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Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  3,787 Ratings  ·  495 Reviews
A sparkling collection of Zadie Smith's nonfiction over the past decade.

Zadie Smith brings to her essays all of the curiosity, intellectual rigor, and sharp humor that have attracted so many readers to her fiction, and the result is a collection that is nothing short of extraordinary.

Split into four sections—"Reading," "Being," "Seeing," and "Feeling"—Changing My Mind in
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 12th 2009 by The Penguin Press HC
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Greg
Sep 01, 2010 Greg rated it it was amazing
I'm going pop off this quick little salvo and then move on to other things. Zadie Smith never calls the novel dead in this book. She also never tries to bury the lyrically realistic novel, one gets the feeling that she enjoys the more experimental side of literature but she seems more to want both sides to be able to live, breathe and grow together. She never calls the novelistic form she works in antiquated. I don't think there was a poor reading done of her, I think there was a willful misread ...more
Buck
Apr 17, 2010 Buck rated it liked it
Since Mr. David Giltinan has already said everything I wanted to say about this book, plus a lot of other stuff I didn’t want to say but can certainly live with, please turn to his review now:
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

For my money—and that’s Canadian money, so beware: it’ll fuck up your gumball machine—Changing My Mind is notable for three pieces: "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men", a tribute to David Foster Wallace that’s so astute and generous that it’d almost be worth dying if
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Melanie
Aug 15, 2013 Melanie rated it it was amazing

So there it is: Zadie Smith ties the brooding Karl Ove Knausgaard for Biggest Literary Obsession of 2013.
Why I have waited this long before getting to her work is a little baffling to me but she has been a force in my intellectual and imaginary landscape for some weeks now, never relenting, never weakening, only gaining in speed and strength, like a hurricane.
And obsessed I shall remain, especially after reading these essays which are as varied and wide-ranging as can be, crackling with wit an
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Zanna
Sep 05, 2015 Zanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Smith treats a plethora of subjects in this collection; praising Forster and George Eliot, arguing for the demystification of Kafka, illuminating the Black cultural idea of soulfulness, detailing and analysing her visits to Liberia and to LA for the Oscars; recalling episodes from her father's life, and passionately advocating an appreciation of David Foster Wallace.

I feel affection and empathy for Smith throughout this book, admiring her eloquence and sharing her literary and political sensibil
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Jesse
Dec 30, 2009 Jesse rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
As nearly every single review of Changing My Mind goes out of its way to emphasize, Zadie Smith is a smart person. A smart, smart, smart person. And in this collection of essays—which span from literature to cinema to autobiography and many places between—intelligence is on full display. But what makes Smith stand out from the vast majority of intelligent people who write today is that she has a knack for taking intricate theoretical issues and making them comprehensible for, well, if not exactl ...more
David
Mar 29, 2010 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
Of the fifteen essays in this collection, there is only one out-and-out dud (Zadie reports on the Oscar weekend). The rest range from good to amazing. Even the superficially unpromising pieces have something to offer. The final essay, an appreciation of David Foster Wallace, is altogether terrific. Her remarks about DFW's deliberate choice to make his writing difficult for the reader are smarter than almost anything else I've read on the subject. She obviously loves his work, but not to the poin ...more
Helle
May 22, 2016 Helle rated it it was amazing
I have been inside Zadie Smith’s crafty, clever head for many hours and pages this past week. I have digressed from the essay collection itself a number of times, only to go down various Google holes to read interviews with Zadie, articles by or about her. There is so much food for thought in this collection (and in the stuff I found at the end of the Google holes) that I’m still reeling from it, still digesting it all.

The collection is divided into five sections named: Reading, Being, Seeing, F
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Scott
Dec 12, 2010 Scott rated it liked it
I gave Zadie Smith's book of essays three stars, instead of four, because it's clear she's still in the process of formation. There are two paths laid out before her, and two personae she adopts in these essays: the Public Intellectual/Star Academic/Writer, and the Reader/Writer.

The two roles are easily discernible as distinct entities in her writing, even as it's clear that they may not be so separate in her own mind. In her first role as Public Intellectual, she has pen, will travel, then writ
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Jonfaith
Oct 01, 2012 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of Ms. Smith's projects in this rather sprawling collection is an assembly of the disparate. That sounds Foucauldian and I think I am wide of the mark with my designation, but only just. Such strange pieces are collected between these soft covers and I remain on the margins of my wits to discern the "what for." It speaks of my amateur treatment of essays that I regard the value of such in its ability to persuade me to the author's perspective. By my metric the early essays were failures. I d ...more
Aubrey
3.5/5

Let it be known that I have horrendous taste in film. Every smidge of desire for exploration in the realms of literature is countered by an equal or greater absence of such when it comes to movies, to the point that I'll happily rewatch the likes of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' trilogy in the midst of rereading The Tale of Genji. As such, when I pick up a book of essays about bookish things, that's exactly what I expect. Bookish things. Throw in comedy and personal history if you must, bu
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Jen Padgett Bohle
Jun 15, 2010 Jen Padgett Bohle rated it really liked it
I've been daydreaming about Zadie Smith being both my professor and my best friend. We'd go for a sandwich in Camden discussing Jean Rhys or George Eliot and then recount the details of the latest Jud Apatow film and the handsome stranger over by the drinks...

