I feel the same way about 2016, swapping out Bobby Brown’s zest with utter despair.

Kelly Stout

Uncanny Valley,” Anna Weiner: Silicon Valley and its architects are bad at talking about what their efforts have wrought, except in the most glowing terms. This personal essay written from inside the asylum is a good antidote to that relentless cheeriness that outsiders are used to hearing about tech’s ability to “change the world,” and is funny in places, to boot. The reading experience is both a relief and a warning.


Outline, Rachel Cusk: This novel, set in Athens and on the journey there, follows a woman in town for a few days to teach a writing seminar. The entire story is told through a series of contained conversations—primarily between the main character and various men. Readers don’t actually glimpse the conversations themselves, though. The whole novel is the narrator recounting the conversations, in which she often says little. It’s a reminder of how much people reveal themselves with almost no invitation to. I think of it often.

The Selfishness of Others, Kristen Dombek: This short book, subtitled “An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism” was nothing like what I thought it would be. I anticipated an exploration of the theoretical underpinnings of our proclivity to label Donald Trump, our bad boyfriends, the writers we hated the most narcissists. I looked forward to leaning forward and moving my glass of wine to the side at a dinner party and trotting out what I learned to casual applause. In fact, “fear” is the operative word in this essay’s title, and its wise trick was to stoke my anxiety that I am the most narcissistic of all. In reading it, I thought of no one other than myself, and I suspect that is by design.


To The Class of 2050,” Jen Spyra: Some incredibly inspiring stuff in here—not only relevant to graduates!

Anna Merlan

There was a lot of great and powerful politics reporting this year that didn’t make a goddamn bit of difference in the ultimate result of this year’s election, like everything David Fahrenthold wrote at the Washington Post. But let’s pretend for a moment like politics doesn’t exist and we’re not screaming towards the underworld in some kind of express elevator and contemplate “The Architect Who Became a Diamond,” Alice Gregory’s totally captivating story about a really weird art stunt by a woman named Jill Magid. Magid conceived of a weird plan—which I will not ruin for you— in order to gain access to an archive of Luis Barragán’s work, a famed Mexican architect. I don’t have any particular feelings about architecture and I’m not smart enough to understand art, and yet it was a captivating, lovely, almost hypnotically-written piece.


Bobby Finger

Some great novels I read this year were Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night (which would make a gorgeous Amazon series), Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall (which would make a great big-budget thriller with a November release date), Lisa Lutz’s The Passenger (which I assume Reese Witherspoon’s production company will option any second now), Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest (which I sort of hated but which made me cry anyway), and (as stated above) Samantha Hunt’s Mr. Splitfoot (which I just want to live inside).


“Justin Bieber Would Like to Reintroduce Himself,” Caity Weaver: To echo Madeleine, in the months since reading this profile, I’ll occasionally find myself having a vision of Hailey Baldwin sitting on Justin Bieber’s hotel bed and asking Caity, “What’s up?”

Emma Carmichael