The Best American Essays, 2015, ed. Ariel Levy, 2015 

This is a superb volume of essays and perhaps the best of the 16 volumes in this series that I have read.  Levy, a young writer on the staff of the New Yorker, author of two non-fiction books, and a professor at Wesleyan has put together an eclectic group of essays, difficult to characterize except that all of them are compelling and beautifully written.  They made me laugh, cry, groan, and reach for my highlighting pencil in the following essays:  1) Islands, by Hilton Als about his experience as a young boy visiting his parents’ native Barbados where he discovers he’s gay 2)This Old Man, by Roger Angell in which the 93 year old writer and editor shares his experiences of getting ancient with a focus on the physical changes which nonetheless don’t diminish the need for physical contact with the opposite sex 3)Charade by Kendra Atleework who writes about her teen age self in rural Nevada whose best friend cuts her wrists 4)A Message to the 21st Century by Isaiah Berlin: Written in 1994 as an acceptance speech for an honorary degree in Toronto, the philosopher/political scientist warns of the danger of ideology and praises liberal democracy and tolerance.  One can only shudder to think what Berlin would make of ISIS, the Republican Party, Putin, et al.  5) Strange Days, by Sven Birkerts describes his enforced rest post-surgery, time, lost friends and acquaintances.  6) Vision by Tiffany Briere is a West Indian woman’s description of how her dead ancestors are present 7) My Daughter and God, Justin Cronin tells the story of how his wife and daughter miraculously escaped death in an auto accident and how his wife found God in the aftermath.  8) Difference Maker by Meghan Daum who talks about her childless marriage and the stress and strains 9) Thing with Feathers that Perches in the Soul, by Anthony Doerr uses Dickinson’s poem about Hope to talk about how Boise was settled by John and Mary O’Farrell in the mid-19th C 10) The Crooked Ladder by Malcolm Gladwell refers to how the Mafia was a stepping stone to respectable middle class life before modern police techniques interrupted that ladder 11) 65, by Mark Jacobson.  A funny, sad, and truth-filled look at aging today  12)Scenes from Life in Negroland, by Margo Jefferson whose physician father and middle class Negro life couldn’t completely shield her from bigotry  13)Smuggler, by Philip Kennicott who talks about discovering gay literature in his teens in upstate New York 14) A Man and his Cat, Tim Krieder in a very funny essay about his cat 15) The Loudproof Room by Kate Lebo who tells of her trials as a deaf person 16) My Grandma the Poisoner, by John Reed.  A very strange tale of a lovely old grandma who seems to have poisoned most of the members of her family. Oy! 17) Reflections on Indexing my Lynching Book by Ashraf H.A. Rushdy.  A timely discourse on the history and present state of anti-Black prejudice and hatred in our country 18) Stepping Out by David Sedaris makes my own strong case against an OCD person buying a Fitbit 19) Find your Beach, by Zadie Smith who cites Larkin’s ‘extinction’s alp’ to share personal reflections on living in NYC 20) Arrival Gates by Rebecca Solnit who writes about a visit to Japan and how ‘moving through space takes on meaning and how meaning can be made spatially,” 21) My Uniform by Cheryl Strayed who talks about how her little black negligee and her running pants figure into her marriage 22) It Will Look Like a Sunset by Kelly Sundberg. The title refers to what an ER doctor told her about one of the many bruises her husband inflicted in this terribly painful essay about domestic abuse.  What a volume of great essays.