To date, 2015 has been a good year for nonfiction. If your penchant is for works that deal with complex issues in our society, you’ll have plenty to read; if you prefer books that explore the substance of a life through inventive narratives, you’ll find plenty to enjoy as well. What follows is a selection of some of the nonfiction that’s been released this year that’s impressed us the most.
Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
(Spiegel & Grau)
Probably the year’s most talked-about work of nonfiction, and for good reason: Coates is an incredibly talented writer who never understates the complexity of the issues he discusses. This is a powerful work that sustains a number of ideas throughout, and it’s something that we’ll be discussing for a long time to come.
Leaving Orbit, Margaret Lazarus Dean
Margaret Lazarus Dean’s exploration of the end of American spaceflight as we’ve known it is (understandably) elegaic in tone, bringing together questions of national character, economic uncertainty, and the way that a nation’s idea of the future has changed over time.
This Must Be the Place, Sean H. Doyle
(Civil Coping Mechanisms)
Sean H. Doyle’s account of events taking place over several of his life is told in a fragmented, often-jarring style that eventually coalesces brilliantly as the book reaches its conclusion. Haunting and powerful, this work defies easy classification.
The First Collection of Criticism By a Living Female Rock Critic, Jessica Hopper
Exactly what the title says, but also the first collection of criticism by one of the most vital culture writers out there. Whether she’s delving into the shifting musical landscape of commercials, exploring David Bazan’s loss of faith, or taking on sexism in the world of emo, these pieces make for essential reading.
The Folded Clock, Heidi Julavits
Heidi Julavits’s The Folded Clock seems at first to be a collection of vignettes; after a while, a structure begins to emerge, and a number of motifs are returned to, accumulating narrative power along the way.
H Is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald
One of the year’s most acclaimed books, Helen MacDonald’s H Is for Hawk brings together a meditation on grief with observations on the natural world around us. And MacDonald’s increased literary profile is a welcome one–her contributions to the New York Times Magazine this year have been, by and large, excellent.
The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson
Like all of Nelson’s work, The Argonauts brings together the formally inventive with the emotionally resonant. Here, she’s exploring questions of family, mortality, and gender, and finding inspiration in both the personal and the artistic along the way.