As usual, I read a lot this year – mostly nonfiction, and more articles than books. Here are a few of the ones that really stuck with me.
All the way back in January, WIRED published a heartbreaking story by Jason Tanz about a video game dedicated to a dying child.
Evan Ratliff reported and wrote (and continued to report new sections after the first ones appeared!) this crime serial about a remarkably successful criminal mastermind, and his downfall.
Shane Bauer had a wild year. He went undercover as a guard at a private prison, resulting in this long, powerful expose, and then infiltrated a private militia that has taken it upon itself to patrol the Mexican border – another powerful story.
Jon Mooallem might be my favorite writer working in magazines right now. I loved his story about an online cloud appreciation society. His look at Steven Spielberg, Roald Dahl, and childhood was lovely too.
This story from The Atlantic about an ancient papyrus and Jesus’ wife was bananas. Jen Percy’s piece on the families still searching for loved ones years after the Japanese tsunami was crushingly sad. This Harpers Letter From El Salvador, on what happens to women suspected of inducing a miscarriage there, was disturbing and incredibly important.
On the book-length side of things, I was moved by Blair Braverman’s debut memoir, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube – nominally about learning to dogsled but really about learning to navigate a male-dominated, potentially hostile world as a young woman drawn to the wilderness. I also enjoyed Lynsey Addario’s memoir about being a war photographer: It’s What I Do.
I’d been waiting for years to read my friend Luke Dittrich’s book, Patient H.M., the story of neuroscience’s most famous patient but also the story of Luke’s family. It’s really gripping. I was decades late to the party on Deborah, by David Roberts: a classic mountaineering memoir that’s like no other I’ve read, focused on the dynamics between two climbers rather than the mechanics of the climb.
After my mom’s death last year, I held off for several months before delving into the world of grief memoirs. When I did start reading them, the book I liked best was Meghan O’Rourke’s The Long Goodbye, which mixes personal narrative with some interesting research into the science, history, and literature of grief.
Happy Almost-New Year!