“[The book’s] editor, Meghan Daum, has gathered together a group of people who are refreshingly clearheaded….No hand-wringing here. It’s the tone of voice dominating the entire anthology that is so exhilarating: thoughtful, unconflicted, unapologetic. Talk about the light at the end of the tunnel….The women in Daum’s anthology are exciting and admirable…[they’re] a significant, world-changing minority.”—Vivian Gornick, Bookforum

"None of the 16 essays in this absorbing collection reflect particularly selfish or shallow motivations for childlessness. . . Some entries are heart-wrenching . . . while others are downright hilarious." — Publisher's Weekly

One of the main topics of cultural conversation during the last decade was the supposed “fertility crisis,” and whether modern women could figure out a way to way to have it all—a successful, demanding career and the required 2.3 children—before their biological clock stopped ticking. Now, however, conversation has turned to whether it’s necessary to have it all (see Anne-Marie Slaughter) or, perhaps more controversial, whether children are really a requirement for a fulfilling life. The idea that some women and men prefer not to have children is often met with sharp criticism and incredulity by the public and mainstream media.

In this provocative and controversial collection of essays, curated by writer Meghan Daum, sixteen acclaimed writers explain why they have chosen to eschew parenthood. Contributors include Lionel Shriver, Sigrid Nunez, Kate Christiensen, Elliott Holt, Geoff Dyer, and Tim Kreider, among others, who will give a unique perspective on the overwhelming cultural pressure of parenthood.

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed makes a thoughtful and passionate case for why parenthood is not the only path in life, taking our parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby-bump-patrolling culture to task in the process. What emerges is a more nuanced, diverse view of what it means to live a full, satisfying life.





Winner of the 2015 PEN CENTER USA Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction


A collection of brand new essays about the subjects we all think about but rarely talk about.

"Meghan Daum's new book, The Unspeakable, is thrillingly good . .  Daum's powers as one of the most emotionally exacting, mercilessly candid, deeply funny and intellectually rigorous writers of our time are on glorious display." — Cheryl Strayed in The New York Times Book Review on "The Best Book You Read in 2014." 

"[The Unspeakable] is formidable, lucid and persuasive. Daum writes with confidence and an elegant defiance of expectation . . . There is no doubt Daum is a brilliant, incisive essayist. I would follow her words anywhere." — Roxane Gay, reviewing in The New York Times Book Review

Read an excerpt from THE UNSPEAKABLE from The New Yorker. Read an interview with Meghan from The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog.

Read an interview with Meghan from The Los Angeles Review of Books.

More reviews and press here.



"People I know still talk about My Misspent Youth. Nobody writing about her generation was more incisive or entertaining than she. Now, as incisive and entertaining as ever, and having grown in experience, knowledge, compassion, and eloquence, Daum has clearly reached a peak. The honesty with which she explores our current culture as well as her individual conscience make this book as important as it is affecting. The Unspeakable is a brave, truth-telling book, a paragon of its genre, and a triumph.”
 — Sigrid Nunez, author of Sempre Susan: A Memoir of Susan Sontag

"I don't think it's unfair to say that I can't tell you what Meghan Daum's remarkable book means to me—the exceptional often denies verbalization. Her diverse subject matter aside—Mom, Joni Mitchell, the fetishization of food—it's Daum's galvanizing energy that one finds so attractive; nowhere in her work is there evidence of the "trance" that Virginia Woolf said characterized so many women's lives. Instead, Daum builds her various worlds out of great presence and imagination and who wouldn't want to live in her new city?" — Hilton Als, author of White Girls 

"Meghan Daum is the real thing: a writer whose autobiographical essays—generous, frank and unusually hilarious—reflect a steady, unflinching gaze at the truth. Daum earns the right to every mordant joke, every radioactive metaphor, every fiercely honed insight into modern life—stirring or sorrowful—that she supplies. While ever alert to human fatuousness and contradiction (starting with her own) Daum actually adores the world around her—its wonder and strangeness, beauty and dilapidation—and conveys that love in a way that honors the reader even as it delights." Terry Castle, author of The Professor

"Here’s the skinny on Meghan Daum: she’s one of the most humane, entertaining, and articulate contrarians you’re likely to encounter in any book.  She challenges our assumptions—and her own—in the bracing, unsentimental manner of great British essayists such as William Hazlitt and George Orwell.  Her precision is Didion-esque.  Her humor detonates unexpectedly.  She writes with a candor that is never indulgent because she effortlessly extrapolates from personal experience the ways of the world at large.  In page after page, Daum pinpoints aspects of love, grief, and daily survival that you’ve sensed vaguely but have never found the words for.  To read this book is to begin to grasp the intricacies of living in a fresh and penetrating way.  I solemnly promise, lucky reader, you are about to be changed." — Bernard Cooper, author of The Bill From My Father

"I loved these essays for a completely startling reason: they give voice and shape to so many of my own muddled thoughts—and to lurking sentiments I've never looked square in the face. On subjects ranging from altruism to Joni Mitchell, from daughterhood to dogs, Meghan Daum is a cultural clairvoyant: in exposing her secrets, she's listening to ours. She's also just a wonderful storyteller—funny, perceptive, and painfully wise." —Julia Glass, author of And the Dark Sacred Night and the National Book Award-winning novel Three Junes

"The Unspeakable is a fantastic collection of essays: funny, clever and moving (often at the same time), never more universal than in its most personal moments (in other words, throughout), and written with enviable subtlety, precision and spring. As if that weren't enough, Meghan Daum very nearly persuaded me to listen to Joni Mitchell again!" — Geoff Dyer, author of Another Great Day at Sea

"The Unspeakable speaks with wit and warmth and artful candor, the fruits of an exuberant and consistently surprising intelligence. These are essays that dig under the surface of what we might expect to feel in order to discover what we actually feel instead. I was utterly captivated by Daum’s sensitive fidelity to the complexity of lived experience." — Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams


"Her writing has a clarity and intensity that just makes you feel awake."
     Ira Glass, host of This American Life

"Daum’s enormous comic gift—and her ability to use it in the service of fundamentally serious issues—is an unexpected delight."
     The New York Times Book Review

"A crisp, wisecracking voice."
     The New Yorker

"A thoughtful and terrifically gifted writer."