Best Nonfiction Books of 2015

Posted on December 30, 2015

by April S

As 2015 comes to a close, you may be looking back and wondering what were some of the best things from this year. Perhaps you’ve seen “best of” lists popping up all over the web and thought to yourself what constitutes the best anyway? How are the titles selected for these lists? Well, it mostly depends on the source. After all, anyone can start a blog and what they include on their blog can be a matter of opinion.

The books featured in this “best of the year” post were pulled from trusted sources like:

  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • The Atlantic
  • Forbes
  • Kirkus Reviews
  • NPR
  • The New Yorker
  • Publisher’s Weekly
  • Rolling Stone
  • Library Journal

If that’s not enough, many were featured as the “best of 2015″ on multiple lists. We hope you’ll discover something great!

If you’re a fan of fiction, then you may enjoy our last blog post: Best Fiction Books of 2015

Biography & Memoir

Hold Still by Sally Mann

Hold Still by Sally Mann

Named one of the best books of 2015 by:

Publisher’s Weekly
The Washington Post 

Critical praise:

“A boldly alive, bracingly honest, thoroughly engrossing, sun-dappled, and deeply shadowed tale of inheritance and defiance, creativity and remembrance by an audacious and tenacious American photographer.” – “Booklist” (starred review)

“Mann’s prose-luminous, chatty and smart-together with photographs that arrest and provoke-invites readers to hold the camera still with her, and in that space, to imagine whole narratives that accompany these slices in time.”
 – “Los Angeles Times”

“A sweeping tale of Mann’s coming of age, her family history, her artistic influences and choices. It is also an homage to the South…HOLD STILL is thought-provoking and is certainly arresting to look at.”
– “The Washington Post”

Borrow it from the Library: Book, eBook or eAudio

More “Best of 2015″ Biography books you may enjoy:

M train / Patti Smith
Billie Holiday : the musician and the myth / John Szwed
Elon Musk : Tesla, SpaceX, and the quest for a fantastic future / Ashlee Vance
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

Business and Leadership

Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter

Unfinished business : women men work family / Anne-Marie Slaughter

Named one of the best books of 2015 by:

Business Insider
The Washington Post

Critical Praise:

“Slaughter should be applauded for devising a ‘new vocabulary’ to identify a broad, misclassified social phenomenon. And she is razor-sharp on outlining the cultural shifts necessary to give caregiving its due … By putting these issues on the agenda, Slaughter has already taken an essential first step.” – “The Economist” 

“An eye-opening call to action from someone who rethought the whole notion of ‘having it all,’ Unfinished Business could change how many of us approach our most important business: living.” – “People” 
“Another clarion call from [Anne-Marie] Slaughter…Her case for revaluing and better compensating caregiving is compelling … Slaughter skillfully exposes half-truths in the workplace [and] makes it a point in her book to speak beyond the elite.” – Jill Abramson, “The Washington Post” 

Borrow it from the Library: Book or eBook

More “Best of 2015″ Business books you may enjoy:

Presence : bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges / Amy Cuddy
Everybody matters : the extraordinary power of caring for your people like family / Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia
Mindful Work - how meditation is changing business from the inside out by david gelles
Work rules! : insights from inside Google that will transform how you live and lead / Laszlo Bock

General History

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Named one of the best books of 2015 by:

Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
The New York Times
Publisher’s Weekly

Critical Praise:

“The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future Coates offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “Immense, multifaceted . . . This is a poet’s book, revealing the sensibility of a writer to whom words—exact words—matter. . . . As a meditation on race in America, haunted by the bodies of black men, women, and children, Coates’s compelling, indeed stunning, work is rare in its power to make you want to slow down and read every word. This is a book that will be hailed as a classic of our time.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Powerful and passionate . . . profoundly moving . . . a searing meditation on what it means to be black in America today.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Borrow it from the Library: Book, eBook or eAudio

More “Best of 2015″ History books you may enjoy:

St. Marks is dead : the many lives of America's hippest street / Ada Calhoun
Once in a great city : a Detroit story / David Maraniss
Dead wake : the last crossing of the Lusitania / Erik Larson
Sapiens : a brief history of humankind / Yuval Noah Harari


Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis

Voyage of the Sable Venus : and other poems / Robin Coste Lewis

Named one of the best books of 2015 by:

The Paris Review
Publisher’s Weekly

It also won the National Book Award!

Critical Praise:

“Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems reframes the black figure, most specifically the black female, by pointing out the borders of black beauty, black happiness, and black resilience in our canonical visual culture. Tender and masterful opening and closing poems bookend the archival, lyric masterwork … Robin Coste Lewis takes back depictions of the black feminine and refuses to land or hold down that which has always been alive and loving and lovely.” – Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric

“Lewis’s astonishing debut full-length collection works as a triptych, with the title poem’s central panel flanked by autobiographical lyric poems that investigate intersections of blackness and gender, geography, alienation, and the formation of the self.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Borrow it from the Library: Book or eBook

More “Best of 2015″ Poetry collections you may enjoy:

Citizen : an American lyric / Claudia Rankine
The Emperor of water clocks : [poems] / Yusef Komunyakaa
	 Notes on the assemblage / Juan Felipe Herrera
Scattered at sea / Amy Gerstler ; Illustrations by Gail Swanland

General Nonfiction

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Named one of the best books of 2015 by:

Brain Pickings
Kirkus Reviews
The New York Times
Publisher’s Weekly
The Washington Post 

Critical Praise:

“Had there been an award for the best new book that defies every genre, I imagine it would have won that too. . . . Coherent, complete, and riveting, perhaps the finest nonfiction I read in the past year.”  – Kathryn Schulz, New Yorker

“Captivating and beautifully written, it’s a meditation on the bond between beasts and humans and the pain and beauty of being alive.”  – People “To categorize this work as merely memoir, nature writing or spiritual writing would understate [Macdonald’s] achievement . . . her prose glows and burns.” – Karin Altenberg, Wall Street Journal

Borrow it from the Library: Book, eBook or eAudio

More “Best of 2015″ General Nonfiction books you may enjoy:

Modern romance / Aziz Ansari with Eric Klinenberg
Humans of New York : stories / Brandon Stanton
The Invention of nature : Alexander von Humboldt's new world / Andrea Wulf
NeuroTribes : the legacy of autism and the future of neurodiversity / Steve Silberman
Best of 2015 – Books Lists

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