I love personal essays because they give readers a chance to glimpse into another person’s life and help change the discourse of “us versus them” and otherness into “we” and inclusion. Most often, personal essays help us learn from another’s mistake without the sanctimonious, preachy tone of self-help books or Malcolm Gladwellian essays.
I have a growing library of essay collections and autobiographies from the likes of Joan Didion, David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, Sherman Alexie, and Gary Shteyngart, all whom share their often painful experiences using humour and touching anecdotes. However, I’m also drawn to storytelling from authors who do not necessarily have the same talent with a pen but having the willingness to share their experiences – good or bad – as a cathartic measure that we may also benefit from through appreciated insight. We all have baggage.
The New York Times‘ Modern Love column is one of my favourite collections of personal essays on, what else, love. Readers (who tend to be mostly established writers) are invited to contribute stories on the different kinds of love they’ve experienced in their lives. As column editor Daniel Jones explores the rich selection of essays he’s edited over the decade in his new book, Love Illuminated, here are some of my favourite stories:
Do not Adjust Your Screen or Sound
A daughter hesitantly builds a relationship with her ailing father after years of constant disappointment.
A Housecleaning That Swept Out the Ashes of My Marriage
On finding the power to move on after a painful, devastating divorce.
Our Story Ended With a Slow Fade to Black
On finally finding love but losing a spouse to a rare brain cancer.
My Triplets Were Inseparable, Whatever the Risks
An expectant mom considers carrying twins instead of triplets because of serious health implications.
A Wedding Invitation for a Mom Long Gone
A bride-to-be feels the loss of her mom as she plans her wedding.
It Took a Villain to Save Our Marriage
A married couple going through a rough period bond over their shared dislike for an obnoxious neighbour.
My Back-Seat View of a Great Romance
As a young woman analyzes the pseudo-relationship she’s in, she witnesses the start of a forbidden romance in a foreign country.
Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear
A wife patiently supports her husband as he goes through a midlife crisis and contemplates divorce.
Sharing the Shame After My Arrest
A heartbroken wife learns to rebuild her life after getting arrested by the F.B.I. for a crime her husband committed.
Picking Up the Scent on the Road to Bliss
After many failed relationships, a wife finds a new appreciation for her husband through their shared love for dogs.