Like any avid reader I am the first to admit that I don’t have time to read as many articles as I would like, which means that many of the best slip completely past. Lucky for us the “Best American Magazine Writing” series continues to gather the best of the best so that we can all take a moment at the end of the year to catch up on the mesmerizing stories we somehow missed.
The beauty of magazine writing is that it has so much more space for creativity than straight news. The editors of this edition have curated a fantastic variety of stories, from hard-hitting investigations to first-person trials, the book contains shining examples of “writing well” (as William Zinsser would put it).
This year’s anthology contains not only great works, but within those works so spectacular perspective on the news that was. It starts out with a powerful analysis, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, of Obama’s politics, race in America and how very far we have yet to go.
There were two pieces about the decline of old age that were approached in very different ways, yet left me meditative and touched. As someone who was raised by a grandmother and great-grandmother I was confronted with situations that I’ve already faced, and some that I hope never to encounter. Michael Wolff’s personal account of a declining mother touches on bigger issues within our own medical system while Stephen King entertains with a fictive, yet realistic, account of one afternoon that encapsulates a lifetime.
Stories bounce around American politics, troubling accounts of war, strange news stories and interesting figureheads. After reading the diverse stories I was glad the collection ended with Charles C Mann’s State of the Species. Somehow he flits around the history of homo sapiens, bacteria behavior and agriculture to highlight how humans being responsible for their own demise is actually, in the grand scheme of things, the natural progression of a successful species.
I recommend this for anyone who feels they don’t have nearly enough time to skim every publication they would like, teachers looking for examples of great writing and writers who need inspiration occasionally.