The Best American Essays 2012

Author: Robert Atwan (series editor), David Brooks (editor)

Type: Non-fiction, essays

Published: 2012

I read it: January 2013

best essays 2012

As far as these Best American anthologies go, this one is mostly hits. Here are the good ones whose subject matter is in the titles: “The Crazy State of Psychiatry” by Marcia Angell; “The Foul Reign of ‘Self-Reliance'” by Benjamin Anastas; “The Good Short Life” by Dudley Clendinen and “How Doctors Die” by Ken Murray, both wonderful, life- (and death-) affirming reads; “The Accidental Universe” by Alan Lightman (a nice layman’s summary of the current state of theoretical physics).

As far as other good ones go, Garret Keizer’s “Getting Schooled” is an A+ account of modern teaching; Jose Antonio Vargas’ “Outlaw” makes a clear case for evaluating immigration issues; Jonathan Franzen’s “Creation Myth” is a bit esoteric in its triple topics–outdoor exploration, novels (especially Robinson Crusoe), and David Foster Wallace–but was a winner for me.

There are even more quality pieces: “Insatiable” by Mark Doty explores the idea that Bram Stoker based Dracula off Walt Whitman; “A Beauty” by Robert Boyers goes into the hard-to-define areas of physical beauty; “Dr. Don” by Peter Hessler is a unique portrait of a small-town pharmacist… I guess I should stop here and not even bother with the misses, of which there are thankfully few.

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