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Veteran CCLaP book reviewer Karl Wolff had a great year in 2015, publishing his latest book of critical essays (The NSFW Files) and finishing the writing of his next one after that (American Odd, coming in paperback form in 2016). Here's his look at his personally favorite five reads of this year.
Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace
By David Lipsky
The Jason Segel film The End of the Tour brought about a revival of interest in the late author David Foster Wallace. The book, like the film, traces David Lipsky's travels with DFW on a book tour for Infinite Jest. I enjoyed it because it showed another side of DFW, humanizing this innovative and daring author.
Cities of Empire: The British colonies and the creation of the urban world
By Tristram Hunt
Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company
Profiling noteworthy urban developments from Boston to Liverpool to Hong Kong, Cities of Empire is a great read for architecture nerds. Hunt, a member of Parliament, investigates urban planning, architecture, politics, and anti-imperialist sentiment in a history that spans the globe.
By Larry Duberstein
Brimstone Corner Press
Mad Men meets Titus Andronicus in this immigrant story of midcentury New York City. The story bounces between past and present, Europe and America, Nazi death camps and corporate board rooms, capitalist achievement and cold-blooded revenge. It is a thriller unlike any other.
Predator: the Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution
By Richard Whittle
Henry Holt and Company
Predator tells the story of the development, military use, and legal limbo of the Predator drone. The gee-whiz technological development goes hand in hand with the legal miasma associated with drones. Whittle doesn't shy away from either, writing a balanced account of a controversial new technology.
Speak Now: Marriage Equality on Trial
By Kenji Yoshino
Yoshino's legal history of the struggle for marriage equality is learned, accessible, and emotionally resonant. Regardless of where you stand on LGBT rights, this book offers a level-headed examination of both sides. An Asian-American gay man who married and has adopted two children, he also celebrated the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of The Westboro Baptist Church. This might confound NPR leftists, but Yoshino embraced the opinion because the law is meant for all and the ruling was a triumph for free expression.