THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO ARE BETTER AT WRITING THAN I AM. In an effort to suss out what, in particular, makes them superior, I try to read as much of others’ writing as I can. And so, here’s the best stuff that I came across this year.
By the way, I read using the Pocket app for iPhone, which allows you to instantly save stuff from a browser, then pull it up later on your phone — even if you’re offline, like on a subway or plane. It also has an archive feature, so I was able to easily go back and find all the stuff I read this year. Pocket is excellent, and I highly recommend it.
(Note: some of these pieces weren’t published in 2015; 2015 just happened to be the year that I read them.) (Also note: (Guy Fieri’s cookbook didn’t make this list, solely because I read that in 2014. It’s an old photo.)
‘Yankees Suck! Yankees Suck!’ (Amos Barshad, Grantland): The bizarrely complex, straight-edge-punk, then-drug-fueled saga of an unofficial Boston Red Sox t-shirt empire that is no more.
The Itch (Atul Gawande, New Yorker): A fascinating layman’s analysis of what “itches” really are, and a discussion of the incredibly low-tech medical solutions that seem to have the best effect on them.
Why New York Subway Lines Are Missing Subway Clocks (James Somers, The Atlantic): Dive deep into the slow-moving bureaucracy of the MTA, New York City’s oft-maligned transit corps.
Mark Davis Travels 500 Fucking Miles To Look Like That! (Albert Burneko, Deadspin): This is hands-down one of the funniest pieces of media analysis/criticism/aggregation I’ve ever read. The line about the whale noise makes me laugh every fucking time.
How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars and Built Six Homes (Justin Elliott & Laura Sullivan, Pro Publica & NPR): Holy shit, the Red Cross is bad at managing itself. A poignant reminder that you should always read up on any charity before giving it your money.
Queens of the West (Kelly Williams Brown, Matter): Did you guys know there’s an official rodeo queen crowned every year? Like, of all rodeo, in general? I did not know this, until I read this article.
Ben Smith and Jonah Peretti: The Gawker Interview (J.K. Trotter, Gawker): Go inside baseball with one of the best media critics in the game right now in his gratuitously long interview with BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief and CEO about their advertising practices.
Tricked and Indebted on Land, Abused or Abandoned at Sea (Ian Urbina, New York Times): A rigorously reported investigation into the fucked-up labor practices of major fishing companies in the South Pacific.
A Renegade Trawler, Hunted for 10,000 Miles by Vigilantes (Ian Urbina, New York Times): Apparently this Urbina guy is the NYT’s go-to reporter for intriguing seaborne longform, because this story — about an illegal fishing vessel flying under no nation’s flag, and the NGO-backed trackers that hunted it down — is another watery banger set south of the equator.
The First-Person Industrial Complex (Laura Bennett, Slate): This is a really smart take about Writing On The Internet. I wish I had thought to write this story.
This Is Why NFL Star Greg Hardy Was Arrested for Assaulting His Ex-Girlfriend (Diana Moskovitz, Deadspin): I have a ton of admiration for reporters who cover difficult topics with subjects who do not want to talk. This story was incredible, mostly because of how damn credibly Moskovitz backed up every ugly fact about this sordid NFL shitshow.
My Life in the Locker Room: A Female Sportswriter Remembers the Dicks (Jennifer Briggs, Dallas Observer via Deadspin): Tremendously funny headline that cuts two ways — yes, it’s talking about dongs, but also the jerks they’re attached to!
The Oath-Keepers Are Ready for War with the Federal Government (James Pogue, Vice): Have you ever wondered who the hell thinks it’s a good idea to arm the American people with assault rifles? Here’s a story about those people.
The Death and Life of Atlantic City (Nick Paumgarten, New Yorker): This has very little to do with Trump, but that’s not what makes it good.
Can Jason Whitlock Save ESPN’s ‘Black Grantland’ from Himself? (Greg Howard, Deadspin): If you paid attention to media Twitter at all this year, you may have caught wind of a feud between Greg Howard and Jason Whitlock. “Feud” was misleading, though. Howard thoroughly and honestly reported on the spectacular catastrophe of Whitlock’s pet project at ESPN (meant to be a “black Grantland,” though since Grantland has since been shut down, that’s sort of a dated reference), and Whitlock threw temper tantrums about being called out to anyone who would listen. It was a treat.
A Choice for Recovering Addicts: Relapse or Homelessness (Kim Barker, New York Times): An ugly story about a legal gray area in which NYC landlords — already a cohort of dubious scruples — are able to simultaneously rake in stipends from the government and welfare money from recovering dope addicts. The scheme is dependent on the addicts being… well, addicted, so the landlords often get them hooked multiple times to keep the checks coming.
On the Road with the Unluckiest, Most Unloved Team in Professional Baseball (Jason Feifer, Maxim): Just the epitome of a great, weird sports story. I loved this piece.
This Is A Shady Business We in, Fam”: The Rise and Fall and Likely Rise Again of Parody Twitter (Amanda Hess, Slate): You know those Twitter accounts like “Shit Girls Say” and “Medieval Reactions”? No? Well, they got purged a while back, and this story explains why.
The Hateful Life and Spiteful Death of the Man Who Was Vigo the Carpathian (Shaun Raviv, Deadspin): The actor who played the villian from Ghostbusters was a real “most interesting man” in real life. And a body-builder. And an asshole, apparently.
Other DINFONTAY 2015 action: