17 of 25
By Joan Didion
227 pages; Vintage

Because one of our coolest thinkers lost her cool.

At the end of 2003, Didion's husband and partner of 40 years, the writer John Gregory Dunne, died of a heart attack. At the same time their only daughter, Quintana, was comatose in a hospital, having suffered septic shock (she died in 2015). Here, Didion, whose penetrating insights, like those in the modern classic Slouching Towards Bethlehem, had already made her an iconic writer, wrangles with death, including the denial (magical thinking) that first allows her to believe that her husband will soon walk through the door. Her journey through grief is also a crystalline tribute to a marriage. — Dawn Raffel