Book Reviews

Top Books of 2015

Out of the more than eighty book reviews Commonweal published in 2015, these twelve were the most read, discussed, and shared on social media.

'Between the World and Me'

In Ta-Nehisi Coates’s interpretation of race in America, hope doesn't fit into the narrative—something James Baldwin, to whom he's compared, wouldn't leave out.

'Once in a Great City'

What fascinates Maraniss about Detroit more than its ruin is how central its story is to the broader course of U.S. history—Motown, the local Mob, the auto industry.

'Go Set a Watchman'

'Go Set Watchman' shows that though Atticus Finch defended a black man in court, he was still a man of his time—on the white citizens council, resisting integration.

'A History of Loneliness'

John Boyne’s new novel pays attention to the circumstances of priestly life in real-world Catholic Ireland, asking: How does one be a good priest under suspicion?

'Utopia, Limited'

Anahid Nersessian argues that Romanticism dramatizes the “desirability of constraint.” Her book on how British Romantics imagined "utopia" powerfully does the same.

Mediterranean Travels

Historical reminders of how the Mediterranean connects Europe, Asia, and Africa at least as often as it separates the three continents from one another.

Conversation Starters

Reasoning with rants, processing trauma through painting, and Tweeting with the pontiff: Maybe there's a long German word to capture the experience?

Not Just for Kids

Girlhoods, boyhoods, childhoods, "freindships": Youth is the setting (and subject) in works by Jane Austen, J.M. Coetzee, Michael Ondaatje, and Leo Tolstoy.

Thinking Hard About History, and About Being Human

These books offer two rewards: a lot of fascinating information, and an opportunity to think hard about history and being human. But they prompt some questions too.

A Spiritual Work, a Saint, a Jumpstart for Prayer

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of spiritual progress or regression, but these days on retreat, in between prayer periods, I allow myself to read.
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