Skip to main content

The Slate Diaries


The Slate Diaries

I love to study people. Plant me in an airport and I can amuse myself for hours just watching people. I imagine their lives from snippets of conversation and body language. An even more enticing study is a look inside someone's diary. For those of you who love this same act of voyeurism, THE SLATE DIARIES offers you the opportunity to look inside and explore 70 different people's lives.  

The diarists are a wonderful collection of celebrities and unknowns. While I enjoyed pieces from Bill Gates and Roger Ebert, I was just as captivated by Leslie Carr, the school nurse, and Atul Gawande, the medical student. There are other writers who told stories that moved me, or tossed ideas at me that I had never considered. Much of the writing is vivid and very little of it comes across as contrived confessions or musings. Some of the writers are self-deprecating and humorous, which is something I love; others are just introspective and personal.  

Pouring over these pages I found myself smiling at what people do that I can relate to, but have never confessed to, even to myself. Ira Glass, the host of Public Radio International's This American Life describes his limo ride from LAX where he chatted with the limo driver, a man named Lionel. "And as I got out of the car, I thought about something Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, said years ago somewhere. He said he realized he'd made it when he no longer felt obliged to make conversation with the limo drivers. I cannot imagine that ever happening to me." I thought of all the limo drivers I have chatted with over the years when I would have preferred to be reading and sleeping and finally saw a compadre to my behavior.  

I am a fan of books like GIG and WORKING, which give insight into the working lives of people. THE SLATE DIARIES does capture what people do when they work, but its bigger focus is on how they live. I envy THE SLATE DIARIES' editors their role in creating both the daily feature and selecting the pieces for this book. Touching this number of people's lives is such a treat. I confess that since I closed this book I have been seeing my day in "diary" terms. I also am thinking of a long list of people whose diaries I would love to read. Once you finish this, I am sure you will be doing the same.

Reviewed by Carol Fitzgerald on October 1, 2000

The Slate Diaries
by Jodi Kantor

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2000
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • ISBN-10: 1586480073
  • ISBN-13: 9781586480073