Thursday, February 18, 2010

I played it cool and hung out around the kitchen.

As you may or may not remember, I've decided not to embark on another Fifty-Two Books challenge this year - instead, I've spent most of my year thus far reading Tolstoy's War & Peace. It's quite long and a slow read, but I'm enjoying it! I think most of my book club is, too. We have our next meeting this weekend, which we complement with champagne cocktails, and I'm eager to discuss the first 500 pages or so of the novel!

Occasionally I need a little break, so I've been reading the annual anthology of Best American Magazine Writing. I read the collection every year, and every year I'm simply blown away by the excellent writing. This year was no different. I was actually inspired to write this post and share those articles I've enjoyed most so far, due to a profile recently published in Esquire magazine about Roger Ebert, a man I've long admired. The profile was wonderful and it was written by a certain Chris Jones - a man whose name I recognized from the BAMW; I've listed these articles here along with my other favourites I've read so far, which I found online --

01 Roger Ebert: The Essential Man by Chris Jones for Esquire (Not in the book, just published!)

02 The Things That Carried Him by Chris Jones for Esquire (Winner - Feature Writing)

This feature is based on a soldier from Iraq who is killed in action and follows his journey home from base to airport to his hometown - except Jones writes the story backwards. I won't lie: it's hard to read this if you have loved ones in the military, especially if they're overseas. I admit that I cried a few times while reading - it's heartbreaking, but beautifully written.

03 The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace by David Lipsky for Rolling Stone (Winner - Profile Writing)

I have never read anything by David Foster Wallace. However, after reading this profile of his youth and his struggles with depression, I have a strong curiosity to delve into his works. Lipsky displays a keen insight into a truly enigmatic writer.

04 Broken by David Darlington for Bicycling Magazine (Winner - Public Interest)

I believe I learned the most while reading this article. I knew very little about cycling culture, but enough to be aware of the "big issues." Darlington's article takes you straight to the human heart of those issues - and it will probably make you reel (as it did to me) when reading about certain injustices that occurred in California. Another serious read.

05 I Choose My Choice! by Sandra Tsing Loh for The Atlantic (Finalist - Reviews & Criticism)
And now on a bit of a lighter (and shorter) note - this quick-witted and biting essay made me laugh out loud when I read it one evening in bed. Her asides are hilarious and her opinions intelligent. I honestly wish I could write as brilliantly as Tsing Loh - or any of these authors listed here.

The entire anthology itself is reliably good every year - I've been reading it since 2003. Not only are the articles the literal best of an entire year of magazines, but the foreword by Chris Andersen makes the physical book version worthwhile. Hope you enjoy - let me know if you get to reading any of them, I love discussing these pieces! Some of them are long, as they are intensely researched and reported feature pieces, but I promise they are well worth the read!


  1. I have The Thing They Carried by Tim O' the article similar to the book? I was supposed to read it in college, but never did.

  2. wow, i just read "The Lost Years & Last Days of David Foster Wallace" and now I want to read something by him too! That was truly a great article.

    I always love when you post these! I want to go out and get the anthology but I usually forget until you write something about it again...ha. Maybe this year I'll remember.. .:)

  3. That Roger Ebert article haunted me after I read it--so inspirational, both writing-wise and the man he is.