Best of 2015: Corby

Article by corby

My year-end list is plump with non-fiction, which is a strange generic label, kind of like calling photography “non-painting.” And speaking of photography—my favorite book of the year, which I’m simultaneously shocked and not shocked is still sitting unsold on our shelves, is a gorgeous photo book on Mongolians and their trained eagles. And I have to admit I cheated by sneaking in a book from 2014, but it’s that good. See y’all in 2016!

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451697391
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - August 4th, 2015

Real, muckraking journalists are few and far-between these days, replaced by placating talking-heads and a parade of “contributors” who are usually former-something-or-others who substitute plausible theories in place of real information. Naomi Klein is one the most brilliant of the dwindling ranks of true journalists, and THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING (first paperback edition 2015) is her most startling book yet—a behind-the-scenes look at why no real progress is being made in the fight against our biggest common enemy, climate change, and its primary enabler, unconstrained capitalism. If you’ve been putting off understanding why climate change is happening, and what needs to happen to stop it, this is the book for you. Klein has an easy command of the science, the politics, and the economics, and a writing style that rockets you along like a eucalyptus-powered jet aircraft (this was actually one of Richard Branson’s abortive ideas for the greening of the travel business; see chapter seven).

The Same City Cover Image
By Luisge Martin, Tomasz Dukanovich (Translator)
ISBN: 9788494349683
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Hispabooks - September 1st, 2015

Translated fluidly from the Spanish by Tomasz Dukanovich, this short novel sweeps you up in its strange, existentialist arms and then never stops to take a breath. Like a post-9/11 COUNT OF MONTE CHRISTO, reinvented by Camus and spiked with a shot of Borges, this is the story of a lawyer who works at the top of the North Tower who is spared while all of his colleagues die. He abruptly decides to revolutionize his life—he leaves New York, telling no one, and reinvents himself under a false name and identity in Boston. A well-motivated, sober thought-experiment in the lust for, and limits of, reinvention.

The War Came Home with Him: A Daughter's Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780816698776
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: University of Minnesota Press - September 1st, 2015

Not a book that has got a lot of attention this year, but one that definitely should. This is how we need people to write about American wars and the families of our soldiers—not in ham-fisted generalizations and trite stereotypes but in fine-grained, sympathetic detail, without an ulterior motive. This is a book that intertwines the horror-story of her father’s experience as an American POW in Korea with her own coming-of-age story growing up in his home. It’s deceptively smart and on-point, opening a window onto the entangled nature of public service and private life. See my review and interview with the author here.

Staff Pick Logo
The Door (Nyrb Classics) Cover Image
By Magda Szabo, Len Rix (Translator), Ali Smith (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781590177716
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: New York Review of Books - January 27th, 2015

Look, sometimes Mark Haber just knows what he’s talking about, and this is one of those times. THE DOOR is exactly what a modern novel should be—a page-turner that delivers on plot, characterization, and psychological nuance. Szabó’s style is limpid but her characters and her ideas are always engagingly off-balance—you never know exactly what’s going to happen next. If Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier had a novel-writing, Hungarian love-child.

Strangers Drowning: Grappling with Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices, and the Overpowering Urge to Help Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594204333
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Penguin Press - September 29th, 2015

I love books that take on dangerous thinking, that confront ideas about the way the world could be, that dare to ask, Why not? In STRANGERS DROWNING, New Yorker writer MacFarquhar profiles what she calls “do-gooders,” people from various parts of the world who are driven by an uncommon, often self-injuring sense of responsibility to help others (also called extreme altruists). I’ve done some volunteer work, but I’m nothing next to these fanatics, the kind of people who make Ghandi look a lazy putz. What drives them to abandon lives of relative comfort and put their families at risk to do things like start leper colonies, or adopt dozens of children? Whether you find them compelling or crazy, these case-studies will at least convince you that carrying on with the status quo requires, for better or worse, a willed ignorance of the suffering of strangers. Unsettling and thought-provoking.

Guantanamo Diary Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316389259
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Back Bay Books - December 1st, 2015

When Obama campaigned in 2007, he made a point of promising the closure of Guantánamo, and as we know that never happened. This book is the best, most shocking testament to the meaning of that failure, the personal account of an uncharged, untried prisoner named Mohamedou Ould Slahi who, more than thirteen years after his capture, is still sitting in Guantánamo. Just the fact that this book exists is enough to demand a wide audience, and the story that he tells—written from his prison cell, redacted by the United States government, published with the help of his lawyers—puts a specific human face on the collateral damage of the war on terror. Slahi, a Mauritanian, seems to have been caught up in a series of unlucky coincidences which have led to his imprisonment and torture, and the loss of more than a decade of life in captivity. This is Kafka in contemporary America, and you will shudder at the cruel contingencies of fate.

Green on Blue Cover Image
ISBN: 9781476778556
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Scribner Book Company - February 17th, 2015

Ackerman is a former marine who earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart in the Battle of Fallujah as well as a Bronze Star for Valor in Afghanistan in 2008. And, oh yeah, he’s also a brilliant, sensitive novelist whose debut GREEN ON BLUE is a lyrical, empathetic portrait of a young man trying to carve out a life for himself and his brother in post-Taliban Afghanistan. This book shows, more than anything else I’ve read, the complexities of political and personal alliances in contemporary Afghanistan. It’s also a plot-driven war novel, constantly on a low-boil, leaving the reader on tenterhooks until the last page.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385538732
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Doubleday Books - April 21st, 2015

There’s a knotty problem that most Americans would rather not talk about—sexual assault, and specifically its place in the sexual culture of universities. Krakauer brings his top-rate novelistic journalism from INTO THE AIR and UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN to Missoula, Montana, home of the University of Montana and its locally-revered football team, which becomes the backdrop for cultural and legal battles that embroil university students, football stars, administrators, local cops, and the DA. The assault cases profiled by Krakauer become emblematic of larger cultural debates playing out from coast to coast and getting high-profile treatment in recent documentaries like THE HUNTING GROUND.

Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto Cover Image
ISBN: 9781612194912
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Melville House Publishing - August 18th, 2015

Published in 2014, but gosh-darn-it, I’m putting it on my list because I just discovered it this year and it’s the most important book I read. I had dreamt of writing this book a few months ago, and I was glad to find a much better informed, much more talented writer had already done it for me. This is a gem of dangerous thinking, a manifesto against professional football from a deeply devoted fan. Suffice it to say, after writing the book, he decided not to watch the sport anymore. If any other industry had the shameful safety track-record of pro football it would be regulated in a heartbeat, but the power of the League, the money involved, the sheer joy the orchestrated violence brings to millions of fans, not to mention to beauty of the athleticism—all of this conspires against acknowledging an open secret: that football eats up and spits out its hobbled, brain-damaged warriors.

Hunting with Eagles: In the Realm of the Mongolian Kazakhs Cover Image
By Palani Mohan (Photographer)
ISBN: 9781858946436
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Merrell - October 13th, 2015

A truly unique book from an internationally renowned photographer. The photographs—of Kazakh nomads and their hunting-trained golden eagles—will transport you to a place on earth you never dreamed could exist. The immaculate duotone images blend the majesty of the animals, the nomadic culture, and the landscapes of unearthy presence. This book will make you gasp, knit your brows in a form of positive consternation, and cry at the beauty of a part of world culture few of us will ever glimpse in person.

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