Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith

Title:  Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays
Author:  Zadie Smith
Release date:  November 12, 2009
Publisher:  The Penguin Press HC
Pages:  320
Genre:  Nonfiction, Essays
Source:  Publisher

I haven’t read any of Zadie Smith’s fiction, but I’ve been meaning to for awhile, so when I received this essay collection for review I decided to dive right in.  I figured that it would give me a good idea of what kind of writer she is, and possibly help me decide if I really do want to read her other books.

Changing My Mind is a compilation of essays that Smith has written for various publications over the years.  There’s a huge variety of topics covered here – literature analysis, movie reviews, thoughts on writing, and personal family stories.  It’s interesting to read these all together like I did because her tone really changes in her writing based on the subject and her audience.  It’s clear from these essays that Smith is an excellent writer in general and a great essayist specifically.

I have to admit that I did not love every one of these essays.  In fact, a few I was bored by – mainly the ones where she talked about books I haven’t read or movies I haven’t seen.  But overall I was interested in what she had to say and had no problem keeping my attention on the book.  I particularly loved the opening essay, an analysis of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston that made me want to go back and reread the book immediately.  I also loved “That Crafty Feeling” which is a lecture Smith gave on her own writing process and then rewrote in essay form for the book.

While Changing My Mind did not work for me perfectly, there were enough enjoyable essays for me to say that overall I am happy I read the book.  And it definitely gave me a taste for Zadie Smith’s wonderful writing, which inspired me to pick up one of her novels in the very near future.

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13 thoughts on “Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith

  1. i’m a huge fan of short stories and essays and am always on the lookout for new ones. i love to use them in the classroom too! i haven’t read any smith but i did see some of her stuff in a few bookstores in vermont this weekend. i’m interested!! thanks for the review.

    1. If you like essays, this is definitely a good one to pick up. I don’t read a lot of essay collections, so I don’t have a lot to compare this one to, but I definitely enjoyed it for the most part.

  2. You HAVE to read On Beauty. (Well, read Howards End first…) It’s one of the best books out there. I love Smith’s essays, too. They’re incredible insightful and wonderfully written.

  3. I am new to your blog and it looks great! I discovered it while looking for a review of of Zadie Smith’s ‘Changing My Mind’.

    I enjoyed reading your review of the book. I am sorry to know that you didn’t enjoy reading some of the essays in the book – though I have to say that I felt the same. I found it especially difficult to read the one on David Foster Wallace, though it started quite well. But if I ignore these difficult to read essays, I found the book quite delightful. I really loved the essay on Katharine Hepburn and the one E.M.Forster.

    I wrote a review of the book. In case you are interested, you can find it here, – http://vishytheknight.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/book-review-no-13-changing-my-mind-by-zadie-smith/

    If you get around to reading my review, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

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