Beneath the self-assured and serious faces we wear, every human life is full of longing, guesswork, and confusion—a scramble to do the best we can and make everything up as we go along. In these wide-ranging essays, Jon Mooallem chronicles the beauty of our blundering and the inescapability of our imperfections. He investigates the collapse of a multimillion-dollar bird-breeding scam run by an aging farmer known as the Pigeon King, intimately narrates a harrowing escape from California's deadliest wildfire, visits an eccentric Frenchman building a town at what he claims is the center of the world, shadows a man through his first day of freedom after 21 years in prison, and more—all with a deep conviction that it's our vulnerability, not our victories, that connect us.
A transporting series of deep dives into surprising characters and situations ... Mooallem excels at writing about everything from climate change-fueled natural disasters to eccentric individuals ... Mooallem can also be deeply personal ... Like the very best essay collections, Serious Face takes readers to unexpected places, exploring a meaningful mix of joy, tragedy and downright absurdity. The subjects vary widely, but Mooallem is such a gifted storyteller that it almost doesn’t matter what he’s writing about; readers like myself will be ready to follow.
Mooallem brings together the best of his journalistic essays to create an intellectually moving collection. Together, the survival stories and treatises on environmental and social traumas offer a meditation on how various systems...cause and exacerbate problems with sometimes devastating and irreversible results ... lso included are his signature deep dives into idiosyncratic lives, from a man who created his own museum to a pigeon-based Ponzi scheme and a fervent community inspired by clouds. Readers will laugh and tear up as Mooallem makes us care about his subjects and feel better off for knowing their stories.
[A] rich collection of essays ... Mooallem has a real knack for evoking places, people, and emotions, and the individuals he writes about put a human face on larger issues such as climate change and conservation. This is well worth the price of admission.