Public Picks 2015

Welcome to the third annual edition of Public Picks, a selection of the books and art that most interested and excited our editorial staff over the past year. As with previous years’ Picks (2013 ...

Welcome to the third annual edition of Public Picks, a selection of the books and art that most interested and excited our editorial staff over the past year. As with previous years’ Picks (2013, 2014), we aimed for a list that combines the best of the best with more idiosyncratic works that you may have missed.

With admiring nods to widely praised novels like Ali Smith’s How to Be Both and the latest installments from Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, to nonfiction standouts like Lawrence Wright’s Thirteen Days in September and Hermione Lee’s biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, and to celebrated films like Selma and the Oscar-winning Ida, then, here are our picks: a dozen titles each in the categories of fiction, nonfiction, and art and media that appeared in the US between May 1, 2014, and April 30, 2015, joined this year by top 10 lists of both graphic works (compiled by Jared Gardner) and children’s and YA literature (compiled by Marah Gubar) from the same period, plus a tidy half-dozen brainy beach reads. We hope you’ll find many new favorites among them.


• Sait Faik Abasıyanık, A Useless Man, translated from the Turkish by Alexander Dawe and Maureen Freely (Archipelago)
• Donald Antrim, The Emerald Light in the Air (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
• Rachel Cusk, Outline (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
• Jenny Erpenbeck, The End of Days, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions)
• William Gibson, The Peripheral (Putnam)
• James Hannaham, Delicious Foods (Little, Brown)
• Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings (Riverhead)
• Tove Jansson, The Woman Who Borrowed Memories, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal and Silvester Mazzarella (NYRB Classics)
• Miranda July, The First Bad Man (Scribner)
• Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven (Knopf)
• Viet Thanh Nguyen, The Sympathizer (Grove)
• Marilynne Robinson, Lila (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)



• Sven Beckert, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (Knopf)
• Kevin Birmingham, The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses (The Penguin Press)
• David Graeber, The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy (Melville House)
• Jake Halpern, Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
• Stephen Kotkin, Stalin, Volume 1: Paradoxes of Power, 1878–1928 (Penguin Press)
• Kevin M. Kruse, One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Basic)
• Helen Macdonald, H Is for Hawk (Grove)
• Ben Macintyre, A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal (Crown)
• David Reynolds, The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century (Norton)
• Brando Skyhorse, Take This Man (Simon & Schuster)
• Ronald Grigor Suny, “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else”: A History of the Armenian Genocide (Princeton University Press)
• Zephyr Teachout, Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United (Harvard University Press)



• “Miguel Covarrubias: Drawing a Cosmopolitan Line,” curated by Carolyn Kastner (Georgia O’Keefe Museum, Santa Fe, NM, September 27, 2014–January 18, 2015)
• Fun Home, musical adapted by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori from the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, directed by Sam Gold (Circle in the Square Theatre)
Edward Gorey: His Book Cover Art and Design, edited by Steven Heller (Pomegranate)
• Hayden Herrera, Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
• “Hip-Hop Revolution: Photographs by Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo, and Martha Cooper,” curated by Sean Corcoran (Museum of the City of New York, April 1–September 13, 2015)
• Greil Marcus, The History of Rock n’ Roll in Ten Songs (Yale University Press)
• Joel Meyerowitz: Retrospective, edited by Ralph Goertz (D.A.P. / Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Feb 2015)
• Nicholas Nixon, The Brown Sisters: Forty Years (The Museum of Modern Art)
• “Chris Ofili: Night and Day,” curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Gary Carrion-Murayari, and Margot Norton (New Museum, October 29, 2014–February 1, 2015)
• Ruben Östlund (director), Force Majeure
• Abderrahmane Sissako (director), Timbuktu
• Kara Walker, “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby,” presented by Creative Time (Domino Sugar Factory, Brooklyn, May 10–July 6, 2014)



• Gabrielle Bell, Truth Is Fragmentary: Travelogues and Diaries (Uncivilized)
• Roz Chast, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? (Bloomsbury)
• Farel Dalrymple, The Wrenchies (First Second)
• Eleanor Davis, How to Be Happy (Fantagraphics)
• Jean-Pierre Filiu and David B., Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations, Part Two: 1953–1984 (SelfMadeHero)
• Aidan Koch, Impressions (Peradam)
• John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, March: Book Two (Top Shelf)
• Richard McGuire, Here (Pantheon)
• John Porcellino, The Hospital Suite (Drawn & Quarterly)
• Anya Ulinich, Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel (Penguin)



• Jonathan Auxier, The Night Gardener (Amulet)
• Cece Bell, El Deafo (Amulet)
• Nick Bruel, Bad Kitty Drawn to Trouble (Roaring Book)
• Sharon M. Draper, Stella by Starlight (Atheneum)
• Stuart Gibbs, Space Case (Simon & Schuster)
• Jennifer L. Holm, The Fourteenth Goldfish (Random House)
• Jandy Nelson, I’ll Give You the Sun (Dial Books)
• Frank Portman, King Dork Approximately (Delacorte)
• Faith Ringgold, Harlem Renaissance Party (Amistad)
• Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl, Rad American Women A–Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History … and Our Future! (City Lights / Sister Spit)



• Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist (Harper)
• Kim Gordon, Girl in a Band (Dey Street)
• David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (Random House)
• Julie Schumacher, Dear Committee Members (Doubleday)
• John Waters, Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
• Sarah Waters, The Paying Guests (Riverhead)