The Best American Essays 2015

Edited and with an Introduction by Ariel Levy
Robert Atwan, Series Editor

“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, and even saying goodbye to a beloved pair of pants imbued with meaning are all unified by the daring of their creation. As Levy notes, “Writing around an idea you think is worthwhile—an idea you suspect is an insight—requires real audacity.”

Copyright © 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company
Introduction copyright © 2015 by Ariel Levy
ISBN 978-0-544-81210-9


Foreword: Of Essays and Essayists   ix

Introduction   xv

HILTON ALS   Islands   1
       from Transition

ROGER ANGELL   This Old Man   9
       from The New Yorker

       from Hayden's Ferry Review

ISAIAH BERLIN   A Message to the Twenty-First Century   31
       from The New York Review of Books

SVEN BIRKERTS   Strange Days   35
       from Lapham's Quarterly

TIFFANY BRIERE   Vision   45
       from Tin House

JUSTIN CRONIN   My Daughter and God   56
       from Narrative

MEGHAN DAUM   Difference Maker   72
       from The New Yorker

ANTHONY DOERR   Thing with Feathers That Perches in the Soul   88
       from Granta

MALCOLM GLADWELL   The Crooked Ladder   98
       from The New Yorker

MARK JACOBSON   65   111
       from New York

MARGO JEFFERSON   Scenes from a Life in Negroland   124
       from Guernica

PHILIP KENNICOTT   Smuggler   135
       from Virginia Quarterly Review

TIM KREIDER   A Man and His Cat   150
       from The New York Times

KATE LEBO   The Loudproof Room   156
       from New England Review

JOHN REED   My Grandma the Poisoner   162
       from Vice

ASHRAF H. A. RUSHDY   Reflections on Indexing My Lynching Book   172
       from Michigan Quarterly Review

DAVID SEDARIS   Stepping Out   185
       from The New Yorker

ZADIE SMITH   Find Your Beach   192
       from The New York Review of Books

REBECCA SOLNIT   Arrival Gates   198
       from Granta

CHERYL STRAYED   My Uniform   205
       from Tin House

KELLY SUNDBERG   It Will Look Like a Sunset   208
       from Guernica

Contributors' Notes   219

Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2014   224

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