Tag Archives: Essays

The Fiddler in the Subway

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Title: The Fiddler in the Subway: The true story of what happened when a world-class violinist played for handouts - and other virtuoso performances by America’s foremost feature writer

Author: Gene Weingarten

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, July 2010

Summary: If you take one of the worlds best musicians and place him in the middle of one of the nation’s busiest subway stations and have him play his heart out, will anyone stop and listen? In this collection of sharply observed essays, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten shows why he is the only person to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing twice. Not only is he a brilliant writer (or, ‘investigative humorist,’ as he calls himself), he chooses to write on a variety of subjects from the ridiculous (trying to incite the French to be rude to him in Paris) to the sublime (witnessing the lengths to which a concerned citizenry will go in order to save a small bird trapped in a shop window.) Along the way, you will discover that the highest paid children’s performer in the D.C. area, “The Great Zucchini,” is a man whose personal demons might be his greatest professional asset, and you will meet the residents of Battle Mountain, NV, who might just live in “The Armpit of America.”

Like any great humorist, Weingarten is not afraid of pointing out his own shortcomings. Like any great journalist, he is willing to get to the root of his subject, even if what he finds there is chilling, disturbing, or deeply tragic. Many people believe Weingarten is the best essayist in America. Readers of this book would have a hard time arguing with that.

Who will like this book?: This is a great book for all general non-fiction readers – the essays cover a wide array of topics. And as Weingarten is a former editor, this book is also full of useful information and inspiration for writers.

If you like this, read this: How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley. I’ll Mature When I’m Dead by Dave Barry. Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Bad Mother

Title: Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace

Author: Ayelet Waldman

Publisher: Doubleday, May 2009

Summary: When her essay Motherlove was published, Ayelet Waldman revealed to the world that she loved her husband more than she loves her children. She was promptly vilified by ‘good’ mothers everywhere – even receiving letters stating that her children should be taken from her. After all, how could a woman who would make such a statement be a fit parent?

Are there anything but bad mothers out there nowadays, when the expectations placed on women to succeed both in and out of the home are so extreme…and when there always seems to be a member of the Good Mommy Police out there to bust you when you slip up? Waldman’s passionate responses to this question, as well as her thoughts on the many facets of motherhood, daughterhood and modern wifedom, are included in this bold and passionate collection of essays.

Who will like this book?: Harried moms who feel like they drop the ball more often than they catch it, and anybody who knows and loves them.

If you like this, try this: The collection The Bitch in the House. The forthcoming Manhood for Amateurs by Waldman’s husband, Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

Title: I Was Told There’d Be Cake

Author: Sloane Crosley

Summary: This collection of witty, self-depricating, utterly hillarious essays examine what is means to be young, single and whipsmart in New York today. Crosley, who grew up in Westchester and has written for the New York Observer, Playboy and The Village Voice, touches on many of the common experiences of growing up in suburbia: summer camp, being a bridesmaid, secretly wishing you lived somewhere more exotic; as well as life in post-9/11 New York, from the secret kindness of strangers, dinner parties and moving to a new apartment. However, like the essays of David Sedaris, these mundane events transform into irreverant, laugh-out-loud commentaries on the intricacies of modern life.

One of the blurbs on the back of the book calls Crosley “a 21st century Dorothy Parker.” Usually statements like these bother me, but in this case, the proof is in the reading. This is an outstanding debut collection, and I cannot recommend it highly enough!

Who will like this book?: People waiting patiently for the next David Sedaris book. Young, single, urban (or wannabe urban) women.

If you like this, try this: The books of David Rakoff, including Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable. Or try Sarah Vowell’s witty commentaries on pop culture and history, particularly Assassination Vacation.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian