Best Books of 2015

We asked the ever-expanding Mosaic family to submit a quick summary of their favorite books of the year. It was a weighty task that required prodigious levels of reading –or not. Maybe the first book that was read hit so hard that every subsequent book would pale in its wake.  Either way, I love the pseudo uniqueness of this list and the oft-marginalized reading options it offers (that’s what we do). No worry if you don’t agree with the selections, feel free to add your best-of-the-rest in the comment box.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
51kuUoWRHNL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_What can I say? This is the best book I’ve read in eight years. If you are feeling in the mood to have your entire brain/heart/life be dominated by the most soul-wrenching, endlessly inspiring story of friendship, trauma, aging, loyalty, healing, and human expanses/limitations of the century, then you should probably cop this joint.
Angel Nafis is the author of BlackGirl Mansion

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
51nX2wGTFXL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_I’m caring for a newborn and still I couldn’t stop reading Between the World and Me. Everything we whisper, shout and cry about around my dinner table was articulated in that book. And he has excerpts from Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka in it!? Yes!
Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is the author of Dear Continuum: Letters to a Poet Crafting Liberation (Grand Concourse Press).

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay 
61-JJAY3DFL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Ross Gay tends to these poems with the kind of care and emotionality reserved only for those one loves. Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude is a collection that unapologetically loves hard and invites readers to do the same.
Nicole Sealey is the author of The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named, winner of the 2015 Drinking Gourd Chapbook Poetry Prize, forthcoming from Northwestern University Press.

Counternarratives by John Keene
61WsBezUtXL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_In Counternarratives, John Keene’s language is a machete slashing through the underbrush of the history of Western Civilization “tearing the white out” by giving voice to the marginalized, all the way to a basement in a none-too distant future in Lions. Along the way, the book whispers in the code of those in bondage. Coded language, coded names, coded text, coded bodies and secret spaces all play pivotal roles in the passages of Keene’s fugitive journey.
D. Scot Miller is an Oakland writer, a regular contributor to Gawker Review of Books, Sensitive Skin, City Lights, and Mosaic Magazine. He is the author of The AfroSurreal Manifesto.

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41DftQ2ixBL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Honest Engine by Kyle Dargan
The personal is political between the smooth paper sheets of Honest Engine. Enter this broken house on high cotton with your own tools and tongue ready to rebuild.
Amanda Johnston is a poet and founder of Torch Literary Arts.

415M+iajC7L._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_Multiply/Divide: On the American Real and Surreal by Wendy S. Walters

In this volume of experimental essays, Wendy S. Walters grapples with the complicated history and social relations that shape contemporary American life. She guides the reader through cities and neighborhoods, articulating nuances with cogent and poetic language, and allows the complexity of the subject matter to unfurl like a map. I regularly revisit these essays, and with each re-read become more captivated, curious, and amazed.
Justin Allen is a writer and performer. He is currently performing in niv Acosta’s work DISCOTROPIC.

51hJ0kW7+HL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_The Moor’s Account: A Novel by Laila Lalami
The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami is everything historical fiction ought to be. It’s a riveting account of the first enslaved Black man to land on the shores of the New World. The details of the indigenous people he encounters, their land and his slavers are so lush and the sights so stunning it will shake you to your core. A must read to set the record straight.
Linda A. Duggins, a literature loving book enthusiast, is Senior Director of publicity at GCP-Hachette Book Group.

51THB7u7VzL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Vessel by Parneshia Jones
These poems are down home city slick. Vessel is what happens when the holy ghost walks into a juke joint, says amen, and a beloved girl turned woman poet sees and sets it to verse.
Amanda Johnston is a poet and founder of Torch Literary Arts.

51SWCEVAYsL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Flournoy’s debut novel is an absorbing story of the Turner family, in which 13 siblings who are suddenly faced with the dilemma of what to do when the family house has money owed on it and they risk losing it. This portrayal of family love and pride, addictions and obsessions, blended with contemporary issues of housing in America, makes for a compassionate tale.
Clarence V. Reynolds is director at the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY; he is also an independent journalist.

514jP8uQsFL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson  
The four little Indians in this exuberant and satirical novel about friendships, racial consciousness, and navigating between different worlds are four students of different cultural and racial backgrounds who attend UC Berkeley. As part of a school project, they take a trip to Braggsville, Georgia, the protagonist’s hometown, to protest an annual enactment of the Civil War that takes place there.
Clarence V. Reynolds is director at the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY; he is also an independent journalist.

51WnvzeamHL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Jam on the Vine: A Novel by LaShonda Barnett
LaShonda Barnett’s novel, Jam on the Vine, stays with you. I read it early in the year and have been walking with its characters since. Barnett gives us language to fall in love with, characters to sit with and learn from, and stories of black women thinking fiercely in a time in US cultural history in which our stories have often been erased. This is one to share with your family, your partners, your friends and your students—a book that asks for your heart and gives it back to you, illuminated and enriched.
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan is the author of the short story collection Blue Talk and Love. She is assistant professor at UMass Amherst.