Some of you might remember at the beginning of this year I vowed to read more long-form writing. Immediately afterwards I posted my reviews of The Best American Essays 2015 and The Best American Essays 2013 but since then my zeal for such collections has cooled. Fortunately, I’ve been reading some great individual stuff here and there and even joined a long-form discussion group that meets every two weeks to discuss articles dealing with international politics and related topics. I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit I’ve read only one additional essay collection since February. Through Overdrive I dowloaded a Kindle edition of The Best American Essays 2106, more or less to see what kind of essays editor Jonathan Franzen would assemble for 2016’s offering. Like just every essay collection there’s stuff in here I loved, stuff I thought was OK and stuff that made me wonder why in the world was it included in the first place.
Some are by familiar writers like Oliver Sacks, Joyce Carol Oates and Sebastian Junger but the rest were unknowns which is perfect because I was introduced to new voices and that’s why I read collections like these. Of these unknowns, Jaquira Diaz’s “Ordinary Girls” in which she recalls her turbulent childhood raised by an abusive, schizophrenic mother was a favorite piece of mine, as was Francisco Cantu’s “Bajadas”, his firsthand account of life as a border agent. In previous essay collections featured on my blog it was the LGTBQ-themed essays that made for surprisingly good reading. This time around it was Alexander Chee’s “Girl” recalling his maiden experience in drag one Halloween evening in San Francisco’s Castro District, and Mason Stokes “Namesake” in which he looked back on the life of his beloved uncle, a life-long bachelor and saw many a striking similarity between his uncle and himself, a gay man. Both pieces were among the best in the bunch.
Before the end of the year I’d like to round things out with a few more collections like this one, perhaps one or two focusing on crime or science and nature. We’ll just have to wait and see.