Favorite Essays of 2019
Every year, I keep a running archive of my favorite essays from the year on Are.na — pieces that grab me, essays that move me, opinions that challenge me, or profiles that inspire me. Over the years, I’ve assembled best of lists to highlight the writing — mostly online — that have stuck with me throughout the year to bring them some attention once again.
Below are a few favorites from 2019, but the entire list can be found on this Are.na channel.
The New Yorker published some wonderful artist profiles this year and I devoured almost all of them. I read Dana Goodyear’s profile of filmmaker Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and his new film loosly based on Gerhard Richter on a train all the way back in January and I still find myself thinking about it. Goodyear also had a great profile on photographer Thomas Joshua Cooper, who I admittedly was unfamiliar with before her piece but completely fell in love with his work.
Speaking of profiles, Taffy Brodesser-Akner is one of my favorite profile writers and her profiles on Tom Hanks and Marianne Williamson were favorites. (Taffy, by the way, also happened to write one of my favorite novels of the year, Fleishman is in Trouble!)
Much like Uber and Theranos few years ago, I loved reading about the swift rise and fall of WeWork and Adam Neumann. New York’s Reeves Wiedeman had a great piece on Adam’s background and desires for WeWork and Gabriel Sherman wrote about how it all collapsed for Vanity Fair.
For more on tech, I appreciated Paul Ford’s essay for Wired on why he still loves tech and found Tavi Gevinson’s New York cover story on how Instagram influenced her life surprisingly relatable.
More like these: The personal essay genre is stronger than ever. I love Jia Tolentino’s Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy, Wil S. Hylton’s stunning and terrifying story about how his cousin tried to kill him, and Leslie Jamison’s account of experiencing a Garry Winogrand exhibition while going through a divorce.
Like most people I know, I read a lot about politics, identity, and government this year. Claudia Rankine’s piece on whiteness for the New York Times was fascinating and should be required reading for everyone, most of all white men.
Rebecca Traister is always good. Rebecca Traister on Elizabeth Warren is really good. As I wrote earlier in the year, there are many reasons why I want Warren to be our next president but one small reason is her background as a teacher. In her essay for the Cut, Traister looks at how Warren’s time in the classroom influences her approach to governing, campaigning, and communicating. Finally, I found John Hendrickson’s essay for The Atlantic on Joe Biden’s stutter moving and fascinating. I’m not a Biden fan but I came away from the piece with much more sympathy for him.
One of my favorite — and most unexpected — essays of the year was Errol Morris’s discursive, wandering, and fascinating essay for The New York Times on pianist Sviatoslav Richter. It includes plastic lobsters, musings on creativity and practice, and a stunning design by the NYT design team. This one is a must read.
These aren’t essays, and I don’t listen to nearly as many podcasts as I used to, but here are a few of my favorite podcast episodes from the year: