Every December, I make a list of the best things I read that year. Like in 2019, I’m sharing 10 general interest stories, ten that are about tech (what I write about mostly) and ten that are about China (A new beat for me this year as well as a place I read about constantly.)
These stories made me cry, feel intense jealously, and generally say “Wow!!!” They are listed in no particular order. Here they are:
- The Skeletons at the Lake By Douglas Preston in The New Yorker (December) How did ancient remains belonging to people of European ancestry end up in a remote lake in India? More generally, how is DNA analysis changing our understanding of history?
- The Accusations Were Lies. But Could We Prove It? By Sarah Viren in New York Times Magazine (March) This story is terrifying and so well-written.
- U.S. Chemical Companies Face Few Legal Risks, and the Cartels Bank On It By Cam Simpson in Bloomberg Businessweek (December) I never thought about how organized crime groups obtain the ingredients for making drugs. This story is deeply reported, and Bloomberg got incredible interviews and sources. It’s part of a series, you can read some of Bloomberg’s other (equally good) coverage here.
- Un-Adopted By Caitlin Moscatello in The Cut (August) A nuanced, deeply reported story about what happened after a family of famous YouTubers gave up their adopted child.
- Meet the Customer Service Reps for Disney and Airbnb Who Have to Pay to Talk to You By Ken Armstrong, Justin Elliott and Ariana Tobin in ProPublica (October) I don’t think I’ve ever felt more angry after reading something. This is accountability journalism at its finest, and exposed a deeply hideous side of the gig economy that was hidden in plain sight. This was a collab with Planet Money, and their audio version is just as excellent.
- The Rise and Fall of Getting Things Done By Cal Newport in The New Yorker (November) The most interesting thing I’ve read about “productivity” as a concept.
- Sin City By Brock Colyar in The Cut (November) People kept partying during the pandemic, and The Cut went to find out what those fuckers were doing and thinking.
- The Last Children of Down Syndrome By Sarah Zhang in The Atlantic (December) This complicated story was told with such compassion and grace.
- The Schoolteacher and the Genocide By Sarah A. Topol in New York Times Magazine (August 2019, but I read it this year) Topol gave Futhu’s incredible story the attention, depth, and care that it deserved. This story is a model for what international reporting can and should be.
- How Far Can Abused Women Go to Protect Themselves? By Elizabeth Flock in The New Yorker (January) Why are women with convincing self-defense claims being charged with murder?
- The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It By Kashmir Hill in The New York Times (January)
- Cute videos, but little evidence: Amazon Ring isn’t much of a crime fighter By Cyrus Farivar in NBC News (February)
- Inside the Strip Clubs of Instagram By Taylor Lorenz in The New York Times (April)
- When Your Freedom Depends on an App By Molly Osberg and Dhruv Mehrotra in Gizmodo (April)
- Why Do Food Delivery Companies Lose Money? By Josh Barro in New York Magazine (May)
- At Talkspace, Start-Up Culture Collides With Mental Health Concerns By Kashmir Hill in The New York Times (August)
- Techie Software Soldier Spy By Sharon Weinberger in New York Magazine (September)
- She was Instacart’s biggest cheerleader. Now she’s leading a worker revolt. By Nitasha Tiku in The Washington Post (December 2019, but I read it in January)
- The hills are alive By Alizeh Kohari in Rest of World (November) (Yes, I work here! But this story is so good!)
- Why Is An Obscure B-Side Pavement’s Top Song on Spotify? It’s Complicated By Nate Rogers in Sterogum (November)
- How Steve Bannon and a Chinese Billionaire Created a Right-Wing Coronavirus Media Sensation By Amy Qin, Vivian Wang and Danny Hakim in The New York Times (November)
- How My Mother and I Became Chinese Propaganda By Jiayang Fan in The New Yorker (September)
- China Secretly Built A Vast New Infrastructure To Imprison Muslims By Megha Rajagopalan, Alison Killing, and Christo Buschek in Buzzfeed News (August)
- How China Controlled the Coronavirus By Peter Hessler in The New Yorker (August)
- Chinese Rappers Are Chasing Clout Through Hip Hop Culture, So Why Won’t They Do More for Black Lives Matter? By Josh Feola in Variety (June)
- China Is Collecting DNA From Millions of Men and Boys, Using U.S. Equipment By Sui-Lee Wee in The New York Times (June)
- A Fearful Asymmetry: Covid-19 and America’s Information Deficit with China By David Moser in The Asia-Pacific Journal (July)
- The Infinite Heartbreak of Loving Hong Kong By Wilfred Chan in The Nation (May)
- Two Women Fell Sick From the Coronavirus. One Survived. By Sui-Lee Wee and Vivian Wang in The New York Times (March)
- Life on the Slow Train: Views of a Vanishing China By Wu Peiyue in Sixth Tone (August)