Fifteen Books You Need to Read in 2015


Reading is an all-seasons activity, but there’s nothing better than cracking open a new book at the start of spring — when the choice of reading locales expands greatly. Soon, instead of holing up in your apartment, you can tackle nature and culture in one go — be it on a park bench, a rooftop patio, or a blanket on the grass, you can’t beat reading in the sun. Here are fifteen upcoming titles you won’t want to miss as the mercury (hopefully) begins its steady upward climb:

For the Music Lovers

Folk City: New York and the American Folk Music Revival
By Stephen Petrus and Ronald D. Cohen (Oxford, June)

If you loved the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, this’ll be right up your alley. Folk City explores the New York City folk scene of the 1950s and ’60s. It was a time when Greenwich Village was defined not by the volume of celebrities who’ve bought insanely priced brownstones there, but by venues like Gerde’s Folk City and the Gaslight Café, spaces that also acted as incubators for a subculture that would have a lasting effect on American pop music. Bonus: New Yorkers can enjoy an accompanying exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York, which opens on June 17.

How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy
By Stephen Witt (Viking, June)

Stephen Witt worked at a hedge fund until he decided to quit and enroll at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism specifically so he could report and write this story. How Music Got Free tells the story of Dell Glover, who worked in a CD-manufacturing plant in small-town North Carolina — and whom Witt identifies as the man who, by sneaking out thousands of albums and leaking them online, brought the music industry to its knees.

Dreams to Remember: Otis Redding, Stax Records, and the Transformation of Southern Soul
By Mark Ribowsky (Norton, June)

Journalist Mark Ribowsky unearths the largely untold story of the King of Soul, who, before his death in 1967 at the age of 26, helped bring black music into the mainstream — and during a particularly turbulent time in the American South, no less.

For the Shivers

American Warlord: A True Story
By Johnny Dwyer (Knopf, April)

American Warlord tells the story of Chucky Taylor, the American-born son of the notorious Liberian warlord Charles Taylor. At the age of fifteen, Chucky left his Florida home to meet his estranged father in Africa, and soon found himself intoxicated with power as the commander of a unit nicknamed “Demon Forces.” He was eventually caught trying to escape to America when his father’s government fell. He became the first American to be charged with the war crime of torture.

The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them
By Joseph E. Stiglitz (Norton, April)

In this collection of pieces on America’s rising income inequality, Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz tears into the policies that have divided Americans so sharply for the past four decades. He also offers solutions, such as increasing taxes for corporations and the wealthiest of the wealthy and investing in science, education, and infrastructure. Pretty fucking radical, huh?

For the Yogis

The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West
By Michelle Goldberg (Knopf, May)

Investigative journalist Michelle Goldberg tells the story of the remarkable Eugenia Peterson, who was born in Russia in the early twentieth century, fled by herself to Berlin in the 1930s, and made her way to India, where she persuaded the great yogis to teach her the secrets of their practice and brought them to the Western world.

For the Activists

Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America
By Ari Berman (FSG, August)

Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act comes this deep dive into the legacy of the civil rights movement and why we’re still fighting for the right for everyone to have a slice of the political power pie.

Freedom of Speech: Mightier Than the Sword
By David K. Shipler (Knopf, May)

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist David K. Shipler takes us on a tour of American free-speech controversies: parents who don’t want their kids reading sexual content in English class, conservative ministers preaching politics, online discussions about race. Perfect for fans of uncomfortable dinner-party conversation.

For Lovers of the Short Form

Barbara the Slut and Other People
By Lauren Holmes (Riverhead, August)

In her debut collection of stories, New York writer Lauren Holmes introduces us to Barbara, a high-schooler with an autistic brother and a pesky label; a woman whose sexy foreign fling has become a nuisance; a daughter who agrees to bring a suitcase full of lingerie to Mexico for her mother to resell; and other delights.

Voices in the Night: Stories
By Steven Millhauser (Knopf, April)

Pulitzer-winning short-story writer Steven Millhauser returns with sixteen new stories exploring the strangeness of small-town life, a set of hyper-real tales that exist in that ever-alluring space between the magic and the mundane.

For Lovers of the Epic

A Little Life
By Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday, March)

At a sprawling 720 pages, Hanya Yanagihara’s second novel is not a quick read. But it’s not a slog, either. A Little Life tells the story of four ambitious friends trying hard not to settle for less in New York City. Sexuality, racial identity, and childhood trauma all figure in the story as we learn more about the group, particularly one member, Jude, a bit of a mystery to both his friends and the reader — until we uncover his horrific past.

For the Nostalgic

Buckley and Mailer: The Difficult Friendship That Shaped the Sixties
By Kevin M. Schultz (Norton, June)

A joint portrait of two of the most powerful and opposing cultural figures of the 1960s, Kevin M. Schultz’s Buckley and Mailer takes on the intellectual rivalry between right-wing William F. Buckley Jr., founder of the National Review, and lefty Norman Mailer, co-founder of none other than the Village Voice. Both were bestselling authors, and despite the vast gulf between their political beliefs, they were good friends. A must-read for fans of either.

The Odd Woman and the City
By Vivian Gornick (FSG, May)

If being Vivian Gornick is odd, I don’t want to be normal. The Bronx-born writer and critic (who also wrote for the Village Voice in the 1960s and ’70s) has published ten books, not including this memoir, which traces the contours of an intellectual life in New York City that spans decades.

For the LOLs

Modern Romance
Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg (Penguin, June)

Lots of comedians have written memoirs in the past few years — Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Rachel Dratch, Martin Short, Darrell Hammond, and Chris Gethard, to name a few — but Aziz Ansari took a different route. Ansari teamed up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, and together they conducted over 100 interviews with people across the globe and analyzed a bunch of data in an attempt to present a snapshot of dating and love in the iPhone age. Don’t worry, it’ll be funny, too!

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better
Monica Heisey (Red Deer Press, September)

Comedian and writer Monica Heisey has written for The Hairpin, Vice, Playboy, The Toast, Rookie, and more, and now she’s penned her first book of humor essays and general advice, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better. If her Twitter is any indication, the book is bound to be both funny and painfully real.

Bonus! For the Schadenfreude

After Perfect: A Daughter’s Memoir
Christina McDowell (Simon and Schuster, June)

Christina McDowell was born Christina Prousalis, the daughter of Tom Prousalis, who worked closely with the real Jordan Belfort — the protagonist of The Wolf of Wall Street, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Prousalis was convicted of fraud and sent to prison, and McDowell changed her name in an attempt to distance herself from the scandal. Now she’s written a memoir about the fallout from her father’s crimes, a tale of the American Dream upended.


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