My Favorite Podcasts Episodes of 2014

These are the podcasts I raved about with friends, the ones that made folding laundry palatable, and the ones that put a stupid smile on my face during long subway commutes.

 The Longform Podcast: Buzz Bissinger and Episode 100
Buzz Bissinger (Friday Night Lights, GQ‘s “My Gucci Addiction”) has lived more than most people, and he’s radically honest about it. Just a solid interview with a great subject.

If you haven’t listened to Longform before, their hundredth episode is a handy introduction. They transform a bunch of clips into an inspiring, fist-pumping guide to journalism.

The Flop House: God’s Not Dead and Grudge Match
Pretty much every episode of this one is a home run. The premise–three comedic writers watch a terrible movie and then talk about it–belies the trio’s alchemical ability to turn Nicolas Cage jokes into solid gold.

Planet Money: Jubliee! (?), The Buffalo Talk-Off, and The Fondue Conspiracy
Even the worst Planet Money episode is better than the best episodes of most other podcasts. The show can be a salve (tackling obscure quirks of the economy, like the secondhand sneaker market) and a salvo (looking at income inequality from new and compelling angles).

StartUp: How Listeners Become Owners
The genesis and rise of Alex Blumberg’s podcast network is being chronicled through its own first podcast, which is chock full of the missteps and mistakes that comes with hanging your own shingle. Episode 7 is particularly illuminating in its look at why the average American is prohibited in investing in startups she believes in.

State of the Arts: Thomas Kinkade’s Industry of Light
This one was a happy discovery. Two academics discuss contemporary art through an accessible lens encompassing criticism, journalism, and cultural studies. Their investigation into Thomas Kinkade looks at how he managed to install “galleries” in seemingly every suburban mall, the conservative agenda beneath his work, and his crazy personal life.

Monocle’s “The Stack”: Episode 105
Monocle’s weekly review of the print magazine industry can err on the twee side now and then, but for the most part it’s a fascinating rejoinder to the endless “print is dead” jeremiads. Episode 105 is particularly excellent, as frequent guest Ian Birch gives a holistic analysis on the trends and changes he sees coming for legacy and upstart publications.

Slate’s Audio Book Club: Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book One
This one makes the list purely on the strength of listening to Parul Sehgal on Knausgaard. Can she host her own “What I Read” podcast? That would start the year right.

Slate’s Culture Gabfest: “Gild This” Edition
I still enjoy my weekly check-in with Dana Stevens, Julia Turner, and Stephen Metcalf. This episode stands out for their helpful introduction to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and their larger discussion of the book’s impact.

The Catapult: Episode 04
Rosie Schaap is great as always, but I loved Isaac Oliver’s “How to Start a Gay Fire in 30 Simple Steps.”


Oh, and I visited the Dear Book Nerd podcast in March, though I can’t bring myself to listen to it.

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My Favorite Longform Stories of 2014

best longform of 2014

Herewith a few of the best longform stories and journalism I read in 2014.

The Scourge of the Peloton: On Tim Krabbé’s The Rider” by Matt Seidel, The Millions
Krabbé’s slim novel of a French bicycle race is one of my favorite books, and Seidel’s exegesis makes for a handy companion.

Henry James and the Great Y.A. Debate” by Christopher Beha, The New Yorker’s Page-Turner
Beha expertly dissects the hectoring around the (incredibly stupid) debate about whether adults should read young adult books. He also articulates why I won’t be reading The Goldfinch anytime soon.

No Time to Think” by Kate Murphy, The New York Times
Most Times culture pieces are pretty terrible (with the exception of those by Teddy Wayne). Murphy’s essay stands out for hitting a nerve familiar to most New Yorkers and Type-A personalities: our tendency to make ourselves busy–as opposed to productive–distracts us from complex thought, self-examination, and establishing empathy with others.

The Prince Who Blew Through Billions” by Mark Seal, Vanity Fair
Every now and then VF acknowledges the insanity of life at the very top. This profile of the Prince of Brunei’s steroidal profligacy reads like two Goldman Sachs execs trading exaggerated fish stories. For example: the Prince paid Michael Jackson $17 million dollars to play his birthday party in a stadium custom-built for the concert. Continue reading

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A Few Favorites from 2014

karl_ove_knausgaardI’m a sucker for “Best of” lists, and count The Millions‘ Year in Reading among my favorite annual features. (I wish I could say the same for Pitchfork, whose writing has fallen off a cliff this year.)

