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The Best American Essays 2015

(Best American Essays)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  601 ratings  ·  88 reviews
“Writing an essay is like catching a wave,” posits guest editor Ariel Levy. “To catch a wave, you need skill and nerve, not just moving water.” This year’s writers are certainly full of nerve, and have crafted a wide range of pieces awash in a diversity of moods, voices, and stances. Leaving an abusive marriage, parting with a younger self, losing your sanity to Fitbit, an ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by Mariner Books
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3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  601 ratings  ·  88 reviews

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Julie Christine
My first BAE! A trusted reader recommended the anthology and upon finishing I thought, "What took me so long to read one of these?" It's like having access to all those wonderful literary journals and magazines I can't afford, just there, on my nightstand, for my usual 3 a.m. open eyes.

So many of the names in this collection are familiar: Justin Cronin, Anthony Doerr, Malcolm Gladwell, Margo Jefferson, Kate Lebo, David Sedaris, Zadie Smith, Rebecca Solnit, Cheryl Strayed that I wondered, "Did t
Jun 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
The best thing that came out of my first semester of grad school was being asked to read one of these Best American Essays anthologies. Now I'm sort of hooked. Now I'm that person who sits around in coffee shops with a big mug of something yummy and a sweet treat on the side looking all literary and stuff while reading these collections. The best part is I have so many left to read since I'm getting into this game exceptionally late. And I'm not, for once, being weird about it - when I find a co ...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Each year's collection is a bit of a gamble. Sometimes there are only a few essays that connect, other years it's a jackpot. This year is closer to the jackpot end of the spectrum. Guest editor Ariel Levy tosses in a few sure bets -- Malcolm Gladwell and David Sedaris. The essay by Roger Angell about being old, which also appears in the forthcoming Best American Magazine Writing of 2015, is worth reading more than once, if you already saw it in The New Yorker.

If there's a theme to this bunch of
Jacqueline Masumian
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
This group of essays has much to offer. Many of them are personal essays, several of those having to do with old age or illness. But there is actually a wide variety in this collection, including humor and philosophical or political meditations. I particularly liked Meghan Daum's heartbreaking "Difference Maker," her story of attempting to mentor and be an advocate for needy children. Mark Jacobson's "65," in which he muses on the horror of turning that age, is another gem. And Anthony Doerr's " ...more
Kate Alleman
So many feels reading this book!! Kate Lebo's "The Loudproof Room" was simply astounding. I loved her final paragraph: "Disability can create sensibility.My disability is invisible, my limitations are aesthetic. They make art and they make mistakes, reminding me constantly that the way I sense and experience the world is different. At a slight angle, as Forster said of Cavafy. Which is a reminder that difference isn't unique to me. That's why listening creates a conversation. That's how reading ...more
Dec 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As usual, these essays were exceptional examples of creative non-fiction and personal essays. Though many came from easy-to-find sources (The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, etc.), small literary journals were represented as well. The strength came from a variety of subject matter and many were heart-wrenching as well as reflective. I look forward to 2016's collection.
Vince Darcangelo
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it

Isaiah Berlin, "A Message to the Twenty-First Century"

Tim Kreider, "A Man and His Cat"

Kate Lebo, "The Loudproof Room"

John Reed, "My Grandma the Poisoner"

Ashraf H. A. Rushdy, "Reflections on Indexing My Lynching Book"
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm not generally one for these compilations, for all the most obvious reasons-- art is subjective, essays are tough, the likelihood of enjoying the whole thing is on par with being struck by lightning (for the prior two reasons). I was therefore happily surprised when this collection came together on such a strong set of themes, with a group of genuinely great essays. I can honestly say I fully enjoyed all but one, and multiple left me with some fantastic thinking material. Admittedly, I came h ...more
Andy Kristensen
May 16, 2018 rated it liked it
A few good essays, a few blah, a few pretty bad, and one disgusting essay.

Let’s start off with the essay that I find disgusting and abhorrent and awful: Meghan Daum’s “Difference Maker.” Long story short: it’s an ego-centric, self-centered, whining, pat-herself-on-the-back essay that basically brags about how great she is because she “tries” to help foster kids and considers herself better than couples who have biological kids. She never once speaks about how the foster kids she supposedly “hel
Mark Patton
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Every year, I read both The Best American Essays and The Best American Short Stories cover to cover and always am impressed by many of the works included. The essays, as usual, range from the humorous to the heartfelt, the political to the social, the surprising to the mundane. Recommended yearly reading!

Side note: I didn't discover that I hadn't read the 2015 volumes until I purchased the 2016 volumes and added them to my to-read pile. I'm not sure if this says something about me or about the s
Kelly Chastain
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
There are some absolute gems in this one!
Nadia Mcdowell
Nov 13, 2018 rated it liked it

I read this book for a college English course, and frankly I was surprisingly satisfied with this read. Do not be discouraged from the title containing “Essays” and think this book is consisted of extensive dull writings, but rather the quite opposite. This book is composed of diverse essays, short enough for a quick read through actually. As I would recommend, if you are sensitive to subject matter containing abuse, or death, you might want to stray away from the first two essays-but it is not
Billie Pritchett
May 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bae
I'll do my best to recall as many of The Best American Essays 2015 as possible but I won't be able to, because I read them over an extended period, particularly one long period between essays and then I got back to this collection. Before I get into the essays, I would like to say that I've discovered just how every year's essays really does bear the mark of the editor. This year's editor was Ariel Levy, an incredible author in her own right, and she has made quite a good compendium here. Here a ...more
A pretty good collection. My favorites were about subjects outside my experience - the history of gay literature, a first hand account of spousal abuse and a grandmother who may or may not have been a serial poisoner.
Alexander Kot
Mar 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Nowhere near my casual fare but it fell into my lap. Admittedly I have next to zero experience with essays but I did enjoy this book for how varied the subjects were, albeit I'm 3 years tardy. If novels and compilations of short stories start to wear you down give one of these a try.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction17
Always a pleasure to spend time within the pages of this series of books. It feels like mingling at a very interesting party, where inevitably occasionally you get stuck talking to a bore, but also find yourself in fascinating and entertaining company. And all without leaving the house!
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Not necessarily the best essays. Mostly very good, but just essays written by top names in the genre.
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first essay was the worst in the whole collection and did not draw me in, hence why it took me so long to finish. Many of the others, however, were excellent.
Max Bob
Jul 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Max by: Miranda
Shelves: leasure
As usual, with this series, the essays were hit or miss. The name of the writer of the first essay escapes me, but that was exceptional. Zadie Smith's "Find Your Beach" is also brilliant.
Carole Duff
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I dog-ear the essays I truly love, and there are several dog-eared pages in this collection.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Some essay collections are really hit or miss, but I only had to skim over a few essays in this one. Most of the selections were engaging.
Monica A.
Mar 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
The essay, "My Daughter & God" by Justin Cronin was a great read!
K.D. Rose
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ariel Levy curated this collection and while there are many exceptional essays in the book, it doesn't hold the same greatness as say the collections curated by Jamison and Franzen.
Richard Anderson
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Terrific collection.
Joe Kraus
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read most of these Best of collections cover to cover because I often use them as text books in my creative nonfiction writing classes. The challenge in reading them (and I imagine in editing them, too) is that have a yearbook/miscellany quality to them. They can’t really be thematic because they’re trying to acknowledge the “best of” a given year. So, like buffets or potlucks, there can be real high points, but there’s also a necessary (and often enjoyable) sameness. We don’t get the focused ...more
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
2015's Selection of Essays was good. Much better than 2014.

Many resonated with me including:

The Thing with Featers that Perches in The Soul by Anthony Doerr
A Man and His Cat by Tim Kreider
My Grandma the Poisoner by John Reed
It will look like a Sunset by Kelly Sundberg
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
The thing about The Best American series is that it can be hit or miss on a personal level. You’ll get some essays that don’t make too much sense and cause you to question their inclusion, and you’ll get some others that strike you perfectly and you’re so glad for having read them. The Best American Essays 2015 is no different. There were some that I loved, that I felt spoke directly to me, and there were others that left me wondering about the criteria for inclusion.

Of those that I loved, I enj
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
This was originally published at The Scrying Orb.

Here’s my reviews for:

Ariel Levy wrote the best essay of last year: Thanksgiving in Mongolia — wherein she delivered a premature birth in a Mongolian hotel room. So I was looking forward to what she’d come up with as the editor of the latest installation. Unfortunately her introductory essay is short and forgettable. The essay selection itself is pretty good though.

The essays in this collection skew heavily towards intense personal experie
Jan 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
A collection of essays. Even if I didn’t like some of those essays, the reward of discovering new writers and new essays that I love is worth it. My favorite essays included Vision by Tiffany Briere, Stepping Out by David Sedaris, Charade by Kendra Atleework and The Crooked Ladder by Malcolm Gladwell


Hilton Als Islands [Transition]

Roger Angell This Old Man [The New Yorker]
"Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachm
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was the first issue I read on a Kindle. And while I usually read with a bookmark on which I write the most compelling thoughts from the collection, the Kindle did a good job of letting me highlight those and search back through them. Another great year of selections.

So many great stories. But these are the ones that have stuck with me: the grave and insightful observation of Margo Jefferson in "Scenes from a Life in Negroland" and Ashraf H.A. Rushdy in "Reflections on Indexing my Lynching B
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Ariel Levy is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, where she has written about the swimmer Diana Nyad, the Supreme Court plaintiff Edith Windsor, the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and the drug ayahuasca. She was the editor of The Best American Essays 2015. Her personal story "Thanksgiving in Mongolia" won a National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism and is the basis ...more

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