. That's a fact and it's hard to dispute. He's intelligent, poignant, and a master of his craft. He has a voice that's specific, unique, and reflects our time. He's also contrary and a curmudgeon who doesn't understand those d
Keith Taylor
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I like Franzen's essays, and I readily admit that it might be because so many of them are about birds, birding, or are reflections that come from the travel and time birding demands. I share Franzen's passion, even if time and the lack of money haven't allowed me to share the depths of his compulsion. Perhaps he is a little less original or startling on the general ecological collapse, but, really, how can any of us be? I usually enjoy his thoughts on writers, too, although they don't engage me ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Uffff, this was dificil. Reading/thinking about climate change is VERY existentially difficult for me.

But if I'm gonna read anyone's musings on climate change, it might as well be Jonathan Franzen's.

Loved all the writings about birds (although some parts about the poor birds suffering was too hard for me to take. Poor birdies).

I also love how well Franzen "creates" himself as a character: aka, this grumpy ole birdwatching man.

Mega mega bonus points for the "Magic Mountain" reference in the final
Nov 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
I know Mr. Franzen is polarizing at best and infuriating to many, but the man can write, and he loves birds. I enjoyed this collection of essays, many of which were about birds or birding, many of which touched on the all-too-real issue of climate change and how it is affecting the world-- people and places outside the US (gasp) and species other than humans (gasp). Other essays poignantly introduced us to family members, introspectively talked about 9/11, and showed proper respect for William V ...more
Pyramids Ubiquitous
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this. It seemed like I was having a conversation with the author. Franzen is clearly very passionate about each thing he presents in these diary-style essays, and whether or not I agree with some of his inclinations it makes for an engaging and casual read.
Edward Silverman
Apr 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I am glad I read such a well written book and feel like I learned from it. That said, the author’s earnest interest in birds crossed from informative to overbearing at times. That is his prerogative though and likely authentic but I personally was hoping for more variety.
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Jonathan Franzen is the author of The Corrections, winner of the 2001 National Book Award for fiction; the novels The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion; and two works of nonfiction, How to Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone, all published by FSG. His fourth novel, Freedom, was published in the fall of 2010.

Franzen's other honors include a 1988 Whiting Writers' Award, Granta's Best Of Young Ameri
“Kierkegaard, in 'Either/Or,' makes fun of the 'busy man' for whom busyness is a way of avoiding an honest self-reckoning. You might wake up in the middle of the night and realize that you're lonely in your marriage, or that you need to think about what your level of consumption is doing to the planet, but the next day you have a million little things to do, and the day after that you have another million things. As long as there's no end of little things, you never have to stop and confront the bigger questions. Writing or reading an essay isn't the only way to stop and ask yourself who you really are and what your life might mean, but it is one good way. And if you consider how laughably unbusy Kierkegaard's Copenhagen was, compared with our own age, those subjective tweets and hasty blog posts don't seem so essayistic. They seem more like means of avoiding what a real essay might force on us. We spend our days reading, on screens, stuff we'd never bother reading in a printed book, and bitch about how busy we are.” 1 likes
“The thing about games is that you don't want to look too closely at why you're playing them. A great yawning emptiness underlies them, a close relative of the nothingness that lies beneath the surface of our busy lives.” 1 likes
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