The five works of fiction (or “fiction books”) on the list are The Door by Magda Szabó, A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin, Outline by Rachel Cusk, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, and The Story of the Lost Child: Book 4, The Neapolitan Novels: “Maturity, Old Age” by everyone’s favorite Italian pseudonym Elena Ferrante. The five works of nonfiction are the now universally agreed on book of the year Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven “Don’t call me Sven Birkerts” Beckert, H Is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf, and One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Åsne Seierstad.
It’s a strong list—the strongest in years, in my opinion. It’s decidedly global—it’s not limited by time or place. That is, it’s not limited to the United States in 2015. Two of the books are posthumous, The Door and A Manual for Cleaning Women. A number of them came out a year ago or more in other countries (One of Us, Outline, H is for Hawk, The Story of the Lost Child) and received accolades abroad before being published in America. And, by my count, only one, Sven Beckert, is a white man. That, of course, is subject to change. The list appears to have seven women on it but Elena Ferrante could be anyone. Even me, a white man who does not speak Italian. (It’s not me.)