No Time To Read? Try One of Zibby Owens’ Favorite Anthologies

three collections of essays

Images courtesy of Penguin Random House and Macmillan

These collections are emotionally impactful and able to pack a punch in far fewer pages an entire book.

Anthology = A collection of essays written by different authors organized around a certain theme. 

Here’s why I love reading (and editing!) anthologies: I know they’re going to make me think and feel in just a few minutes; the essays selected are usually short, sweet, and to the point – they’re emotionally impactful and able to pack an emotional punch in far fewer pages than, say, an entire book. 

Professionally edited, thoughtfully curated, and artfully assembled, the contributions always move and inspire me in just a few minutes. Whether I dip in and read just one or settle in and devour the entire collection, I know that having an anthology in my tote bag is the secret to getting through any grocery store line, kids’ sporting event, or doctor’s waiting room. So, if you haven’t gotten the jolt of literary adrenaline an anthology can provide, now’s the time. Here are some of my favorites, both new and old.

The Bitch in the House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage, edited by Cathi Hanauer

This is the gold standard of anthologies, one that became a New York Times bestseller when it came out in 2002 (a rarity for this genre!). The first line reads: “This book was born out of anger…But ultimately, it’s not an angry book.” It’s a feminist exploration of all facets of women’s lives with contributions from Daphne Merkin, Catherine Newman, Elissa Schappell, Jill Bialosky, Kristin van Ogtrop, Hope Edelman, Helen Schulman (my fiction professor at the Bennington College summer program I went to in 1996!), Kate Christensen, Pam Houston, Vivian Gornick, Cynthia Kling, and more! 

Listen to my podcasts with contributors Daphne Merkin, Catherine Newman, Kristin van Ogtrop, and Hope Edelman

Horse Girls: Recovering, Aspiring, and Devoted Riders Redefine the Iconic Bond, edited by Halimah Marcus

The bond between women and horses is unique and universally acknowledged. Halimah Marcus, of Electric Lit and a rider from a young age, examines that relationship and puts forth essays by others who have felt the wind on their faces while gripping the manes of a galloping equine. Hear from New York Times bestselling author of The Great Circle Maggie Shipstead, Courtney Maum, Jane Smiley, and more!

Listen to my podcast with Halimah Marcus, Maggie Shipstead, and Courtney Maum

On Girlhood: 15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl Library, edited by Glory Edim and Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, edited by Glory Edim

Glory Edim is such a superstar. I interviewed her in person for my podcast several years ago and have enjoyed watching his star soar with multiple anthologies and a new podcast, Well-Read Black Girl, from I’m ready for a memoir just from Edim! Hear from Tayari Jones, Renee Watson, Morgan Jerkins, Carla Bruce-Eddings, Jacqueline Woodson, and many others.

Listen to my podcast with Glory Edim and with contributors Renee Watson, Jacqueline Woodson, and Morgan Jerkins

What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence, edited by Michele Filgate

I adored this stirring collection of reflections on the mother-child relationships, particularly editor Michele Filgate’s own deeply personal story about her past. Cathi Hanauer, editor of The Bitch in the House (see above), contributes as does Alexander Chee, Lynn Steger Strong, Kiese Laymon, Andre Aciman, and more. 

Listen to my podcasts with Michele Filgate and Lynn Steger Strong

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora, edited by Saraciea Fennell

Founder of The Bronx is Reading Saraciea Fennell curates a thought-provoking collection of literary essays from 15 Latinx authors touching on identity, ghosts, music, sexuality, and more. Contributors include Naima Coster, Zakiya Jamal, Mark Oshiro (one of my favorite essays, by the way), and others. 

Listen to my podcast with Saraciea Fennell, Zakiya Jamal, and Cristina Arreola, and my podcast with contributor Naima Coster. 

Hungry Hearts: Essays on Courage, Desire, and Belonging, edited by Jennifer Rudolph Walsh

These essays on love, loss, and longing were absurdly powerful, all edited by powerhouse literary agent Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. Contributors include Luvvie Ajayi Jones, Ashley C. Ford, Sue Monk Kidd, Priya Parker, Bozoma Saint John, Maysoon Zayid, and others here. 

Listen to my podcast with Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, Luvvie Ajayi Jones, Ashley C. Ford, Sue Monk Kidd, and Priya Parker

Moms Don’t Have Time to Have Kids: A Timeless Anthology and Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology, edited by Zibby Owens

I compiled these two anthologies, both released in 2021, with a combined 100+ authors from my podcast musing on topics inspired by 10 things moms don’t have time to do: eat, sleep, work out, lose weight, read, write, see friends, get sick, breathe, and have sex. The result is a cross-section of thoughts and feelings during a period of anxiety and life-changing uncertainty. Going through all of it with these authors will feel like having close friends lift you up when you’re feeling down. Contributors include Lily King, Jeanine Cummins, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Bonnie Tsui, Chris Bohjalian, Donna Hemans, Elissa Altman, Elliot Ackerman, Lea Carpenter, John Kenney, Allison Pataki, KJ Dell’Antonia, Rex Ogle, Stephanie Danler, and so many others. The essays were edited by Carolyn Murnick.
Listen to podcasts with all contributors on my podcast.