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The Best American Essays 2018 (The Best American Series ®)

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  299 ratings  ·  58 reviews
The Pulitzer–Prize winning and Guggenheim-honored Hilton Als curates the best essays from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites, bringing “the fierce style of street reading and the formal tradition of critical inquiry, reads culture, race, and gender” (New York Times) to the task.
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Mariner Books
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Joe Kraus I'd just say that I never expect to like everything in these volumes. I admire almost everything, but I have my preferences, and some guest editors al…moreI'd just say that I never expect to like everything in these volumes. I admire almost everything, but I have my preferences, and some guest editors align more with those than others. In this case, I like that Als gives so much space to the personal essay, and I like the personal tone of the ones that are more analytical or specialized. My favorites in the series have been the ones that specialize in the personal.(less)
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Mar 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
There are a couple of essays on this collection that made me sit up and take notice. Rick Moody's "Notes on Lazarus," and John Seabrook's "My Father's Cellar" impressed me. A couple caught my interest even though they were about things in which I have little interest. "The Big Thing on His Mind", Thomas Powers' article about William Faulkner proved to be more than I expected.
There were one of two essays I didn't enjoy, but others might, so I won't mention them.
On the whole, this volume is cons
Joe Kraus
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this volume most years, and I realize I’ve been coming to it, metaphorically, the way you might go to an office holiday party. That is, part of me wants to go – I enjoy good essays, and I enjoy a good party – but another part of me dreads it. It means having fun on someone else’s schedule; it means being in the middle of something and being called upon to share the larger emotion. (And it means thinking about how I want to use it in my upcoming class.)

I’m happy to say that this is one of
Oct 22, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
I’ve been reading these collections for several years now and I’m not sure how likely I am to continue. At least a few essays used to really grab me. Last few years? Eh. Not so much. The weird thing is this collection doesn’t even seem bad and the intro essay, Hilton Als piece of the day-to-day exhaustion of racism and the difficulty of slinging ‘fuck you’s back at the world, is fantastic.

Is it me? Is it the collection? Is it the sordid state of world!?? I’m not sure.

Anyway, here’s my favorites:
Nov 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like most collections some of these essays really struck a chord while others never moved me. I will say there was a nice variety of essays including art, fashion, wine, politics, Hopefully you will find something you enjoy.
Here were my favorites;
The Other Steve Harvey by Steven Harvey from Michigan Quarterly Review. An inner examination by the author of his attitudes toward race and race relations.

The March on Everywhere by Leslie Jameson from Harper's Magazine about the author
Shemaiah Gonzalez
These annual collections of The Best American Essays should be required reading for any Creative Non-Fiction writer. The collection runs the gamut of topics and styles and serves as inspiration for those of us that aspire to join the greats. Two essays “Eat, Memory” and “Notes on Lazarus” stuck out for me.
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am generally a big fan of the Best American series. The past few years of the Essay books have been iffy, and this....was good, but I would have liked to have seen more women, and more...I can’t put my finger on it, but when I think of the years that I really loved, the topics were more personal, more accessible. More essays taken from indie lit journals or unexpected places, rather than the New Yorker or NYRB or Lapham’s or NYT magazine or the usual lit mags. I know each editor brings their o ...more
Nov 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The 2018 collection contains many excellent essays. It begins with a sprawling introduction by editor Hilton Als which later was printed in the New Yorker. Many of these essays have come from the east coast such as The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Massachusetts Review and The Harvard Review. Especially memorable were:
John Seabrook - My Father's Cellar
David Won Louie - Eat, memory
Suki Kim - Land of Darkness
Jan 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Good collection

Skipped a few essays on topics that didn't grab me, but that Hannah Arendt one is 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥
Scott Bilodeau
I first discovered the "Best American" series of series last year when I picked up a book of "Best American Travel Writing". It was a wonderful collection of manageable, published vignettes written by various, not so well known American authors. This particular one focuses on essays. The guest author who writes the introduction that sets the stage indicated that the essays loosely deal with the aftermath of the 2016 US presidential election and all of the horrible things that have come of it. Bu ...more
Chris DiLeo
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A month ago, I was in the mood to read essays. Not my students' essays, mind you, but professional, well-crafted works that probe the mysteries of the universe and the soul. A genuinely good (meaning: insightful, significant, and in some [even small] way, profound) essay is one of the great pleasures of the literate person's life. At least it is for me. Fiction will always be my first and most enduring love, and poetry is, as I creep into middle age, a frequent flirt, promising a momentary seduc ...more
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here were my two favorite essays from BAE2018:

