Outside Reading — Six from 2021

Every Saturday, this space is given over to extol the writing of others. Because this particular Saturday lands on the first day of the new year, it seems proper to call attention to some of the articles of 2021 that impressed me most. These are the essays and reporting that I simply couldn’t shake.



Writing for The Atlantic, Wright Thompson considered the torture and murder of Emmett Till, a crime that notoriously went unpunished, using the framing of the rural structure where it took place. Appropriately, there is fury threaded through the piece, largely unstated but wholly present. This article is staggering, likely the best I read all year.

The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever by Michael J. Mooney

The story about bowler Bill Fong having a night for the ages is so skillfully written. Michael J. Mooney zeroes in on all the right particulars and crafts an article that is downright suspenseful and marked by unexpected emotion. This is published by D Magazine.

Sinead O’Connor Remembers Things Differently by Amanda Hess

The incredible profile, published by The New York Times, makes the not-altogether-novel argument that Sinéad O’Connor got a raw deal. The candor of O’Connor and the intimacy of Amanda Hess’s storytelling, including the genuine complication of the artist’s life, elevate this article to a whole other level than most reappraisals.

I Was Raped by My Father. An Abortion Saved My Life. by Michele Goodwin

Michele Goodwin personalizes the political debate around abortion by sharing her own harrowing history. I can’t imagine the fortitude it takes to put this story out into a public sphere primed for attack. Goodwin is heroic. This article is published by The New York Times.

The Girl in the Kent State Photo by Patricia McCormick

A formidable piece of journalism published by The Washington Post, this article by Patricia McCormick offers a useful reminder that the people who are at the center of history often still have to try to live their lives. No matter how familiar the image, the people in it are more than symbols.

If Y2K-Era Movie Theater Carpets Could Talk by Foster Kamer

The only way this article could have been more targeted directly at me and my interests is if it included my name in the headline. This was published the blog run by A24.

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