Whimsy Scribble

5 Essay Collections To Add To Your Reading List

Scribbler's SuggestionsMichela Mastellone-SchottmanComment

I've been making the effort to try and get more of the projects I've been working on up and posted, but realized it's been a long time since I posted some stuff from the non-crafty side of my life. I've always been an avid reader, though as most know, time and interest in reading varies over time. While I generally gravitate towards primarily science based non-fiction, recently I've been reading many more essay collections and loving them. It's so easy to fly through a collection in a night or two, a big difference from most of my non-fiction reads, which leaves you with a very different fleeting immersive reading experience. While compiling this list, I became aware that practically all of these authors have well-read blogs that inspired the books. So, if you are someone who enjoys reading blogs (I hope you do!) they are definitely worth checking out.

1. The Wrong Way To Save Your Life By Megan Stielstra

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It is a quick read, which I generally expect from essay collections, but I was really impressed by the varying format of essays. In some chapters, she succinctly summarizes major events of a decade of her life, simply highlighting major events, feelings, experiences etc from various years of her life. In other essays she goes into more depth of certain areas of her life such as her career in higher education, helping educate teachers about inclusiveness in their ever changing world of academia, or her experience as a new mother experiencing postpartum depression. 

What really stood out to me however was how strong her voice and personal opinion came through in all her writing. This is a very new book, published in the midst of the chaos of the Trump candidacy, and while this is far from a political book, her strong feelings ad frequent outrage about what is happening in our world was of course inevitably mentioned in certain essays. There was something comforting to me about reading her anecdotes. I very much connected to her voice and often felt like her views were a seamless combination of mine and my best friend's: almost like reading a transcript of a leisurely conversation of ours over a cup of tea. 

This book is one of the most enjoyable I've read in awhile.

2. I'll Tell You In Person By Chloe Caldwell

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This was a very fast, yet enjoyable read. It is somewhat forgettable as it is a self-proclaimed collection of essays from the life of a 30 year old who has not done anything particularly remarkable in life. For that reason however, it is quite relatable. Each essay keeps you reading on to the next, telling snippets of life going through teenage years and then through her 20's, dealing with changing relationships with parents and friends, drug abuse, skin problems, general growing up in a fairly average way. To her credit, the author manages to make the mundane enjoyable to read. 

3. People I Want To Punch In The Throat By Jen Mann

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For me, this was yet another somewhat forgettable collection of essays, which I still enjoyed reading. I think for many this collection would be much more relatable, but for me there were not very many essays in this collection that really struck home for me. Largely her essays deal with her experiences in motherhood and marriage - things I relate very little too. However, for people with more interest/experience in a typical suburban family life, this would be a great read. Her writing is very funny, if at times walking the line of hyperbole and stereotyping. 

4. We Are Never Meeting In Real Life By Samantha Irby

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I really loved this collection. Very quick and mostly light hearted, I would strongly recommend this as a "summer read" sort of book. The author is clearly a comedian and has a great skill at intertwining her wit into everything she is writing about - from her awkward romances and "less than perfect" body to her disinterest in going outdoors and the long lasting effects of being raised in poverty. The humor is more often than not fairly self-deprecating, and several essays may be a little too graphic for some reader's taste - I however loved it. Of special interest to me was her hilarious relationship with her cranky decrepit cat. She occasionally tells stories involving her work as a receptionist at a vet hospital, which as an animal care professional, I couldn't help but appreciate the somewhat distasteful humor that we all in the field have to develop, but have very few with whom it's appropriate to share.

5. Stories I'd Tell In Bars By Jen Lancaster

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I have very mixed feelings about this essay collection/memoir. Truth be told, I would be super irritated by anyone who told me any of these stories in a bar. While Lancaster is certainly a talented writer and I found her writing very compelling and easy to read, the content itself annoyed me. To me, she came across as a very self-absorbed, somewhat obnoxious personality. While the book by definition is a collection of memoir based essays, a better-than-thou air comes through in her writing that I didn't find as oppressive in other similar collections. The essays are largely focused on her relationship with her husband (a relationship that I personally would not want to emulate, but that she freely offers advice as if she is the only one who knows the secret of a long lasting relationship). She disseminates other lifely advice and opinions of others (that I generally disagree with) in such a brash and definitive way that I am extremely put off by her. At one point in the book there is even an off-handed comment about her need to self-publish her memoir due to others lack of interest, a feat that she proudly congratulates herself for, but for me was just a fact that made me feel more justified in judging her for her all too self-important air. Nonetheless, I can't deny that the book itself is decent, even if the voice in it annoyed me.