The Best Essays eBooks




The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.
by Jonathan Lethem
The Ecstasy of Influence: Nonfictions, Etc.

What’s a novelist supposed to do with contemporary culture? And what’s contemporary culture sup­posed to do with novelists? In The Ecstasy of Influence, Jonathan Lethem, tangling with what he calls the “white elephant” role of the writer as public intellectual, arrives at an astonishing range of answers.

A constellation of previously published pieces and new essays as provocative and idiosyncratic as any he’s written, this volume sheds light on an array of topics from sex in cinema to drugs, graffiti, Bob Dylan, cyberculture, 9/11, book touring, and Marlon Brando, as well as on a shelf’s worth of his literary models and contemporaries: Norman Mailer, Paula Fox, Bret Easton Ellis, James Wood, and oth­ers. And, writing about Brooklyn, his father, and his sojourn through two decades of writing, Lethem sheds an equally strong light on himself.


 



Cool, Calm & Contentious
by Merrill Markoe
Cool, Calm & Contentious

In this hilarious collection of personal essays, New York Times bestselling author Merrill Markoe reveals, among other things, the secret formula for comedy: Start out with a difficult mother, develop some classic teenage insecurities, add a few relationships with narcissistic men, toss in an unruly pack of selfish dogs, finish it off with the kind of crystalline perspective that only comes from years of navigating a roiling sea of unpleasant and unappeasable people, and — voilà! — you’re funny!

But in Cool, Calm & Contentious, Markoe also reveals something more: herself. This is by far her most personal, affecting collection yet — honest, unapologetic, often painful, but always shot through with the bracing, wicked sense of humor that has made her such a beloved and incisive observer of life, both human and canine. In Cool, Calm & Contentious, she goes there: from the anal-retentive father who once spent ten minutes lecturing Markoe’s forty-year-old, Ph. D. -wielding brother on how to fold a napkin, to the eternally aggrieved mother who took pleasure in being unpleasant to waiters and spent most of her life, Markoe says, in “varying degrees of pissed off”; from the way she surrendered her virginity as a freshman in college (to her, it was “something to be gotten rid of quickly, then never discussed again, like body odor”), to why, later in life, she ultimately came to find dogs so much more appealing than humans, Markoe holds nothing back. It’s all here, in all its messy, poignant glory, and told the way only Merril Markoe knows how — with honesty, wit, and bite.

Cool, Calm & Contentious offers something for everyone — fans of humorous essays, fans of memoir, fans of great writing and finely drawn characters, fans of dogs, fans of talking dogs, and fans of reading about mothers who are so difficult and demanding they actually make you feel good about your own life. But most of all, this book is for the many fans of Merrill Markoe, who will finally get a chance to learn what makes her tick — and what makes her so funny and wise.


 



Pulphead
by John Jeremiah Sullivan
Pulphead

In Pulphead, John Jeremiah Sullivan takes us on an exhilarating tour of our popular, unpopular, and at times completely forgotten culture. Simultaneously channeling the gonzo energy of Hunter S. Thompson and the wit and insight of Joan Didion, Sullivan shows us — with a laidback, erudite Southern charm that’s all his own — how we really (no, really) live now.

In his native Kentucky, Sullivan introduces us to Constantine Rafinesque, a nineteenth-century polymath genius who concocted a dense, fantastical prehistory of the New World. Back in modern times, Sullivan takes us to the Ozarks for a Christian rock festival; to Florida to meet the alumni and straggling refugees of MTV’s Real World, who’ve generated their own self-perpetuating economy of minor celebrity; and all across the South on the trail of the blues. He takes us to Indiana to investigate the formative years of Michael Jackson and Axl Rose and then to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Katrina — and back again as its residents confront the BP oil spill.

Gradually, a unifying narrative emerges, a story about this country that we’ve never heard told this way. It’s like a fun-house hall-of-mirrors tour: Sullivan shows us who we are in ways we’ve never imagined to be true. Of course we don’t know whether to laugh or cry when faced with this reflection — it’s our inevitable sob-guffaws that attest to the power of Sullivan’s work.


 



The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media
by Walter Benjamin, Michael W. Jennings, Brigid Doherty, Edmund F.N. Jephcott, Rodney Livingstone, Howard Eiland, Thomas Y. Levin
The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media

Benjamin’s famous 'Work of Art' essay sets out his boldest thoughts-on media and on culture in general-in their most realized form, while retaining an edge that gets under the skin of everyone who reads it. In this essay the visual arts of the machine age morph into literature and theory and then back again to images, gestures, and thought.

This essay, however, is only the beginning of a vast collection of writings that the editors have assembled to demonstrate what was revolutionary about Benjamin's explorations on media. Long before Marshall McLuhan, Benjamin saw that the way a bullet rips into its victim is exactly the way a movie or pop song lodges in the soul.

This book contains the second, and most daring, of the four versions of the 'Work of Art' essay the one that addresses the utopian developments of the modern media. The collection tracks Benjamin's observations on the media as they are revealed in essays on the production and reception of art; on film, radio, and photography; and on the modern transformations of literature and painting. The volume contains some of Benjamin's best-known work alongside fascinating, little-known essays-some appearing for the first time in English. In the context of his passionate engagement with questions of aesthetics, the scope of Benjamin's media theory can be fully appreciated.


 



Arguably: Selected Essays
by Christopher Hitchens
Arguably: Selected Essays

The first new book of essays by Christopher Hitchens since 2004, Arguably offers an indispensable key to understanding the passionate and skeptical spirit of one of our most dazzling writers, widely admired for the clarity of his style, a result of his disciplined and candid thinking.

Topics range from ruminations on why Charles Dickens was among the best of writers and the worst of men to the haunting science fiction of J. G. Ballard; from the enduring legacies of Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell to the persistent agonies of anti-Semitism and jihad. Hitchens even looks at the recent financial crisis and argues for the enduring relevance of Karl Marx.

The book forms a bridge between the two parallel enterprises of culture and politics. It reveals how politics justifies itself by culture, and how the latter prompts the former. In this fashion, Arguably burnishes Christopher Hitchens' credentials as (to quote Christopher Buckley) our "greatest living essayist in the English language."


 



Life Itself
by Roger Ebert
Life Itself

Roger Ebert is the best-known film critic of our time. He has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. He has appeared on television for four decades, including twenty-three years as cohost of Siskel & Ebert at the Movies.

In 2006, complications from thyroid cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. But with the loss of his voice, Ebert has only become a more prolific and influential writer. And now, for the first time, he tells the full, dramatic story of his life and career.

Roger Ebert's journalism carried him on a path far from his nearly idyllic childhood in Urbana, Illinois. It is a journey that began as a reporter for his local daily, and took him to Chicago, where he was unexpectedly given the job of film critic for the Sun-Times, launching a lifetime's adventures.

In this candid, personal history, Ebert chronicles it all: his loves, losses, and obsessions; his struggle and recovery from alcoholism; his marriage; his politics; and his spiritual beliefs. He writes about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, and his life-changing collaboration with Gene Siskel. He remembers his friendships with Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, Oprah Winfrey, and Russ Meyer (for whom he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and an ill-fated Sex Pistols movie). He shares his insights into movie stars and directors like John Wayne, Werner Herzog, and Martin Scorsese.

This is a story that only Roger Ebert could tell. Filled with the same deep insight, dry wit, and sharp observations that his readers have long cherished, this is more than a memoir-it is a singular, warm-hearted, inspiring look at life itself.

"I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."
-from LIFE ITSELF


 



Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories
by Megan Kelley Hall, Carrie Jones, Claudia Gabel, Courtney Sheinmel, Crissa-Jean Chappell, Cyn Balog, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Daniel Waters, Dawn Metcalf, Debbie Rigaud, Deborah Kerbel, Diana Rodriguez Wallach, A.S. King, Eric Luper, Erin Dionne, Alyson Noel, Amy Goldman Koss, Amy Reed, Aprilynne Pike, Carolyn Mackler, Carrie Ryan, Cecil Castellucci, Heather Brewer, Holly Cupala, Janni Lee Simner, Jeannine Garsee, Jessica Brody, Jo Knowles, Jocelyn Maeve Kelley, Jon Scieszka, Kieran Scott, Kiersten White, Kristin Harmel, Kurtis Scaletta, Lara Zeises, Laura Kasischke, Lauren Kate, Lauren Oliver, Linda Gerber, Lisa McMann, Lisa Schroeder, Lisa Yee, Lucienne Diver, Marina Cohen, Marlene Perez, Maryrose Wood, Megan McCafferty, R.L. Stine, Melissa Schorr, Ellen Hopkins, Laurie Faria Stolarz
Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Discover how Lauren Kate transformed the feeling of that one mean girl getting under her skin into her first novel, how Lauren Oliver learned to celebrate ambiguity in her classmates and in herself, and how R. L. Stine turned being the "funny guy" into the best defense against the bullies in his class.

Today's top authors for teens come together to share their stories about bullying — as silent observers on the sidelines of high school, as victims, and as perpetrators — in a collection at turns moving and self-effacing, but always deeply personal.


 



God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales
by Penn Jillette
God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales

A scathingly funny reinterpretation of the Ten Commandments from the larger, louder half of world-famous magic duo Penn and Teller reveals an atheist's experience in the world: from performing on the Vegas strip with Siegfried and Roy to children and fatherhood to his ongoing dialogue with proselytizers of the Christian Right and the joys of sex while scuba-diving, Penn has an outrageous sense of humor and a brilliantly entertaining opinion on, well, anything you care to think of.


 



You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl: Observations on Life from the Shallow End of the Pool
by Celia Rivenbark
You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl: Observations on Life from the Shallow End of the Pool

From the bestselling, award-winning author of You Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start In The Morning, comes another collection of hilarious observations that will resonate with women, mothers, and girlfriends everywhere  

In her newest wickedly irreverent humor collection, Celia Rivenbark cracks up while getting her downward facing dog on, pines for a world in which every mom gets to behave like Betty Draper and wonders why everybody's so excited about the Science Fair when there aren't even any rides. In it you’ll find essays on such topics as:

Menopause Spurs Thoughts of Death and Turkey

I Dreamed a Dream That My Lashes Were Long
Twitter Woes: I’ve Got Plenty of Characters, Just No Character
Movie To-Do List: Cook Like Julia, Adopt Really Big Kid
Charlie Bit Your Finger? Good! And other thoughts on the virus that is YouTube
And much more! For any woman who longs for the good old days when Jane Fonda in legwarmers was the only one who saw you exercise, YOU DON’T SWEAT MUCH FOR A FAT GIRL is comfort food in book form.


 



It Looked Different on the Model: Epic Tales of Impending Shame and Infamy
by Laurie Notaro
It Looked Different on the Model: Epic Tales of Impending Shame and Infamy

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Everyone’s favorite Idiot Girl, Laurie Notaro, is just trying to find the right fit, whether it’s in the adorable blouse that looks charming on the mannequin but leaves her in a literal bind or in her neighborhood after she’s shamefully exposed at a holiday party by delivering a low-quality rendition of “Jingle Bells.” Notaro makes misstep after riotous misstep as she shares tales of marriage and family, including stories about the dog-bark translator that deciphers Notaro’s and her husband’s own “woofs” a little too accurately, the emails from her mother with “FWD” in the subject line (“which in email code means Forecasting World Destruction”), and the dead-of-night shopping sprees and Devil Dog–devouring monkeyshines of a creature known as “Ambien Laurie.” At every turn, Notaro’s pluck and irresistible candor set the New York Times bestselling author on a journey that’s laugh-out-loud funny and utterly unforgettable.


 



Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past
by Simon Reynolds
Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past

One of The Telegraph’s Best Music Books 2011

We live in a pop age gone loco for retro and crazy for commemoration. Band re-formations and reunion tours, expanded reissues of classic albums and outtake-crammed box sets, remakes and sequels, tribute albums and mash-ups… But what happens when we run out of past? Are we heading toward a sort of culturalecological catastrophe where the archival stream of pop history has been exhausted?

