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  • Writer's picturehenryfarleyjohnson

The Five Best Things I Read This Year

Alternative title: The Five Things I Read This Year.

5. "The Anxiety of Influencers" by Barrett Swanson, Harper's - One of the funniest and bleakest articles I've ever read. It's an inside look at a hype house, where TikTok stars cohabitate and collaborate. This is a breezy read that covers a lot of ground: social media, job insecurity, self-consciousness, academia, and fleeting fame. There's a moment in this article where it's revealed that the influencers, their attention spans wrecked by 10-second video clips, will often pick teams for pickup basketball, then suddenly forget what they were doing and leave the court. Truly bizarre, depressing, and hilarious.

4. "The Two-Headed Calf" by Laura Gilpin - Is it embarrassing to pick a Tumblr-y poem that came up on my girlfriend's social media feed? Who cares! It's so sweet and heartbreaking that I would be lying if I didn't include it. Check out this illustrated version if you really want to melt!

3. Patience by Daniel Clowes - If you, like me, have trouble sitting still while reading novels, I would highly recommend graphic novels. And of my limited catalog of graphic novels, I would highly recommend Patience. At first glance, the story sounds grim: when a man's pregnant wife is murdered, he goes back in time to save her. And this book is dark, but it has unexpected moments of tenderness, and it's illustrated beautifully. It's sci-fi and psychedelic, but at its core is a gorgeous love story.

2. "The Abortion I Didn't Have" by Merritt Tierce, The New York Times Magazine - The discussion around abortion tends to center on a) people who are grateful that they did not have an abortion because they now see what joy their child has brought them or b) people who are grateful that they did have an abortion because it enabled them to live a life more in line with their abilities and desires. This writer tells a different story. She confesses that, as much as she adores her son, she can still honestly say that she was not ready for motherhood when he was born. The thesis sounds harsh, but this essay is written with nuance and love, and it provokes a ton of thoughts about circumstance, faith, regret, and alternate histories.

1. "The Silent Type" by Sam Sussman, Harper's - A first ballot hall-of-famer. This short personal essay has a grabby premise-- a young man has reason to believe his real father is Bob Dylan-- but it turns into a remarkably moving tribute to his mother. More broadly, it's about growing up and coming to realize how special your parents are. Give it a read.


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