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Essay a Day January Wrap-Up

As you may (or may not) remember, Ash (English Major’s Narrative) and I have embarked on a project to read an Essay a Day in 2011. After we announced our grand plan last December, Vasilly (1330v) e-mailed and said she wanted to join us, which was awesome! After one month in, I thought it was time to offer an update on my progress.

I’m still trying to figure out how to fit reading essays (and, probably even more challenging) writing about essays fits into my reading routine. My first thought was to read an essay as soon as I wake up in the morning, to star my day off with some good writing as inspiration. But that hasn’t really worked because I spend too much time reading blogs in the morning and run out of time/forget about reading an essay. I also tried reading over lunch, but that habit hasn’t stuck yet. It seems like the best time to read an essay or two is right before I go to bed. An essay is a nice length to help me get drowsy, and when then end it’s easy to put the book down.

The problem with reading at night is that it doesn’t work with my other goal for the project: to post about each essay on my Tumblr as a way to keep track of my reading. I don’t want to bring my laptop to bed with me, and writing a post on my tablet is a huge pain. And writing after I finish reading wakes me up, which is not the point of reading before bed!

I think what I need to do is start keeping a notebook and pen with my book of essays, so I can take notes whenever and wherever I read, then just make a point of putting thoughts on Tumblr the next time I’m by a computer rather than feeling like I’ve missed my opportunity if I don’t write up a post immediately after I finish reading. Simple solution… it’s silly I didn’t think of it until now!

Other than that, I’ve been really enjoying the practice of incorporating essays into my reading routine. I think I’ll be able to finish quite a few of my unread essay collections by the end of the year, which will be great. I don’t think it’s been slowing down my reading on other books by any measureable amount, which is nice too.

The first collection I was reading from was Best American Essays 2007, edited by David Foster Wallace. It wasn’t my favorite collection of essays, despite how much I liked DFW’s introduction to the book. On the whole, I felt like too many of the essays had a political bent. I’m not opposed to politically-motivated pieces, but a collection (even a “best of” collection) needs to have some variety. I skipped over a number of the pieces, just because I wasn’t feeling engaged. Skipping one essay in a collection used to really bug me, but I must have matured and calmed as a reader because it wasn’t a problem this time around.

I also included some long-form writing that I found online in my first month of reading. Of those pieces, I can’t recommend Tom Junod’s essay, “My Mom Couldn’t Cook,” from Esquire highly enough. I thought it was awesome.

My next collection, which I’m 10 essays into at the moment, is Best American Essays 2011. So far, I’m enjoying it a lot more. There feels like there is more variety, both in topic and format, in the book. I think the editor, Edwidge Danticat, and I have similar tastes in essays, which is a plus! She even included one of my favorite essays from last year, “What Broke My Father’s Heart” by Katy Butler, which I also highly, highly recommend.

So I guess, in summation, despite some fits and starts and missed days of reading, I got to the end of January and I’ve read 31 essays. Here’s to 29 more in February!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Amy January 31, 2012, 8:03 am

    Congratulations on doing so well in your first month! Great plan to use a notebook, I need to think of that more often too.

    • Kim February 4, 2012, 10:42 am

      I have a notebook with me when I’m reading other books, but it somehow didn’t occur to me to do that with the essays too. Silly!

  • Care January 31, 2012, 11:09 am

    Congrats! I’ll have to jump over to Tumblr and see what you’ve learned in these 31 essays (I do tend to assume essays is nonfiction learning more than enjoying – why is that?)

    • Kim February 4, 2012, 10:43 am

      You know, I think it just depends on the essay. Some I end up feeling like I enjoyed them more, and some I feel like I learned things. I think that’s a cool part of reading essays 🙂

  • Kailana January 31, 2012, 11:43 am

    That’s awesome! I am trying to read more essays, too. Maybe I should have aimed for 1 a day, but at the moment I am just aiming to finish one collection a month… Hope it continues to be fun!

    • Kim February 4, 2012, 10:44 am

      I think one collection a month is a great goal! I’m not sure if either goal is better, just approached differently, I think.

  • Tina January 31, 2012, 7:58 pm

    It’s a format that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, but I do enjoy essays. In a way, the best bloggers write essays.

    Both the essays you linked to are amazing. Going to follow your tumblr for more suggestions.

    • Kim February 4, 2012, 10:44 am

      Oh definitely! Some of my favorite “general life” bloggers basically write essays in posts. I think some of these collections often take submissions from bloggers, which is cool.

  • Vasilly February 2, 2012, 6:16 pm

    I’ve ran into a few problems too with my essay reading. I’ve learn that none of the libraries I’m a patron at, have essay collections as e-books. I’ve also learned to keep Best American Essays 2011 in my back pack so I can read an essay or two when I have time to.

    “What Broke My Father’s Heart” is such a great essay.

    • Kim February 4, 2012, 10:45 am

      Weird! That is too bad. My library doesn’t have a ton of essay collections, but I have so many of my own I don’t think that’ll be a problem. I have to remember to keep the essays on me while I’m out and about. I tend to forget it at home, which means I miss good essay reading time.

  • Rebecca Reid February 3, 2012, 7:11 am

    what an impressive project. I’m just not that in to essays. But I should give them a little space in my reading life, I suppose.

    • Kim February 4, 2012, 10:47 am

      I don’t know… if a format doesn’t work for you, I don’t think it makes sense to for yourself to read it. That said, it’s hard to know if a format works or doesn’t work until you try a few different styles and authors, you know? I’d suggest getting a collection with a lot of different authors and dip in and out to see if you find an author or style that you do like.

  • Sheila (Book Journey) February 5, 2012, 9:58 pm

    Yay on a great start in January! I just seen over at Amy’s blog that you are going to BEA this year – woo hoo! I am in as well!

    • Kim February 9, 2012, 7:53 pm

      Yay, exciting! I’m glad you’ll be at BEA too.