Every once in a while, I find an essay that really stays with me. Here are a few gems I’ve found over the years.
In You’re a Good Man, Dr. Smurf — one of my favorite essays of all time — Martha Beck describes her intimidation as a Harvard student, surrounded by colleagues who appear brilliant and omniscient. Until, one day, in a very funny way, she realizes that everyone around her is totally and utterly bullshitting.
Rebecca Solnit’s essay Men Explain Things to Me is the essay that launched a thousand blog entries. She begins with a story of the time an older man patronizingly describes a book to her — her own book, as it happens. This essay inspired the term “mansplaining.”
In Does Gender Matter? Dr. Ben Barres describes the culture of the sciences from his unique vantage point as a transgender scientist: Shortly after I changed sex, a faculty member was heard to say “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister’s.”
If you like a long, richly-detailed essay, try The Marriage Cure by Katherine Boo. It explores the theme of poverty, by following several women trying to make the best out of terrible situations. A moving essay that provides no easy answers, but plenty of questions.
And finally, a short essay called “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear” — published in the Modern Love section of the New York Times of all places! — had a simple but profound effect on me. It’s about a middle-aged man who tries to solve his midlife crisis by breaking up his marriage, and how his wife’s verbal jujitsu enables them to get through his rough patch and stay together.
Now go ye forth, and Read!