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.
“The ‘Boys’ in the Bunkhouse” by Dan Barry, New York Times Magazine
An affecting story of abuse and neglect in rural Iowa.
“This Old Man” by Roger Angell, The New Yorker
What’s it like to be in your 90s? What are you grateful for, what do you regret? How do you respond to people who exclaim, “You’re still alive”?
“The Mission” by Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker
I could fill this entire page with New Yorker pieces, but I’ll add just one more from the magazine. Anderson’s been a dogged, sympathetic journalist for decades, hopping around the world’s trouble spots to provide much-needed history and context. His recent article on the Central African Republic is a must-read.
“A Conversation with David Rose, Little Magazine Veteran and Publisher of Lapham’s Quarterly” by Caroline O’Donovan, NiemanLab
One of the most honest and insightful interviews about publishing I’ve ever read. The industry needs more David Roses.
“Navigating Stuckness” by Jonathan Harris, Transom and “10 Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s” by Mark Manson, MarkManson.net
Okay, hear me out. Despite their life coach vibe these essays are chock-full of great advice for navigating the thickets of adulthood and avoiding complacency.
“down by the tracks, or, we all make a certain kind of sound in the dark” by Sasha Fletcher, Everyday Genius
The best book reading I attended this year was by the poet and novelist Sasha Fletcher. If you want to fully appreciate his work, I recommend hiring him to read this story aloud, to you, in a large room.
“James Hoff” by Eli Keszler, BOMB
One of the perks of working at BOMB is, well, reading BOMB all the time. Here’s just one of the many great mind-expanding interviews I came across this year. Can you make paintings with the STUXNET virus? Hoff can.
“The Gavel Drops at Sotheby’s” by Andrew Rice, New York
The art world is bonkers, Exhibit A. It seems the more famous the artist, the less her collectors know or care about her art.
“The War of the Words” by Keith Gessen, Vanity Fair
There have been several articles about this year’s protracted battle between Amazon and Hachette. Gessen’s was the most even-handed, calm, and insightful.