About Time I Read It: The Best American Essays 2015

A few months ago I started craving longform journalism. Luckily for me, I have a huge stack of cast-off New Yorker magazines I’ve managed to accumulate over the last couple of years so I have no shortage of available reading material. But as I began exploring this cache I found myself craving longform stuff in book form, preferable curated by a capable editor. Fortunately for me, my public library has a number of essay collections and last week I borrowed two, one of which happened to be The Best American Essays 2015. I burned through it quickly, which is always a good sign. It also left me wanting to read more essays, which also a good sign.

Within the pages of The Best American Essays 2015 I found stuff by familiar authors like Malcolm Gladwell, Anthony Doerr and David Sedaris but the rest of the contributors were new to me. New Yorker staff writer Ariel Levy served as the guest editor for 2015’s edition and a good chunk of the pieces she selected dealt with the personal: aging, mortality, family and marriage. Had I known this was the case, I might not of decided to read her collection, fearing the essays were too sentimental or self-centered. Kudos to Levy though, there’s not a stinker in the bunch. (Although Zadie Smith’s “Find Your Beach” might not have been up to my liking.) Of these Justin Cronin’s “My Daughter and God” in which he recalls in detail the existential crises and religious quest resulting from his wife and daughter’s brush with death was a favorite of mine as was John Reed’s edgy piece “My Grandma, the Poisoner” about a dear grandmother who, in all likelihood was a serial poisoner. Kelly Sunderberg’s “It Will Look Like a Sunset” is probably the best account I’ve read on the complexity and pain of spousal abuse.

As for other memorable contributions in this collection, hats off to Philip Kennicott for his piece “Smuggler” on the perils and pitfalls of gay literature. Even as a non-gay male I found his essay fascinating and smart as hell without being dry and pretentious. As a cat lover, how could I not enjoy Tim Kreider’s “A Man and His Cat” about what it’s like to adopt (or perhaps more accurately, be adopted by) a stray cat. Lastly, Isiah Berlin’s “A Message to the Twenty-First Century” on the evils of totalitarianism was another of my favorites. Originally written in 1994 it wasn’t published until a decade later. Sadly, in this age of Internet-enabled bigotry and Donald Trump, Berlin’s warnings are sorely needed.

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8 thoughts on “About Time I Read It: The Best American Essays 2015

  1. This sounds wonderful. I love the books from this series I’ve read, although I haven’t read one of the essay collections in full, just the best-of-the best collections. It’s so great when they introduce you to writers that are new to you. I remember reading the “My Grandma, the Poisoner” a few years ago – unbelievable but excellent story!!

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    • Excellent! I hope this the first of many essay collections I’ll featuring from now on. Who knows, I might even start writing my own!
      So glad you’ve also read “My Grandma, the Poisoner” and loved it!

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  2. Essay collections are the best, so many good gems in there and if you’re not liking one, on to the next. I just started reading the David Grann one you recommended me and I love it!! Thanks for that suggestion. Looking forward to your collection next! 😉

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  3. Pingback: About Time I Read It: The Best American Essays 2013 | Maphead's Book Blog

  4. Pingback: About Time I Read It: The Best American Essays 2016 edited by Jonathan Franzen | Maphead's Book Blog

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