kottke.org posts about best of 2015
Kathryn Schulz, who wrote the now-infamous New Yorker piece about earthquake that will devastate the Pacific Northwest, shared a list of the best facts she learned fron books in 2015. Two stuck out for me. The first is from Sarah Hrdy's Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species and provides some necessary context for the debates over birth control and abortion:
In the era before women had any control over their fertility, child abandonment -- a de-facto form of infanticide -- "affected not tens of thousands, not even hundreds of thousands, but millions of babies," according to the anthropologist and primatologist Sarah Hrdy. In Florence, for instance, the average annual rate of infant abandonment between 1500 and 1843 ranged from twelve per cent to forty-three per cent. In response, societies eventually began establishing foundling hospitals, but the mortality rates at these were equally high. Two-thirds of babies left at a Florence foundling home between 1755 and 1773 died before their first birthday; in 1767, mortality rates in foundling homes in St. Petersburg and Moscow reached ninety-nine per cent. While contemporary readers may find these statistics shocking, many people at the time knew exactly what was going on. In the town of Brescia, in northern Italy, residents proposed carving a motto over the entrance to the foundling home: "Here children are killed at public expense."
And from Thunder & Lightning: Weather Past, Present, Future by Lauren Redniss comes the realization that London's poor visibility was not limited to outdoors:
Having read my share of Victorian novels, I was familiar with the phenomenon of London fog, but I was surprised to learn, from Lauren Redniss's "Thunder & Lightning," that the combination of atmospheric conditions, factory emissions, and coal fires sometimes made the city's air so impenetrable that visibility was reduced to just a few feet even indoors. That was bad news for theatregoers, who could not see the stage, but good news for thieves, who could not be seen. Worse, ambulances got lost, trucks accidentally drove into the Thames, and at least one airplane overshot its runway. Conditions began to improve only in 1956, with the passage of England's Clean Air Act.
Pete Souza's job for the past seven years has been to take photographs of the goings-on at the White House, including its inhabitants, staff, and guests. Behind the Lens: 2015 Year in Photographs is a selection of more than 100 photographs that Souza and his staff took last year. A few favorites:
That's the Obamas beginning a walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on the 50th anniversary of the brutal police attack of peaceful march to Montgomery accompanied by some of the original marchers. I love the looks on the faces of the various marchers: the dignified determination of John Lewis, the appropriate solemnity of the President and First Lady, and the carefree expressions of Sasha and Malia.1
Obama's like Subzero from Mortal Kombat but with rainbows.
I'm not sure there will ever be another President in my lifetime I love as much as this one.
Because I hate fun, cute and funny animal photos are something I don't usually get excited about. But I will make an exception just this once for the inaugural Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. (via colossal)
The winner of the 2015 Small World in Motion competition is Wim van Egmond's video of a single-celled organism consuming a smaller single-celled organism. The winners of the photomicrography contest are worth a look as well.
This video is 20 minutes of the best YouTube footage from 2015 of extreme sports, marriage proposals, cute kids, funny animals, fast cars, groovy dancing, dronies, and more slow-motion GoPro footage than you could ever want to see in one lifetime. I've linked to a few of these videos, but generally my list of cool videos of the year would be a bit less X-TREEM. If you want to watch all 506 videos in the compilation, check out this playlist.
Alan Taylor at In Focus has shared his list of the Top 25 News Photos of 2015.
As I have in past years, I'll share more lists of the year's best photos as they come in.
Update: The AP shares their Top 100 News Images of 2015. Very few of these photographs show anything good, so fair warning.
Update: In Focus has published all and three parts of a three-part series of 2015: The Year in Photos.
Update: One more from In Focus: Hopeful Images from 2015. A reminder that the good in the world vastly outweighs the bad...even if it doesn't often make the news.
Update: Nature has a collection of the best science images of 2015. The WSJ presents their Year in Photos 2015.
One of the things I look forward to at the end of each year is David Ehrlich's video compilation of his favorite films of the year. 2015's installment does not disappoint.
The person I listen to the most regarding books I should be reading is Tyler Cowen...he has never once steered me wrong. So when he wrote about the best fiction of 2015, I perked up. I've been hearing many good things about Elena Ferrante's series (Cowen himself flagged her The Lost Daughter as a favorite back in 2008) but his assertion that her recent series of novels ranks as "one of the prime literary achievements of the last twenty years" puts it solidly on my holiday beach reads list. The New World by Chris Adrian & Eli Horowitz and Vendela Vida's The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty also sound particularly interesting.
Update: Cowen recently shared his list of best non-fiction books of the year as well. Biographies rule the list: on Elon Musk, Henry Kissinger, Margaret Thatcher, and Genghis Khan. What a list...but I have to say that reading biographies of Thatcher or Kissinger doesn't appeal at all.
Update: The NY Times weighs in with their list of 100 Notable Books of 2015. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates makes an appearance, as do the latest installments by Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard.
Update: From Buzzfeed, The 24 Best Fiction Books of 2015 and from Slate, The Overlooked Books of 2015.
Update: The NY Times Sunday Book Review names their 10 Best Books of 2015. Coates and Ferrante feature. By my count, 7 of the 10 books are written by women.
Update: From Slate, a list of the best audiobooks of 2015. The Economist's best books of the year, including SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome and Steve Silberman's NeuroTribes. For part one of their best books list, The Guardian asked writers for their favorite books of the year; Max Porter's Grief is the Thing with Feathers got multiple mentions (but is not yet out in the US).
Update: Amazon's editors picked their 100 best books of the year and Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies topped the list. The top non-fiction book is Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family.
Update: A design-oriented list from Michael Bierut, including The Making of Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey'.
Update: Bill Gates shared his favorite books of 2015, including Randall Munroe's Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words.
For The Millions Year in Reading 2015, they asked a bunch of writers for their reading recommendations. Joyce Carol Oates recommends the Didion biography The Last Love Song while Celeste Ng read The Suicide Index.
The Atlantic asked their editors and writers to share The Best Book I Read This Year. This is one of several lists to include The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf.
Update: The NY Times book critics weigh in with their favorite books of the year. Moar Ferrante! Moar Coates!
Vox has a list of all the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winners. I am especially pleased to see Elizabeth Kolbert win the general nonfiction category for The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History...I've been reading her writing on climate change and environmental issues in the New Yorker for years now.
Oh my, I had forgotten about the Name of the Year site and how amazing it is. Each year, they collect the most unusual names in the world and pit them against each other in a March Madness-style bracket. Here are some of the names in the running for the 2015 Name of the Year:
Dr. Electron Kebebew
Lancelot Supersad Jr.
Jazznique St. Junious
(A reminder...these are actual names of actual people. Somehow.)
Dr. Wallop Promthong
Amanda Miranda Panda
Some Hall of Name inductees include Tokyo Sexwale, Nimrod Weiselfish, Doby Chrotchtangle, Tanqueray Beavers, and Vanilla Dong.