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It is rarely a compliment to be called “thin-skinned,” but essayist Jenn Shapland wears it like a badge of honor. “To be thin-skinned is to feel keenly,” she writes in the collection’s titular opening piece. “To perceive things that might go unseen, unnoticed, that others might prefer not to notice.” Shapland is an expert on the topic—she was diagnosed with extreme dermatologic sensitivity—and writes of her sensitivities across five sweeping essays, which interrogate everything from her relationship with food to the anxiety she feels in a crowd. The author of My Autobiography of Carson McCullers then unspools how these vulnerabilities affect the way she interacts with the outside world. In “The Toomuchness,” she uses an infestation of cloth-eating moths to untangle America’s culture of excess and how it attacks our sense of self. (“They made me buy stuff for my stuff,” she writes, “and I already have too much.”) Thin Skin could have been Shapland’s argument for why we should protect our sensitive epidermises from the harshness of the world. Instead, she encourages us to break down our emotional, mental, and physical barriers and really explore what life’s got to offer, even if it may hurt a little. —Shannon Carlin

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