Two books from Minnesota's Graywolf Press named 'Best of 2014'


Publishers Weekly has chosen two books published by Minnesota's Graywolf Press on its list of the 10 best books of 2014.

The two Graywolf works, both of them nonfiction, are "On Immunity" by Eula Biss, and "The Empathy Exams," a collection of essays by Leslie Jamison.

Amazon recently posted its "Best Books of 2014" list as well, although theirs includes 100 titles. Expect to see other retailers and publishing houses release their own "best of" lists or favorites heading into the holiday shopping season.

Editors at Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine for the book industry, chose their top 10 out of nearly 9,000 books they reviewed during the year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Here's more on the two selections and why they were chosen.

"On Immunity: An Inoculation,"


Eula Biss

Why do some people fear vaccines? That's the question Biss seeks to answer in this examination of the forceful debate over whether it's harmful to vaccinate children.

"Biss, while making an unimpeachable case for childhood vaccination, delves into the metaphors that accompany notions of purity and invasion, and recounts the medical history of vaccine development," says Publisher's Weekly. "It’s a touching personal story that seeks to understand why the antivax crowd exists and why it’s such a well-meaning, if misguided, movement."

Here's a review:

"Biss's gracious rhetoric and her insistence that she feels 'uncomfortable with both sides' of the rancorous fight may frustrate readers looking for a pro-vaccine polemic. Yet her approach might actually be more likely to sway fearful parents, offering them an alternative set of images and associations to use in thinking about immunization."—The New Yorker

Biss teaches writing at Northwestern University.

"The Empathy Exams: Essays,"


Leslie Jamison

(photo: Colleen Kinder)

This collection of essays by up-and-coming writer Jamison is an examination of pain - physical, emotional, societal – and how people respond to the pain of others.

"Her observations of people, reality TV, music, film, and literature serve as starting points for unconventional metaphysical inquiries into poverty tourism, prison time, random acts of violence, abortion, bad romance, and stereotypes of the damaged woman artist," says Publishers Weekly.

Here's a review:

"[An] excellent new collection . . . . The question at its core is what we humans should do about suffering, and Jamison reframes it again and again, in settings from the border crossing at Tijuana to a murder trial to the finish line of an ultramarathon."—New York Magazine

Jamison's debut novel, The Gin Closet, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times First Fiction Prize. She lives in Brooklyn, and is completing a doctorate at Yale University.

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