I shared some of my favorite books and records with BOMB and B&N Review. Here’s what I wrote.

My favorite reading experience in 2014 was Roth Unbound by Claudia Roth Pierpont. This survey of Philip Roth was my sole companion during a week in upstate New York, and the physical idyll was quickly superseded by Pierpont’s literary one. Ever finish a book and wish it were an entire series?


The books and albums I enjoyed most in 2014 reflect my growing interest in the impostor syndrome of adulthood. You know the feeling: The wind of youth at your back has softened to an anxious nip. But not to worry! You’ve somehow amassed an impressive collection of cardigans to warm up with.

Speaking of the cold (and awkwardly extended metaphors), Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle Vol. 1 upheld the communion between writer and reader like few novels can, which I suppose makes it grade-A literature.

Cyrille Martinez’s The Sleepworker and Robert A. Caro’s The Power Broker are both great New York books, but different in every way. Sleepworker is a satirical novella-in-translation about the art world, and a left-field love letter to Andy Warhol and John Giorno. Its first page is also flat-out brilliant. The Power Broker, currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, doesn’t need much introduction. I’ll add that after reading it in March I now see Robert Moses everywhere like some jowly bureaucratic ghost.

As for music, four albums stand out. Joyce Manor’s Never Hungover Again, a paean to late adolescence, doubles down on nostalgia for friendships that are barely over. On the other side of the coin, Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes to Love investigates whether nostalgia is even possible. (Welcome to your twenties.) Alvvays’ debut record is pure sunny shoegaze about marriage and drinking too much. And finally Spoon, the cool older brothers of indie rock, released They Want My Soul, embracing weirdness over dolefulness and romance over despair. Not a bad way to go.


And why not, here’s a Spotify playlist of those records and a few other favorites:

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Mark Your Calendars

I met my fiancée at a BOMB magazine after-party. (Thanks Paul!) So naturally my expectations are high for my own first fête at BOMB. I want this one to be a memorable blowout with equal parts high culture, loosened tongues, and low wit. Fortunately it’s a killer lineup:

BOMB 129 Issue Launch

Claudia Rankine, whose book Citizen is so mind-blowing it’s been longlisted for a National Book Award in Poetry, even though it could have just as easily been classified as Nonfiction. Her interview with Lauren Berlant‘s been among the most popular from BOMB’s Fall issue.

Frederic Tuten, whose story “Winter, 1965″ hits incredibly close to home for every young writer in New York.

James Hoff & Eli Keszler. They’re going to play music, and if their interview is any indication, it’s going to be epic. We’ll provide earplugs.

Plus free drinks courtesy of Sixpoint! It’s going to be a great night. Hope to see you there.

BOMB 129 Issue Launch
Wednesday Oct. 15th 7pm
Powerhouse Arena, Dumbo 

(Facebook details)

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Things to Do in September

September is rife with great arts programming. A few highlights:

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My New Job with BOMB Magazine

bomb magazine coversAfter a summer freelancing with W. W. Norton and finishing up my book with Chronicle (Spring 2015!), I’m thrilled to announce I’ve joined the excellent team at BOMB Magazine. 

I’ll be building on the excellent work by my predecessor Charles Day to expand BOMB‘s digital and physical presence. This means: more events! more experimentation! more everything

While I’m on the subject, here are a few of my favorite BOMB pieces from the last few years:

(You should sign up for their excellent Weekend Reads newsletter as well.)

And if you’d like to destroy my brief spell of inbox zero, my professional email is ryan {at}

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A Summer Playlist, Why Not

Is mid-July too late for a summer playlist? I hope not.


The sequence is meant for a picnic or dinner party, with the tracks gathering steam as the sangria takes hold. Some of the songs, like “Do You” and “Problem,” are included simply because they’re addictive as hell. After the boozy, hectic midpoint, around “22 Grand Job”–the all-time best pop song about low wages, even if it is in British pounds–things slow down to encourage a laid-back, flirtatious vibe.

Oh, and a hat tip to the bartender at Skylark for introducing me to “Pass the Hatchet.”

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