I wrote a lot this past month — for BuzzFeed, in book edits, just not in this newsletter, which I hate, because this newsletter works as a sort of release valve for the stream of consciousness I’m forced to filter for my other writing. Like a lot of people, I feel unsettled during this so-called dead week, when it’s never clear how much you should be working, whether you should feel shame or glee about it. But it’s increasingly clear that my unsettledness has less to do with the actual structures of work and more to do with my increased antipathy towards ambient-always working. I want to work or not work, not have this melty liminal space that seeps into everything.
But I love new planners, and our New Year’s tradition of a massive Portuguese Fisherman’s Stew, and reflecting, generally, on the year — especially all of the truly excellent writing and thinking I read/consumed. You can see my favorite books below, but I’ve also collected a mishmash of favorites from the internet and quasi-categorized them below. As I wrote last year, with all the arbitrary energy around a new year, it feels important to spend time to allow the old, in all its sorrow and glory, to catch up with us.
The real experience of fixing cable in the homes of America
How a version of Universal Basic Income is working in Alaska
A Black Legacy, Wrapped in Fur
The Rio Grande Amputation Crisis
The best piece of climate change writing I read this year
A transformative reading: Is prison necessary?
A weeklong kayak trip you won’t be able to stop reading
We were poor, but the beach was ours
Feels like a parable, doesn’t it
When Mayor Pete Calls
Climate Disaster at Wounded Knee
Am I Writing About My Life, Or Just Selling Myself Out?
Media criticism, broadly defined:
The Problem of Queen Anne’s Body
Spotify as Emotional Surveillance
The True Greatness of Hootie
Susan Sontag’s Queer Life
How Did Lauren Duca’s Revolution Backfire?
One of the only times I’ve actually found an actor interviewing an actor compelling
The only thing to read on ‘Cancel Culture’
The Dark Secret Behind Where The Crawdads Sing
Little Women’s Marmee Problem
On Daily Life:
The Best Skin-Care Trick is Being Rich
How the Great Recession Influenced a Decade of Design
The Poor Can’t Afford to Not Wear Nice Clothes
The Why of Cooking
The Age of Bold and Blocky Book Covers
The Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles
The Case for Rooms
The Rise of ‘Mama’
A journey through internet garbage
Cheap, meaningful, Payless Shoes
How women suffer when everything is designed for men
Darkness of the Edge of Cougartown
Whatever you think this article on spin class is going to be from the headline, it’s not that
The Scourge of Worker Wellness Programs
Profiles That’ve Stayed With Me:
Harmony Korine, Glorious Weirdo
A good horse
Just Trust Me Again:
Try this one
And this one
And this one
Always just trust me on Patricia Lockwood
Oh but this one
And this one
And, for this week, this one
And some things I wrote this month:
The Sort-Of Socialist Church Focused on Debt Relief (one of the things I worked hardest on this year)
12 People Talk Honestly About How They Paid Off Their Debt (I found all of these so compelling)
On the appeal of Large Adult Man Adam Driver
A coda of sorts to my dissertation: How the 2010s Killed the Celebrity Gossip Machine
I read 49 books this year. I set out with a goal of reading, well, a lot more. The aim was somewhere around 52, but really what I wanted was a return to that feeling of near-constant grounding in some book, any fiction book, amidst everything else. I read dozens more for work, and for my own book, but I don’t think of them — or the reading process — in the same way. These 49 books were read on planes, on beaches, on long Sunday afternoons, in hotels after a long day reporting, at night to take my mind elsewhere. They were presents to myself, and what you see above are a few of my favorites.
I’d love to hear what you also loved — and, as always, your suggestions for future reads and potential “Just Trust Mes.” Simply reply to this email — or find me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow me on Twitter here, and on Instagram here. And if you want to give someone a New Year’s present, or think they’d like this sort of thing in their inbox once a week-ish, just forward it their way. (You can subscribe here).