—Leslie Jamison's "The March on Everywhere" ( about the the Women's March, but more broadly the shape of activism in one's life
—Kathryn Schulz's "Losing Streak" ( about 'loss', mostly that of her father

I loved several more. An essay about a memory of a UFO, for example, changed the way I think about the relationship between parents and children. Others I skipped or ski
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love reading Best American series while I travel because they feel less prone to interruption. I can finish a story or an essay while I'm sitting at the gate, waiting for take-off, in the time before beverages are served. I have time to puzzle over what I just read. But I found myself becoming increasingly impatient with the essays selected for BAE 2018. Hilton Als writes in his introduction: "Indeed, the essays I'm attracted to ... have something unfinished about them, a circle that cannot be ...more
Andrew Bertaina
I prefer this iteration of The Best American Essays to the last one I read, edited by Franzen, which gave a strong preference to journalistic pieces. I love a good journalism essay, but I tend to write personal essays and this volume is full of personal essays. The essay, "Losing Streak," by Kathryn Schulz was my favorite in the entire volume, but I found many others to love including You are the Phenomenology by Timothy O'Keefe, Luck You by Sherry Simpson and Hannah Arendt in New York by Baron ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gave it five stars since there were at least 6 essays that were absolutely great:

Suki Kim's about going to North Korea
the one about the guy who has to have food injected into him for medical reasons
the one about losing things
the one about political protests
the one about gambling
the one about those marching songs in the military

Most of the rest were good or at least had some good or interesting about them. It's nice reading essays if, like me, you are generally a book reader as an essay rarely
A lovely collection of essays. There were a few in here that didn't really speak to me, but the majority of this collection is super-solid -- thought-provoking and enjoyable both. ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a solid collection, like many anthologies the good stories are very, very good and the others are much less so. This collection of essays features some that are superb.

Noam Chomsky’s essay “ Prospects For Survival “ from The Massachusetts Review offers a sobering look at human behavior, and our prospects because of it. He speaks to the theory that more advanced societies have a much shorter life span than simpler ones. The KISS theory manifest.

As Chomsky writes “ The most successful or
As usual, a very mixed bag, read because I like to see what characterizes essays chosen as "the best"; basically a fool's errand.

A fair number of these can be accessed online, including some of the best such as the Jennifer Kabat essay (my very favorite, and truly transportive) and the Heidi Julavits. Both integrate the subject of climate change with other concerns, personal, familial, or historical. Perhaps surprisingly, only one other piece speaks to climate change (Chomsky's); it does so from
Jake Johnson
Disappointing set. Many of the works included might be better considered simply nonfiction narratives with a rare nod towards making a point. Often, however, these stories don't get much further than relating what the writer has experienced. The disappointment is perhaps accented by what those of us aware of the larger world have experienced in 2018--a corrupt administration, terrfying changes in environmental policy and tax laws, attacks on the rule of law, assaults on serious newspapers and te ...more
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fairly standard BAE volume, with some goodies and some snoozers. According to my checkmark rating system (1 for good essays, 2 for great, 3 for fantastic), this volume contains 7 I'd happily revisit:

1 Checkmark
Paul Crenshaw's "Cadence"
Steven Harvey's "The Other Steve Harvey"
Beth Uznis Johnson's "Your Friend/My Friend, Ted"
David Wong Louie's "Eat, Memory"
Kathryn Schulz's "Losing Streak"
Sherry Simpson's "Lucky You"

2 Checkmarks
Leslie Jamison's "The March on Everywhere"

The front material
As with most BAE essays, most of the essays collected here are narrative, which makes this collection merely decent.

