Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Best books of 2015

I started this a couple years ago, the best books of the year. The best books I read in a year, at least, not necessarily the books from that year. Here are the previous lists, from 2013 and 2014. Fun. This year I spent more time trying to get out my latest than I normally did, and my reading suffered for it. There are fewer books, and more non-fiction books (essays, mainly), but don't fear, this is still a worthwhile list. Enjoy.

The first book is Youth by Coetzee. One of the better writers out there today.

I loved this book, easily up to the level of  Summertime, another great book of Coetzee's and with some of the more lucid writing out there. Youth has the same effect as it follows the younf author as he works and looks and considers the world and his own small world. Check it out, it's really that good.

Calvino's Italian Folktales .
This might be the best book I read all year. Very deserving of the classic moniker even if I have yet to finish it. When I want to be inspired, or entertained, I crack open this book. I think it's the variety of all the tales, to include the variety of outcomes, that really make this collection tick. Even if all are constrained by the familiar fairy tale structure, the stories work, are ones you can get lost in, the characters witty and engaging. Perhaps with the familiar structure they all end up serving as props for the world created? Hard to say. There are also lines like: "There was once a Prince as rich as cream" that can make the coming story worth it.

Have I mentioned Baldwin before? Oh, I must have. Easily the best writer of the previous century with such insights into society, that I cannot but be amazed. It could be said that his essays are better than his fiction. Maybe, but only because his essays are an art form unto them selves (yes better than Emerson's, IMHO, standing on the shoulders of giants not withstanding).
To include the above book, there was a release of previously unseen material. Certainly worth it, even for the "aching, nobly, to wade through the blood of savages," line. Here it is, then,
The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings. And, of course, the best compilation to buy: James Baldwin : Collected Essays . In today's ever bubbling world, there are few contemporaries who seem up to the task of discussing the issues at hand. Instead I've had to turn to Baldwin... and yes, what he says then, is still relevant now.

There are a couple other books, Sontag's Against Interpretation: And Other Essays, which has some great insight and Bolano's Nazi Literature in the Americas. Of the latter, I'm obviously a fan, so if you don't like his other work, you won't like this either. Another non-fiction is Gehl's Cities for People, which is about how cities work better when they disregard cars and are sized for people. Bias confirmation, in my case, but very important for the cities of the future. In addition to all this, there's Chomsky's solid book. It's from the past, but it's worth it even, or especially, today. Well, I hope these books prove to be helpful, in case you're buying books for yourself or someone else.

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