Packer’s recent cover story for The Atlantic — “Elegy for the American Century” — is an exceptional piece of longform reporting and vivid narration. Excerpted from his new book, Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century.
Nathanial Rich’s whole-issue article in the NYT Magazine. I read it in one punch-in-the-gut gulp on a car trip unusually free of kids and other responsibilities. Can’t recommend it more highly.
I don't think I've ever been more moved by an audio story than I was listening to this two-part podcast episode called "The Choice":
In April of 1992, Nada Rothbart was living happily in Sarajevo, Bosnia, with her husband and two young sons–till the night the Bosnian Civil War broke out on the street in front of her home. By the time they recognized what was happening–it was too late; Nada was trapped with her children, surrounded by tanks and snipers. After 60 days with almost no food, no water, and no power, a surprise ceasefire was announced. Nada put on her shoes, grabbed her children, and walked out the door.
That's just the beginning of this remarkable, harrowing story that contains both the worst and best of what's possible in life. Part 1: online or iTunes. Part 2: online or iTunes. (H/T to Snap Judgement, where I first heard episode 1.)
A wonderful conversation with an enduringly impressive thinker and writer.
A does-the-heart-and-mind-good interview with Georgina Godwin.
The novel feels immediately canonical, so firm and unerring is Hamid’s understanding of our time and its most pressing questions. Whom are we prepared to leave behind in our own pursuit of happiness? Whom are we able to care for, whom are we willing to care for, and why are our answers to those questions so rarely the same? At one point, Saeed points out to Nadia that millions of refugees previously came to their own native country, “when there were wars nearby.” Nadia replies, “That was different. Our country was poor. We didn’t feel we had as much to lose.” Comfort, she knows, can anesthetize one against concern for others.
An extraordinary, deeply affecting single-article issue of The New York Times Magazine. Unforgettable.
Two of my favorites.
Veneta Rizvic, writing in the St. Louis Business Journal.
Not content with being The New Yorker’s EIC, David Remnick remains — even in “a few thoughts” blog post sent from a returning train — one of its sharpest writers.
The Frank Lloyd Wright house in Ebsworth Park, which we visited in February
This post is part of my “Annual Favorites” list I’ve been keeping for the past decade-plus.
Favorite Books (Goodreads profile)
Life Sentences, by William H. Gass
Nox, by Anne Carson
A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers
The Long Goodbye, by Megan O'Rourke
Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson
The Lifespan of a Fact, by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal
The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, by Jeffrey Toobin
The Obamas, Jodi Kantor
Some of My Lives, by Rosamond Bernier
The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach
Berlin Stories, by Robert Walser
The Address Book, by Sophie Calle
The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects, by John Tingey
The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes
The Bridge on the Drina, by Ivo Andrić
Shards, by Ismet Prcić
The Promise: President Obama, Year One, by Jonathan Alter
Elizabeth Costello, by J. M. Coetzee
How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne, by Sarah Bakewell
Death in Spring, by Mercè Rodoreda
The Art of Intelligence, by Henry A. Crumpton
Mortality, by Christopher Hitchens
Karaoke Culture, by Dubravka Ugrešić
The Fate of Greenland, by Philip W. Conkling
Redheaded Peckerwood, by Christian Patterson
Happy to have read Karen McGrane's Content Strategy for Mobile, Frank Chimero's The Shape of Design, and Mike Monteiro’s Design Is a Job, but would keep them off the ranked list. Same with “Mark Owen”‘s No Easy Day.
Favorite Movies: 2012 (Letterboxd profile)
Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present
Gerhard Richter Painting
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
The Queen of Versailles
Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap
The Dark Knight Rises
Didn’t connect with: Headhunters, We Have a Pope, The Bourne Legacy.
Favorite Movies: Pre-2012
Bill Cunningham New York
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
A Dangerous Method
Conan O'Brien Can’t Stop
Too Big to Fail
I continue to be a huge fan of Rdio, which I pay $10 a month to be able to stream music on a desktop, iPad, or iPhone. (This includes, say, streaming the new Nas via my home’s wi-fi as I mow my suburban lawn.) There will always be rituals and a closeness to the music I miss from my CD days, but the advantages of Rdio — especially the ability to discover and immediately listen to new music, particularly hip-hop and classical — are significant. I don’t have a ranked list here, but my listening history is an open book.