What can’t this woman do? And with such charm and perspicacity! She was analyzing postcolonial literature and Zora Neale Hurston when I was still stuck on Sweet Valley High as a 12 year old. She really knows her literary shit. But I really
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Karina E
Nov 04, 2015 Karina E rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2015
3.5 stars. I wish I could have given it more stars but there were just some essays I, personally, didn't care about. My favorite parts were BEING and FEELING in their entirety, as well as, most essays from the READING section. I didn't care much for the section on movies and old Hollywood stars (even though her feelings for Katherine Hepburn accurately describe how I feel about Beyoncé haha) and the last 50 pages of REMEMBERING weren't able to capture my attention for long. I still recommend it ...more
MJ Nicholls
Feb 02, 2011 MJ Nicholls rated it it was amazing

I love Zadie Smith. Her essays are so fluid and learned and passionate, so intimate and insightful and intelligent, how could I not love her? Among the pieces collected here include the moving "Dead Man Laughing" about her father (Smith comes from an atypical family background), a horrifying report on Liberian aid workers, and the dissertation "The Difficult Gifts of David Foster Wallace."

Essential fodder for the passionate modern reader.
Elli (The Bibliophile)
Apr 08, 2015 Elli (The Bibliophile) rated it liked it
Shelves: essays, 2015
As with other collections, whether they be short-stories or essays, Changing My Mind contained selections that I loved, as well as sections I did not find as interesting. Despite this, I have to say this was a very good collection of essays! The essays that I liked, I really loved, and I didn't really dislike any of the essays in particular, I just didn't connect to the topics. Some of my favourite essays from this collection include
"Rereading Barthes and Nabokov," "That Crafty Feeling," Zadie
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Tamsinwilloughby
I picked this one up because of a review in the 50books_poc community and I'm glad I did. I enjoyed it a lot.

The essays cover a broad range from George Eliot and E. M. Forster over writing and Liberia to movie reviews and personal life. I found the author's voice to be pleasant and original. A lot of the book made me think or smile or both. My favorites were the essays about literature, I'd read a whole book just about that.
Devil
Apr 05, 2016 Devil rated it it was ok
Zadie Smith writes really well but this isn't a book for the consumption of the general public. It is heavy on the literary critique and theory and, if you're not knowledgeable in the field and particularly if you haven't read the books mentioned, it gets dull. I was still able to draw some interesting thoughts from the first part but had to give up altogether in the last section: a lengthy critique of David Forster Wallace's work, which I'm not familiar with.

Thankfully in the middle, there wa

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Larissa
Picked up while browsing the Portland (Maine) public library, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays is, maybe somewhat strangely, my first introduction to Zadie Smith, whose fiction I have always heard all manner of raves about. But I was looking for something in a non-fiction narrative vein--seems to be the mood I am in right now--and a number of the essays in this collection seemed intriguing. I may not read the whole collection, but given the variety of subject matter that she covers, I think I ...more
Lauren
Nov 20, 2012 Lauren rated it really liked it
Before anything else is written, Chapter Seven "That Crafty Feeling", is perhaps one of the best essays regarding writing that I've ever read. "One Week in Liberia" gave me chills and the need to learn more about what kinds of progress are actually happening in Liberia. "What Does Soulful Mean?" is the love letter to an author I wish I could write. This collection was the bits and pieces of the world I hadn't thought about in too long, and it was perfect in that way.

In many of the reviews of th
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Carrie Lorig
Jan 21, 2010 Carrie Lorig rated it liked it
it's not imperative to read this book. but zadie smith is so wonderful. i want all of her super powers. it's such a pleasure to admire her. she's as humble as she is intelligent and able to engage in literature from many angles because of it. (she writes about kafka as effectively as she writes about tom mccarthy and joseph o'neill.) she's every bit the kind of dynamic woman she argues kat. hepburn was. plus, everything she says about 50 cent's movie is fucking weird and straight out of the blog ...more
Mary McCoy
Jan 18, 2010 Mary McCoy rated it really liked it
Some of the essays in Changing My Mind made me want to pick up books I haven't touched since college. Others made me want to pick up a notebook and pen, or my copy of The Philadelphia Story, or the phone to call my parents and tell them I love them.

The thing that impressed me most about this collection is how nimble Smith's mind is, and how good she is of living up to the credo of E.M. Forster, one of her literary heroes: "Only connect." (There's a good essay about him in here, too.)

