Best Nonfiction Essays 2014

Posted on by Tole

Continuing with our series of “Best of 2014″ lists curated by the entire Entropy community, we present some favorite selections as nominated by the diverse staff and team at Entropy.

This list brings together some of our favorite non-fiction books, including creative non-fiction, essays, & memoir.

In no particular order:


1. Hags by Jenny Zhang (Guillotine)

“These hags, these great beauties, these mermaids who taunt, who feast, who slash, who steal, these succubae who cannot rest, my mothers, my sisters, my unborn friends, my keepers, my guardians.”

2. The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks (Broadway Books)

Brooks (World War Z, 2006) makes a U-turn from zombies with this fictionalized account of the famous all-black 369th Infantry. The opening scene of a trench bomb sets the stage for the whole book: endless, grimacing faces and buckets of gore, mostly in the form of exploded bodies splattering across the page. This intro also betrays the book’s chief concern: simply telling the story of WWI combat, albeit from an unusual point of view. As a result, the plot is fuzzy and the characters suitably enjoyable placeholders. We follow our diverse bunch from enlistment to training to the hell of France, where they fight through inhumane conditions with the utmost valor, and for what? Prejudice and humiliation at every turn. “They would rather see white Germans,” says one soldier, “instead of black Americans march in triumph up Fifth Avenue.” White’s appropriately cluttered art has the horrific shock value of EC Comics classics like Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales, and the whole thing comes off as resolutely Tarantinoesque. The movie version should be along any second now. —Daniel Kraus

3. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison (Graywolf Press)

“Extraordinary . . . she calls to mind writers as disparate as Joan Didion and John Jeremiah Sullivan as she interrogates the palpitations of not just her own trippy heart but of all of ours. . . . Her cerebral, witty, multichambered essays tend to swing around to one topic in particular: what we mean when we say we feel someone else’s pain. . . . I’m not sure I’m capable of recommending a book because it might make you a better person. But watching the philosopher in Ms. Jamison grapple with empathy is a heart-expanding exercise.”—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

4. Earthbound by Ken Baumann (Boss Fight Books)

“At last, EarthBound gets the paperback it deserves.” – Kill Screen

5. Against Innocence by Jackie Wang (Semiotexte)

The political response to the murder of Troy Davis does not challenge the assumption that communities need to clean up their streets by rounding up criminals, for it relies on the claim that davis is not one of those feared criminals, but an innocent Black man. Innocence, however, is just code for nonthreatening to white civil society.  Troy Davis is differentiated from other Black men-the bad ones-and the legal system is diagnosed as being infected  with racism, masking the fact that the legal system is constituent mechanism through which racial violence is carried out.

6. Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America by John Waters (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories

byMarina Keegan

The instant New York Times bestseller and publishing phenomenon: Marina Keegan’s posthumous collection of award-winning essays and stories “sparkles with talent, humanity, and youth” (O, The Oprah Magazine).

Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival anThe instant New York Times bestseller and publishing phenomenon: Marina Keegan’s posthumous collection of award-winning essays and stories “sparkles with talent, humanity, and youth” (O, The Oprah Magazine).

Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at TheNew Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.

Marina left behind a rich, deeply expansive trove of writing that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation. Her short story “Cold Pastoral” was published on NewYorker.com. Her essay “Even Artichokes Have Doubts” was excerpted in the Financial Times, and her book was the focus of a Nicholas Kristof column in The New York Times. Millions of her contemporaries have responded to her work on social media.

As Marina wrote: “We can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over…We’re so young. We can’t, we MUST not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it’s all we have.” The Opposite of Loneliness is an unforgettable collection of Marina’s essays and stories that articulates the universal struggle all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to impact the world. “How do you mourn the loss of a fiery talent that was barely a tendril before it was snuffed out? Answer: Read this book. A clear-eyed observer of human nature, Keegan could take a clever idea...and make it something beautiful” (People)....more

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