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The 19 Best Nonfiction Books Of 2015

These are the essay collections, memoirs, and nonfiction reads that we absolutely loved in 2015. (Ranked in no particular order.)

1. Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson

Negroland by writer and critic Margo Jefferson is both a memoir and a cultural history of the black middle/upper class in America. With beautiful writing and a clear, unwavering eye, Jefferson describes a life of relative privilege that is also full of tough questions about belonging, race, class, and community.

Learn more here.

2. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

One of the most talked-about books of the year, The Argonauts explores and interrogates heady topics such as gender, sexuality, identity, and motherhood. Nelson's writing is gloriously erudite, movingly personal, and all in all like nothing you've ever read.

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3. The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits

To read The Folded Clock, a diary written by novelist Heidi Julavits, is to curl up happily inside one of the most clever, observant, and odd minds out there. With great charm and intelligence, Julavits chronicles and finds deep meaning in the great and small moments of her days.

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4. On the Move: A Life by Oliver Sacks

A memoir from renowned neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks, On the Move: A Life is the story of a brilliant, impassioned human being, and the struggles and experiences that shaped him. To read this book is to both mourn Sacks' recent death and to rejoice that we were lucky enough to live in the same world as him.

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5. The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic by Jessica Hopper

The title of this collection of music criticism by Jessica Hopper is an opening salvo of sorts, cluing you into both the literal contents of the book as well as the intelligence, verve, and swagger with which it's written. Containing selections spanning Hopper's entire career, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic will make you feel the pure joy of musical obsession.

Learn more here.

Follow Jessica Hopper on Twitter.

6. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Winner of the National Book Award, Between the World and Me is one of the most essential books of this year, and many years to come. Coates’ examination of what it means to be a black man and parent in America today is an utterly engaging, powerful, and brilliant work that is an important addition to the conversation on race, blackness, and the self.

Learn more here.

Follow Ta-Nehisi Coates on Twitter.

7. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan

Barbarian Days is a memoir of surfing, William Finnegan's life obsession. It is a testament to Finnegan's storytelling and keen eye for detail that, whether you care about surfing or not, you're riveted as Finnegan travels the world, meets a vast array of colorful characters, and eventually struggles to fit surfing into his life as circumstances change.

Learn more here.

8. One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad (translated by Sarah Death)

With thorough research and compelling writing, Seierstad tells the story of Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist who detonated a bomb near Oslo's government buildings then attacked a youth camp, killing 77 people in all. One of Us is hard to read—but a must-read nonetheless.

Learn more here.

Follow Åsne Seierstad on Twitter.

9. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

If you've ever enjoyed comedian Aziz Ansari's hilarious observations about dating, Modern Romance is the book for you. In Modern Romance, Ansari dives even deeper into the subject, partnering with an NYU sociologist to conduct studies and interviews and amass information about the weird, impossible, and occasionally wonderful world of dating today.

Learn more here.

Follow Aziz Ansari on Twitter.

10. How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy by Stephen Witt

In How Music Got Free, journalist Stephen Witt tells the captivating and tense story of how the digital music revolution transformed the music industry, and made criminals out of many of us. Read it to learn all about a landmark moment in music and technology that still affects us today.

Learn more here.

Follow Stephen Witt on Twitter.

11. Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura

In Daughters of the Samurai, Nimura describes a fascinating moment in history: In 1871, the Japanese government sent five young girls to the United States for ten years to receive a Western education, after which they would be brought back to help modernize Japan. What results is utterly engrossing, as we watch these girls (each a distinctive personality in her right) adjust to America... then readjust to Japan.

Learn more here.

Follow Janice P. Nimura on Twitter.

12. NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and The Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman

Journalist Steve Silberman's NeuroTribes is a comprehensive and intriguing history of autism from its first diagnosis by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asberger to today. In a sea of misinformation and confusion about autism, NeuroTribes is refreshing, enlightening, and sorely needed.

Learn more here.

Follow Steve Silberman on Twitter.

13. Irritable Hearts by Mac McClelland

A fearless, deeply self-searching memoir from award-winning human rights journalist Mac McClelland, Irritable Hearts details her struggle with PTSD after reporting in Haiti after its 2010 earthquake. True to her background as an investigative journalist, McClelland also goes outside of her own experience to examine PTSD in today's world and interview others (such as combat veterans) suffering from PTSD.

Learn more here.

Follow Mac McClelland on Twitter.

14. Ordinary Light: A Memoir by Tracy K. Smith

In Ordinary Light, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith grapples with what it means to grow up and apart from one’s family. When her beloved mother is diagnosed with cancer, Smith is forced to confront these issues all the more deeply and painfully. A moving and beautifully-written memoir about faith, grieving, and mother-daughter relationships.

Learn more here.

15. The Wilderness by McKay Coppins

In The Wilderness, BuzzFeed senior political reporter Coppins draws on his vast expertise as well as over 300 interviews with key players to give us a look into a Republican Party after the 2012 election— a party in turmoil yet determined to lead the country once again. The Wilderness is an invaluable, enlightening, and entertaining guide to the Republican Party today.

Learn more here.

Follow McKay Coppins on Twitter.

16. Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola

Blackout is an eloquent memoir of drunkenness and sobriety from Salon editor Sarah Hepola, who explores her addiction to alcohol with both humor and honesty. A significant part of Blackout is devoted to Hepola's life in sobriety, which—without being preachy—delivers the important message that that a sober life can be just as fun, funny, strange, and full of ups and downs as one full of alcohol.

Learn more here.

Follow Sarah Hepola on Twitter.

17. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me? is even sharper than its predecessor, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. Though Kaling’s writing is blithe and over-the-top hilarious, her perspectives on topics such as building a career and her experience of being a woman of color in Hollywood are insightful and honest.

Learn more here.

Follow Mindy Kaling on Twitter.

18. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

In the wake of her father’s sudden death, Helen Macdonald copes with her grief by taking on one of the greatest challenges in falconry: training the vicious goshawk. Moving, smart, and as fierce as the goshawk itself, H is for Hawk is a stunning achievement in both nature writing and memoir.

Learn more here.

Follow Helen Macdonald on Twitter.

19. Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

Dreamland is the fascinating and disturbing story of a national plague. As Quinones delves into the complex hows and whys behind the spread of opiate addiction in the U.S., he never loses sight of the stories and motivations of the people involved, from addicts, dealers, traffickers, doctors, and so on.

Learn more here.