In her introduction to this year’s The Best American Essays, guest editor Vivian Gornick states that her selections “contribute materially to the long and honorable history of the personal essay by way of the value they place on lived experience.” Provocative, daring, and honest at a time when many writers are deliberately silencing themselves in the face of authoritarian and populist censorship movements, the twenty-one essays collected here reflect their authors’ unapologetic observations of the world around them. From an inmate struggling to find purpose during his prison sentence to a doctor coping with the unpredictable nature of her patient, to a widow wishing for just a little more time with her late husband, these narratives—and the others featured in this anthology—celebrate the endurance of the human spirit.
The Best American Essays 2023 includes Ciara Alfaro • Jillian Barnet • Sylvie Baumgartel • Eric Borsuk • Chris Dennis • Xujun Eberlein • Sandra Hager Eliason • George Estreich • Merrill Joan Gerber • Debra Gwartney • Edward Hoagland • Laura Kipnis • Phillip Lopate • Celeste Marcus • Sam Meekings • Sigrid Nunez • Kathryn Schulz • Anthony Siegel • Scott Spencer • Angelique Stevens • David Treuer
About the Author
VIVIAN GORNICK is a writer and critic whose work has received two National Book Critics Circle Award nominations. Her works include the memoirs Fierce Attachments—ranked the best memoir of the last fifty years by the New York Times—The Odd Woman and the City, and Unfinished Business: Notes of a Chronic Re-reader, as well as the classic text on writing, The Situation and the Story.
ROBERT ATWAN has been the series editor of The Best American Essays since its inception in 1986. He has edited numerous literary anthologies and written essays and reviews for periodicals nationwide.
“[A] thoughtful entry in the long-running series...The works in this year’s collection are a mix of the disconcerting, the probing, and the self-reflective, and well-suited to challenging times.” — Publishers Weekly
“An eclectic, accomplished collection rich in variety and talent.” — Library Journal (starred review)
“These essays challenge personal and political assumptions and show us life in all its complexities and contradictions. Which in this American moment, and in every other, matters.” — USA Today
“New Yorker writer Schulz (Being Wrong) collects essays that skillfully combine journalistic and literary sensibilities in this powerful addition to the annual anthology series… This is a moving retrospective of a singular year.” — Publishers Weekly on The Best American Essays 2021