cover image The Best American Essays 2015

The Best American Essays 2015

Edited by Ariel Levy. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $14.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-544-56962-1

Assembled by New Yorker staff writer Levy (Female Chauvinist Pigs), the 30th Best American Essays collection maintains the series’ standards of excellence. The 22 contributors explore a wide range of experiences, with the theme of aging taking an especially prominent part. Ninety-three-year-old Roger Angell’s “This Old Man,” about the trials of old age, is poignant, funny, and surprisingly reassuring. Mark Jacobson’s (mostly) humorous observations in “Sixty-Five: Learning to Love Middle Old Age” have a similar effect. It is a sheer pleasure to read David Sedaris, still funny but less excitable, describe a life-affirming relationship with his Fitbit in “Stepping Out.” Also worth noting is Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Crooked Ladder,” a novel take on capitalism and institutional racism as seen through a comparison of Italian-American and African-American criminal enterprises. Novelist Justin Cronin covers the aftermath of his wife and daughter’s near-fatal car accident, Anthony Doerr imagines the lives of the first family to settle in his hometown of Boise, Idaho, and Kelly Sundberg writes movingly about living through domestic violence. These and many of the other selections offer illuminating, invaluable glimpses into lives that might otherwise remain outside the reader’s ken. (Oct.)