Favorite Articles, Essays & Blog Posts (categorized, not ranked)
“Newtown and the Madness of Guns,” by Adam Gopnik
“The Voter-Fraud Myth,” by Jane Mayer
“I Didn’t Come Back to Jerusalem To Be in a War,” by Dahlia Lithwick
“The Implosion,” by Jon Lee Anderson
“Of Babies and Beans: Paul Ryan on Abortion,” by Adam Gopnik
“It Matters,” by Josh Marshall
“A Victory for Obama and for Obama’s America,” by John Cassidy
“The Choice,” by The New Yorker Editors
“2,700 Hundred Pages for Anton Scalia,” by Amy Davidson
“Money Unlimited,” by Jeffrey Toobin
“Obama, Explained,” by James Fallows
“One More Massacre,” by Adam Gopnik
“Colbert v. the Court,” by Dahlia Lithwick
“Pussy Riot Closing Statements,” by Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich
“Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Atul Gawande
“How Obama’s Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics,” by Andrew Sullivan
“The Obama Memos,” by Ryan Lizza
“Too Big To Succeed,” by Lee Kponstantinou
“Spotify and Its Discontents,” by Mike Spies
“When Art Makes Us Cry,” by Francine Prose
“Much God Damned Entropy,” by Gabriel Blackwell and Greg Gerke
“The First Church of Marilynne Robinson,” by Mark O'Connell
“We Are Alive,”by David Remnick
“Viewer Discretion,” by Gideon Lewis-Kraus
“The House That Hova Built,” by Zadie Smith
“Peace, Adam,” by Sasha Frere-Jones
“American Mozart,” by David Samuels
“Diary of an Aesthete,” by Alex Ross
“Till the Knowing Ends,” by Joanna Scott
“Radiohead’s Runaway Guitarist,” by Alex Pappademas
“The Meet and Greet Museum,” by Steven C. Dubin
Tech & Media
“Your Anti-Social Media Rant Reveals Too Much About Your Friends,” by Alexis C. Madrigal
“The Way We Read Now,” by Dwight Garner
“BuzzFeed’s Strategy,” by Jonah Peretti
“Deploy,” by Mandy Brown
“E-books Can’t Burn,” by Tim Parks
“Out of Touch,” by Andrew Piper
“I'ma Set It Straight, This Watergate,” by John Gruber
“The Death of the Cyberflâneur,” by Evgeny Morozov
“Good Things About Twitter,” by Sasha Frere-Jones
“Does Time Magazine Think Americans Are Stupid?” by L. V. Anderson
“National Subjects,” by Aleksandar Hemon
“War Dogs,” by Aleksandar Hemon
“The Self-Destruction of the 1 Percent,” by Chrystia Freehand
“A Boy to Be Sacrificed,” by Abdellah Tao
“Tony Judt: A Final Victory,” by Jennifer Homans
Misc. Reporting, Articles & Posts
“The Yankee Comandante,” by David Grann
“Boss Rail,” by Evan Osnos
“All Due Respect,” by Peter Hessler
“Cocaine Incorporated,” by Patrick Radden Keefe
“The Story of a Suicide,” by Ian Parker
“Big Med,” by Atul Gawande
“What Brand Is Your Therapist?” by Lori Gottlie
“Artisanal Baby Naming,” by Bob Powers
“Resilient Redbirds Refuse to Lose,” by Bernie Miklasz
“Lionel Messi Never Dives,” by Jason Kottke
“Fals Nine vs. Real Nine,” by Dushko Petrovich
“The Caging of America,” by Adam Gopnik
“How Many Stephen Colberts Are There?” by Charles McGrath
Most-Used iPhone & iPad Apps
I start every morning with the NYTimes’ iPad app. I listen to podcasts, NPR, and music via Instacast, Public Radio Player, and Rdio. I journal using Day One, which is synched using Dropbox on all devices. The new 1Password 4 is a slick companion to the essential desktop app. I organize a lot of my work and personal life using Evernote, and keep up with tasks using Things. Other apps I use often: Reeder (every night, to catch up with the day’s articles), Goodreads, Fantastical, Tweetbot (iphone) and Twitter (iPad), Instagram, Facebook, Checkmark, Instapaper, Pinboard, Netflix, PBS for iPad, Simple, and iBooks (largely for work PDFs).
One unusual memory I have from 2012 is spending several weekday evenings in March walking through my neighborhood for an hour or so, listening to the day’s oral arguments for and against the healthcare act. (My greatest moment of exasperation was hearing Justice Scalia mock-ask whether he was seriously supposed to get through so many pages of material.) In April, I published Abstractions Arrive: Having Been There All the Time, an iPad-only e-book pairing an essay by William H. Gass with photographs by Michael Eastman; New York Times coverage was a cherry on top. May’s Confab conference was one of the best I’ve attended. In August, Tamara and I enjoyed a few highly cultural days in Miami. Surpassing all that, though — we’re expecting a baby in late May of 2013. I expect this should be my best year yet.
An exceptional piece of reporting in The New Yorker.
Interesting historical perspective from Chrystia Freeland, writing in the Times:
The story of Venice’s rise and fall is told by the scholars Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in their book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” as an illustration of their thesis that what separates successful states from failed ones is whether their governing institutions are inclusive or extractive. Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.
From the surgeon/writer’s impressive Daily Comment for The New Yorker:
The major social advances of the past three centuries have required widening our sphere of moral inclusion.
From “Protesters in Moscow Try New Tactics to Avoid Arrests,” in the NYT:
The evolving tactics in Moscow are not novel. In a primer on nonviolent protest, “Sharp’s Dictionary of Power and Struggle,” Gene Sharp, an American intellectual, described a “dilemma protest” as a performance of an action so inchoate and unorthodox that police are trapped. If they let it happen, they are encouraging it, but if they arrest people they risk looking either silly or arbitrary and unjust, which is the point….
The tactic has found wide appeal in Belarus, where activists gather to clap, eat ice cream cones, set their cellphone alarms to ring in chorus or simply stand silently.
The Catholic writer, in a post at the New York Review of Books blog:
Those who do not want to let gay partners have the sacredness of sacramental marriage are relying on a Scholastic fiction of the thirteenth century to play with people’s lives, as the church has done ever since the time of Aquinas. The myth of the sacrament should not let people deprive gays of the right to natural marriage, whether blessed by Yahweh or not.