Feel Free

Feel Free

From Zadie Smith, one of the most beloved authors of her generation, a new collection of essays Since she burst spectacularly into view with her debut novel almost two decades ago, Zadie Smith has established herself not just as one of the world's preeminent fiction writers, but also a brilliant and singular essayist. She contributes regularly to The New Yorker and the N...

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Title:Feel Free
Author:Zadie Smith
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Feel Free Reviews

  • Max Urai

    So: Zadie Smith, it seems, has replaced David Foster Wallace as my new person-to-aspire-to-be writer. Some pretty major shit going on with that right now. More as the story develops.

  • Molly Ferguson

    This was an advance reading copy graciously lent to me.

    What is truly amazing about Zadie Smith is her ability to go from "low" culture to high art in one sentence - she'll be musing on Key and Peele or Jay-Z and suddenly launch into a deep discussion of Schoepenhauer, Berger, or Buber. She tackles climate change, Brexit, Facebook, race, the boring parts of parenting, how pleasure is better than joy. Some of the essays in this book were so sparkling and luminescent, they are instant classics. Tho

    This was an advance reading copy graciously lent to me.

    What is truly amazing about Zadie Smith is her ability to go from "low" culture to high art in one sentence - she'll be musing on Key and Peele or Jay-Z and suddenly launch into a deep discussion of Schoepenhauer, Berger, or Buber. She tackles climate change, Brexit, Facebook, race, the boring parts of parenting, how pleasure is better than joy. Some of the essays in this book were so sparkling and luminescent, they are instant classics. Those were: "Northwest London Blues," "Fences: A Brexit Diary," "Dance Lessons for Writers," "Generation Why," "The I Who is Not Me," "The Bathroom," and "Joy".

    Here's a glimpse of one of the many lines that resonated: "Early on, for better or for worse, I chose whose child I wanted to be: the child of the novel. Almost everything else was subjugated to this ruling passion, reading stories. As a consequence, I can barely add a column of double digits, I have not the slightest idea of how a plane flies, I can't draw any better than a five-year-old."

    I would rate this about a 4.7 because a few of the essays were stinkers (why would an editor leave in the boring book reviews?), but the ones that were good, shone.

  • Lara

    Just gonna say,

    is one of the best essays about music I've ever read. I know 100% nothing about Joni Mitchell. I'm sure I've heard something of hers at some point, but I have no idea what, and I've always sort of put her in this camp with U2 and the Beatles and Janis Joplin and Eric Clapton (

    artists that a lot of people really, really love and who are generally considered some of music's greats, but whom I have absolutely no interest in). This essay made me want to

    Just gonna say,

    is one of the best essays about music I've ever read. I know 100% nothing about Joni Mitchell. I'm sure I've heard something of hers at some point, but I have no idea what, and I've always sort of put her in this camp with U2 and the Beatles and Janis Joplin and Eric Clapton (

    artists that a lot of people really, really love and who are generally considered some of music's greats, but whom I have absolutely no interest in). This essay made me want to fall in love with Joni,

    to fall in love with Joni, before even listening to a single note, and also articulated so well that feeling of looking back on a former version of yourself and wondering who that person even was, as well as just...the ways we sometimes just close ourselves off to some things while leaving the doors wide open for others. Zadie Smith is magic.

    My homework for today: listen to Joni.

    Anyway, there are a lot of really great essays in here. I struggled with some of the book reviews because I didn’t really know what she was talking about (I kinda don’t read much literary fiction, sorry!), but then there were also a number of other essays about things I might never have even heard of that made me want to run out and experience those things RIGHT NOW (like Joni Mitchell, although of course I’d at least heard of her). I think maybe it depended on how Smith connected with those things personally...when she got excited about a subject, I did too!

    In conclusion, I really love this woman’s way of writing and I feel ridiculous for never having read anything of hers until now. I will be reading her novels, literary fiction or not, ASAP.

    Thanks, Penguin and Goodreads for the opportunity to read and review!

  • Sara

    I love her essays more than her fiction, and always jump to read a new one -- so I'd read about half of these before. And I'd read them again. She's brilliant, she writes beautifully, and has a charmingly open enthusiastic curiosity for so many different things -- art, politics, dance, books, movies, other people.

  • Anne

    This collection of essays spans a diverse range of topics: current events, music, art, books and movies, to name a few of the observations, covering both ends of the cultural spectrum. As an ex-librarian, I especially appreciated the piece on public libraries (‘the only thing left on the high street that doesn't want either your soul or your wallet’) and also the section on other writers. Her review of the work of Magnus Mills (one of my favourite authors) is particularly enlightening.