Simon Reynolds, one of the finest music writers of his generation, argues that we have indeed reached a tipping point, and that although earlier eras had their own obsessions with antiquity — the Renaissance with its admiration for Roman and Greek classicism, the Gothic movement’s invocations of medievalism — never has there been a society so obsessed with the cultural artifacts of its own immediate past. Retromania is the first book to examine the retro industry and ask the question: Is this retromania a death knell for any originality and distinctiveness of our own?


 



Dear Mr. Potter: Letters of Love, Loss, and Magic
by Lily Zalon
Dear Mr. Potter: Letters of Love, Loss, and Magic

Dear Mr. Potter: Letters of Love, Loss, and Magic features hundreds of letters and pictures from Harry Potter fans. Individually, these letters and pictures tell stories of how fans have been impacted and inspired by Harry Potter. Together they serve as proof of what all Potter fans know so well: the Harry Potter series changes lives.

Along with fans from around the world, Dear Mr. Potter also features letters from Harry Potter actress Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), New York Times-bestselling author John Green, Leaky Cauldron webmistress and author of New York Times-bestseller Harry, A History Melissa Anelli, Andrew Slack of the Harry Potter Alliance, Paul DeGeorge of Harry and the Potters, Andrew Sims and Eric Scull of MuggleNet, and Esther Earl’s mom, Lori.


 



Good Bones and Simple Murders
by Margaret Atwood
Good Bones and Simple Murders

In this collection of short works that defy easy categorization, Margaret Atwood displays, in condensed and crystallized form, the trademark wit and viruosity of her best-selling novels, brilliant stories, and insightful poetry. Among the jewels gathered here are Gertrude offering Hamlet a piece of her mind, the real truth about the Little Red Hen, a reincarnated bat explaining how Bram Stoker got "Dracula" all wrong, and the five methods of making a man (such as the "Traditional Method": "Take some dust off the ground. Form. Breathe into the nostrils the breath of life. Simple, but effective!") There are parables, monologues, prose poems, condensed science fiction, reconfigured fairy tales, and other miniature masterpieces-punctuated with charming illustrations by the author. A must for her fans, and a wonderful gift for all who savor the art of exquisite prose, "Good Bones And Simple Murders" marks the first time these writings have been available in a trade edition in the United States."[Atwood] proves she is an accomplished miniaturist… She can pack more wallop into less space than any other writer in her weight class". — "Toronto Globe And Mail"


 



My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me: And Other Stories I Shouldn't Share with Acquaintances, Coworkers, Taxi drivers, Assistants, Job Interviewers, Bikini Waxers, and Ex/Current/Future Boyfriends but Have
by Hilary Winston
My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me: And Other Stories I Shouldn't Share with Acquaintances, Coworkers, Taxi drivers, Assistants, Job Interviewers, Bikini Waxers, and Ex/Current/Future Boyfriends but Have

TV writer Hilary Winston offers up a witty collection of autobiographical tales about her misadventures in dating.

Just when Hilary feels like her life is finally in order, she gets a sucker-punch to the gut: Her ex has written a novel based on their relationship in which he refers to her throughout as the “fat-assed girlfriend.” Her response to this affront is just one of the many hilarious stories in My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me-a laugh-out-loud, tell-all in which Hilary sets the record straight on all her exes.


 



Bossypants
by Tina Fey
Bossypants

Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update, " before "Sarah Palin, " Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon — from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)

An unabridged recording on 5 CDs (5. 5 Hours).


 



The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy
by Leah Wilson, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Mary Borsellino, Sarah Rees Brennan, Terri Clark, Bree Despain, Adrienne Kress, Sarah Darer Littman, Cara Lockwood, Elizabeth M. Rees, Carrie Ryan, Ned Vizzini, Lili Wilkinson, Blythe Woolston
The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy

Katniss Everdeen's adventures may have come to an end, but her story continues to blaze in the hearts of millions worldwide.

In The Girl Who Was on Fire, thirteen YA authors take you back to Panem with moving, dark, and funny pieces on Katniss, the Games, Gale and Peeta, reality TV, survival, and more. From the trilogy's darker themes of violence and social control to fashion and weaponry, the collection's exploration of the Hunger Games reveals exactly how rich, and how perilous, protagonist Katniss' world really is.

