In this volume, Leslie Jamison, the editor, has chosen what she considers to be the best essays of the year. The Foreword states that these essays "show an awareness of craft and forcefulness of thought" (xiv). The Foreword also clarifies that the chosen essays have to show quality as a piece of literature and must be able to stand on their own, rather than being an excerpt from a longer piece or book. They were originally published in English (or translated by the author) and must be on a subject of general interest, not a specialized subject.
In the Introduction, Jamison writes about the election of 2016 and how it made her feel "sick to [her] stomach" (xvii). She also writes that "the essay is political" (xx) even when the author is not addressing political subjects directly, as the essay questions received wisdom. The book contains 20 essays arranged alphabetically by the authors' last names, including "Sparrow Needy" by Kenneth A. McClane about his brother's death from drinking and about being black in America, and "White Horse" by Eliese Goldbach about being raped and told that she had not been raped by a disciplinary committee.