    Some of t

    This collection of essays spans a diverse range of topics: current events, music, art, books and movies, to name a few of the observations, covering both ends of the cultural spectrum. As an ex-librarian, I especially appreciated the piece on public libraries (‘the only thing left on the high street that doesn't want either your soul or your wallet’) and also the section on other writers. Her review of the work of Magnus Mills (one of my favourite authors) is particularly enlightening.

    Some of the references seem rather dated and obscure for me, but I found the accounts from Smith’s own family history, personal experiences and travels abroad far more relevant - and revealing. And although she describes her fear of personal disclosure (for instance, when using the first person narrative voice in her novels), I would love to read this author's autobiography.

    Many thanks to the publisher for the ARC via NetGalley.

  • Anne

    This collection of essays spans a diverse range of topics: current events, music, art, books and movies, to name a few of the observations, covering both ends of the cultural spectrum. As an ex-librarian, I especially appreciated the piece on public libraries (‘the only thing left on the high street that doesn't want either your soul or your wallet’) and also the section on other writers. Her review of the work of Magnus Mills (one of my favourite authors) is particularly enlightening.

    Some of t

    This collection of essays spans a diverse range of topics: current events, music, art, books and movies, to name a few of the observations, covering both ends of the cultural spectrum. As an ex-librarian, I especially appreciated the piece on public libraries (‘the only thing left on the high street that doesn't want either your soul or your wallet’) and also the section on other writers. Her review of the work of Magnus Mills (one of my favourite authors) is particularly enlightening.

    Some of the references seem rather dated and obscure for me, but I found the accounts from Smith’s own family history, personal experiences and travels abroad far more relevant - and revealing. And although she describes her fear of personal disclosure (for instance, when using the first person narrative voice in her novels), I would love to read this author's autobiography.

  • Andre

    ⭐⭐⭐.5 The standout aspect of these essays is the writing is always stunning. It is not difficult to understand why Zadie Smith is hailed in all corners of the literary world. There is an essay where she is talking about Joni Mitchell’s music and the passion rising off the page made me go, search and listen to some Joni Mitchell tunes. Wow. That is the power of effective, great, and passionate reading. The one drawback to this collection is the lack of clarity about when these essays were crafted

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5️⃣ The standout aspect of these essays is the writing is always stunning. It is not difficult to understand why Zadie Smith is hailed in all corners of the literary world. There is an essay where she is talking about Joni Mitchell’s music and the passion rising off the page made me go, search and listen to some Joni Mitchell tunes. Wow. That is the power of effective, great, and passionate reading. The one drawback to this collection is the lack of clarity about when these essays were crafted. The lack of dates attached to the pieces is frustrating, although at times the content will be the clue to the time period. Reading through the essays you get the impression that Zadie Smith is a very sharp intelligent woman. Someone that you would love to engage in conversation. She is highly engaged when discussing art, writers, and culture even though some references will feel obscure.

    Why Feel Free as a title? As she writes in the forward, “I have no real qualifications to write as I do. Not a philosopher or sociologist, not a real professor of literature or film, not a political scientist, professional music critic or trained journalist. I’m employed in an MFA programme, but have no MFA myself, and no PhD. My evidence – such as it is – is almost always intimate. I feel this – do you? I’m struck by this thought – are you? Essays about one person’s affective experience have, by their very nature, not a leg to stand on. All they have is their freedom. And the reader is likewise unusually free, because I have absolutely nothing over her, no authority. She can reject my feelings at every point, she can say: ‘No, I have never felt that’ or ‘Dear Lord, the thought never crossed my mind!’“ I have been enriched and informed by these essays and I'm confident most readers will come away with a similar conclusion.Thanks to Edelweiss and Penguin Books for an advanced ebook. Book will hit shelves February 18, 2018.

  • Roman Clodia

    A mixed collection of essays: the best are when Smith is discussing issues of politics (the closure of public libraries, the Brexit vote) where she brings a personal intimacy to national questions.

    Less enticing are the 'musing' essays where Smith responds to artworks, books, or plays with ideas such as how different dancers epitomize styles of authorship. These pieces often have an interesting idea at their heart but they feel unstructured, sometimes unfinished, more like entries in a writer's

    A mixed collection of essays: the best are when Smith is discussing issues of politics (the closure of public libraries, the Brexit vote) where she brings a personal intimacy to national questions.

    Less enticing are the 'musing' essays where Smith responds to artworks, books, or plays with ideas such as how different dancers epitomize styles of authorship. These pieces often have an interesting idea at their heart but they feel unstructured, sometimes unfinished, more like entries in a writer's diary than a polished essay. They also feel too long: shortened and sharper would have held my interest more and made the piece more impactful.

    So not for me a book to be read cover to cover, but good for something stimulating and thoughtful to dip into while commuting. Thanks to Penguin for an ARC via NetGalley.

  • Christy Childers

    My most anticipated 2018 book!

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