In one of my
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Hannah Messler
Aug 03, 2009 Hannah Messler rated it it was amazing
Oh, Zadie Smith. I wish this were a novel. But proofs of collections of essays are good for reading on the train when your home fiction book is a fat old heavy hardcover. And I see that you will be talking about DFW in the end! So . . . good.

Oh man! This was comPLETEly great. Zadie Smith is clever as a devil. And her memoriam to David Foster Wallace is beeaauuutiful.

Except some creepy asshole was trying to crush me into the dumpster with his giant behind while I was finishing the last page. Whi
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Sarah
Feb 03, 2013 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2013
This book made me laugh out loud several times, and tear up just as often. Something special about reading the words of someone you admire when they are talking about things you love (Katherine Hepburn! Phillip Seymour Hoffman! Fawlty Towers! Buffy the Vampire Slayer! DFW!).
Hermano Cerdo
Jul 04, 2014 Hermano Cerdo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Cambiar de idea lleva en su edición original el subtítulo "ensayos ocasionales". Con ello Zadie Smith indica que no hay en este libro una intención unitaria, como excusándose a sí misma desde el prólogo: estos textos "se escribieron para ocasiones concretas, para editores concretos" entre 2003 y 2009. Hay artículos para el New Yorker y The Guardian, tres conferencias, un prólogo, relatos autobiográficos y críticas de cine. Si creyéramos a la autora parecería que aquí no encontraremos más que fra ...more
M. Sarki
Oct 19, 2016 M. Sarki rated it liked it
https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/152044...

The "occasional essays" collected in Changing My Mind come under several headings, of which few of the essays included in them mattered, at least to me.

There were six pieces listed under the first section called Reading of which only the title F.Kafka, Everyman was found to be enjoyable and pertinent. There was nothing in the Smith remarks to disagree with or to learn from. I simply agreed with her and liked what I read.

Three pieces constructed the entire
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James
May 17, 2012 James rated it really liked it
Shelves: criticism
Zadie Smith is pretty damn smart, and has read widely and deeply from the Western Canon. In this collection of essays, she deals with some extremely important literary topics, some of which are very close to my own heart. (Note: I only skimmed some of the autobiographical essays and her short film reviews, and her lectures on the craft of writing. They are interesting but not nearly as interesting, in my opinion, as her literary criticism.)

One of her most touching and important essays is about Z
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Emily
Dec 30, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Essay collections are difficult to rate. It's a given that some essays will speak more to some than others. An essay I find a witty and brilliant encapsulation of truth, you might find boring and obtuse. And in the same collection there will be pieces that bring me to tears with their insight and beauty and pieces that I can barely slog through. Zadie Smith is obviously well-read and thoroughly educated on a wide variety of subjects; she combines topics you never would have thought went together ...more
Jack Wolfe
Jun 25, 2015 Jack Wolfe rated it really liked it
If "Changing My Mind" has a theme, it's multiplicity. The essays here are diverse as a collection-- there is both a trenchant, Joan Didion style piece of journalism on Liberia and a movie review suggesting that 50 Cent is the new Sidney Poitier-- and in themselves, with Smith often ceding the spotlight over to other voices, other perspectives. This generosity is Smith's great strength, I think (you rarely see writers this smart who are also this humble), but occasionally a bit of a handicap. The ...more
Mark
Jan 19, 2010 Mark rated it it was amazing
In one of her essays, Zadie Smith discreetly mentions something about her husband. This was a wise choice, because after reading her prose countless men (and perhaps more than a few women) will have decided that this is the woman they want on the other side of their breakfast table. I found these essays a delight, even when she is discussing literature I haven't read (e.g. David Foster Wallace, Zora Neale Hurston and others), or movies I haven't seen. My favorite essay is about her family's come ...more
Kara
Dec 03, 2016 Kara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Each essay in Zadie Smith’s 2009 Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays is an occasion. Readers are treated to Smith’s impeccable sentence craft and love of language, her Cambridge-cultivated erudition, and her wit, charm, and optimism. The essays are grouped into her literary criticism (“Reading”), her work and identity (“Being”), film criticism (“Seeing”), personal essays about her father (“Feeling”), and a memorial to David Foster Wallace through a brilliant and challenging reading of his Brief ...more
Alyssa Udall
Mar 08, 2015 Alyssa Udall rated it liked it
During my recent pillage visit to the Orem Public Library, I picked up a work of non-fiction along with my stack of 15 young adult novels: Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith. I had read Zadie Smith's On Beauty and some of her interviews online, so I knew this book would be good for me.

But, because this book is good for me (good to exercise my mind, good to get me out of the habit of reading through books in an almost semi-conscious state) I don't exactly like reading it. This boo
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Zadie on Katharine Hepburn 1 8 Jun 06, 2013 12:38PM  
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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 www.zadiesmith.com for more information.
More about Zadie Smith...

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“Nowadays I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own.” 75 likes
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