The Book of Other People

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Book of Other People
The Book of Other People cover.png
Editor Zadie Smith
Cover artist Charles Burns[1]
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Published 2008 (Penguin Books)
Media type Print (Hardcover and paperback)
Pages 287
ISBN 978-0-241-14363-6
OCLC 153554268

The Book of Other People is a collection of short stories, published in 2008 by Penguin Books. Selected and edited by Zadie Smith, it contains 23 short stories by 23 different authors, among them Nick Hornby, David Mitchell, Colm Tóibín, Jonathan Safran Foer, Dave Eggers, as well as Smith herself. The collection, as evidenced by the title, focuses on character; the authors were simply asked to "make somebody up".[2] It being a "charity anthology," the contributors to The Book of Other People were not compensated for their writing, and the book's proceeds were given to 826NYC, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students with their creative writing skills.[3]


One of the central requirements for the authors was that each contribution had to bear the character's name as its title.[2] Though the editor, Smith, originally wanted each of the characters to have both first and last names, several of the authors did not include surnames, and that rule was eventually dropped.[3] Indeed, several of the stories—such as "Puppy," "The Liar," and "The Monster"—do not have true names at all.

List of short stories[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

The Book of Other People was generally well received by critics, who praised the authors' characterization; one wrote, "[they] create satisfying characters as memorable as any in their novels,"[4] and another that "[v]ariety ... is certainly on display."[1]

Several of the stories were specifically commended, among them Danticat's "Lélé" and Tóibín's "Donal Webster", which were said to "unfold, like elaborate origami flowers, into complex portraits."[5] However, not all were received well—one reviewer wrote that "[o]ther tales in this volume feel overly pat or mechanically perfunctory," and another that "a few of the contributions are bright but empty."[5][6]


  1. ^ a b Nora Krug (27 January 2008). "New in Paperback". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  2. ^ a b Smith, Zadie. Preface. The Book of Other People. By Zadie Smith, ed. New York City: Penguin Books, 2008. vii–ix. “The Book of Other People is about character. The instruction was simple: make somebody up.”
  3. ^ a b Clark, Alex (11 November 2007). "The joy of brief encounters". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  4. ^ David Daley (24 January 2008). "Imagination takes over 'The Book of Other People". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  5. ^ a b Michiko Kakutani (8 January 2008). "One by One, Narratives Reflecting Life's Mosaic". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  6. ^ Sophie Harrison (18 November 2007). "The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith". The Times. London. Retrieved 2008-04-16.