I personally find that most narrative essays somewhat self-indulgent and often don't alight on any real poignancy, which is to say that a well-written narrative essay is extremely difficult to write that isn't overtly self-indulgent while also offering insight that could not be had had the essayist had not presented his narrative in the particular way that they did. Good examples
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This collection was a little flat for me. Many of the essays lacked new or unique insights and observations. Some were just inaccessible. Overall, I thought the collection was grim and kind of dull. There were three that I thought succeeded in at least being interesting and revelatory (to me, anyhow). Those are "The Big Thing On His Mind" by Thomas Powers which has a fascinating though debatable theory of the works of William Faulkner. I very much enjoyed "No Direction Home: The Journey of Frant ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Essays evolved five hundred years go as a new form of expression, characterizing an open and inquiring mind. But will the essay survive in a dogmatic era such as our own times, ponders Robert Atwan, the editor of this series, now in its thirty-third year.

The guest editor receives a hundred essays from the hundreds screened by Atwan during the year. The guest may add a few then makes the final selection.

Not one of the two dozen entries in this year’s collection connected with me. Nothing notewo
Aimee Barnes Pestano
This anthology is a mixed bag, with something for nearly everyone, although the political diversity is lacking which doesn't surprise me given America's current climate.
David Wong Louie's "Eat, Memory," a contemplation on food after not eating for six years due to throat cancer, is a standout that's worth reading more than once. I'm sad to learn that he's passed away- what a brilliant writer. Edwidge Dandicat's "All the Home You've Got" is also one to read slowly and meditate upon. I was confus
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perfectly fine sampler of essays for a flight from New York to SF. As usual, the best cover race (Als, Harvey) and political currents (Jameson, Mujmudar).

The worst are self-aggrandizing (Seabrook), tragically edited down (the Faulkner profile) or completely vapid (Salle).

Rick Moody does his usual Rick Moody dance in an essay on Lazarus of Bethany, starting narrow before lavishing us with fascinating tangents that allow him to avoid getting personal. It's like peeling an orange and finding a wh
Patrick Pierce
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this annual collection and somehow this one dropped off my reading list (perhaps because I got excited when the 2019 edition arrived). I'm glad I picked it back up because some of the final essays were particularly good. Four favorites in this collection of 24 are:

Steven Harvey, “The Other Steve Harvey” from Michigan Quarterly Review

Leslie Jamison, “The March on Everywhere” from Harper’s Magazine

Adam Shatz, “No Direction Home: The Journey of Frantz Fanon” from Raritan

Baron Wormser, “Hanna
Emily Green
I read The Best American Essays 2018 in part because I enjoy reading the best American series, but more because I wanted to teach an essay to my students. I was not overly impressed by the anthology. Some of the essays were just plain boring. I suppose that is part of the excitement of the best American series—some are great and some are so sad. Usually, there are at least a few that I enjoy and a few were pretty interesting, but there aren’t any that I would relish rereading.
Jim Manis
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
I've read every edition of The Best American Essays, but this one didn't quite ring my bell as loudly as previous editions have. Some criticism has focused on the publication's attempt to display more diversity. This doesn't bother me at all. I can't quite place my finger on the problem. Thus I'm reduced to a series of clichés. ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2019
I usually get to this collection much earlier in the year, but it took me longer to get through this set. Good thing I'm done though, as I have pre-ordered 2019's which comes out in October.

***½ this year for me. Definitely some standouts, and some were harder to get through. But I'm always glad I took the time to read this collection.
John Modica
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favorites: Hilton Als' "Introduction;" Marilyn Abildskov, "The Trick: Notes Toward a Theory of Plot;" Heidi Julavits, "The Art at the End of the World;" Jennifer Kabat, "Rain Like Cotton;" David Wong Louie, "Eat, Memory;" Rick Moody, "Notes on Lazarus;" Kathryn Schultz, "Losing Streak." ...more
Gena Radcliffe
A much more dry and academic collection than in years past, with a couple reading almost like grad school papers. The more personal ones (David Wong Louie's "Eat, Memory" in particular) make it worth a read, though. ...more
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Hilton Als is an American writer and theater critic who writes for The New Yorker magazine. Previously, he had been a staff writer for The Village Voice and editor-at-large at Vibe magazine.

His 1996 book The Women focuses on his mother, who raised him in Brooklyn, Dorothy Dean, and Owen Dodson, who was a mentor and lover of Als. In the book, Als explores his identification of the confluence of his

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