• How does the way the Games affect the brain explain Haymitch's drinking, Annie's distraction, and Wiress' speech problems?
• What does the rebellion have in common with the War on Terror?
• Why isn't the answer to "Peeta or Gale?" as interesting as the question itself?
• What should Panem have learned from the fates of other hedonistic societies throughout history and what can we?

The Girl Who Was On Fire covers all three books in the Hunger Games trilogy.


 



This is a Book
by Demetri Martin
This is a Book

From the renowned comedian, creator, star and executive producer/multiple title-holder of Comedy Central's Important Things with Demetri Martin comes a bold, original, and rectangular kind of humor book.

Demetri's first literary foray features longer-form essays and conceptual pieces (such as Protagonists' Hospital, a melodrama about the clinic doctors who treat only the flesh wounds and minor head scratches of Hollywood action heroes), as well as his trademark charts, doodles, drawings, one-liners, and lists (i. e., the world views of optimists, pessimists and contortionists), Martin's material is varied, but his unique voice and brilliant mind will keep readers in stitches from beginning to end.


 



A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter
by William Deresiewicz
A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

An eloquent memoir of a young man's life transformed by literature.

In A Jane Austen Education, Austen scholar William Deresiewicz turns to the author's novels to reveal the remarkable life lessons hidden within. With humor and candor, Deresiewicz employs his own experiences to demonstrate the enduring power of Austen's teachings. Progressing from his days as an immature student to a happily married man, Deresiewicz's A Jane Austen Education is the story of one man's discovery of the world outside himself.

A self-styled intellectual rebel dedicated to writers such as James Joyce and Joseph Conrad, Deresiewicz never thought Austen's novels would have anything to offer him. But when he was assigned to read Emma as a graduate student at Columbia, something extraordinary happened. Austen's devotion to the everyday, and her belief in the value of ordinary lives, ignited something in Deresiewicz. He began viewing the world through Austen's eyes and treating those around him as generously as Austen treated her characters. Along the way, Deresiewicz was amazed to discover that the people in his life developed the depth and richness of literary characters-that his own life had suddenly acquired all the fascination of a novel. His real education had finally begun.

Weaving his own story-and Austen's-around the ones her novels tell, Deresiewicz shows how her books are both about education and themselves an education. Her heroines learn about friendship and feeling, staying young and being good, and, of course, love. As they grow up, they learn lessons that are imparted to Austen's reader, who learns and grows by their sides.

A Jane Austen Education is a testament to the transformative power of literature, a celebration of Austen's mastery, and a joy to read. Whether for a newcomer to Austen or a lifelong devotee, Deresiewicz brings fresh insights to the novelist and her beloved works. Ultimately, Austen's world becomes indelibly entwined with our own, showing the relevance of her message and the triumph of her vision.

Watch a Video


 



Unfamiliar Fishes
by Sarah Vowell
Unfamiliar Fishes

Many think of 1776 as the defining year of American history, when we became a nation devoted to the pursuit of happiness through self- government. In Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell argues that 1898 might be a year just as defining, when, in an orgy of imperialism, the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded first Cuba, then the Philippines, becoming an international superpower practically overnight.

Among the developments in these outposts of 1898, Vowell considers the Americanization of Hawaii the most intriguing. From the arrival of New England missionaries in 1820, their goal to Christianize the local heathen, to the coup d'état of the missionaries' sons in 1893, which overthrew the Hawaiian queen, the events leading up to American annexation feature a cast of beguiling, and often appealing or tragic, characters: whalers who fired cannons at the Bible-thumpers denying them their God-given right to whores, an incestuous princess pulled between her new god and her brother-husband, sugar barons, lepers, con men, Theodore Roosevelt, and the last Hawaiian queen, a songwriter whose sentimental ode "Aloha 'Oe" serenaded the first Hawaiian president of the United States during his 2009 inaugural parade.

With her trademark smart-alecky insights and reporting, Vowell lights out to discover the off, emblematic, and exceptional history of the fiftieth state, and in so doing finds America, warts and all.


 






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