My reading life really took a hit this year. Between my full-time job, the release of The Primary Instinct, and the release of my cello EP, I didn’t have nearly as much time to dive into online essays and investigative journalism as I wanted to (and as I have in years past).
Nonetheless, I was still able to consume a few pieces that really spoke to me. In particular, many of these pieces focused on the challenges of choosing a life in the arts, something I’ve struggled with mightily this year.
Anyway, here are my favorite reads of 2015, in no particular order.
Ask Polly: Should I give up on my writing? – Heather Havrilesky remains one of my favorite writers on the internet (In fact, when I first started the /Filmcast, she was one of the two people I knew wanted to get on the show. The other one: Shawn Ryan. Still gotta figure out a way to make the Havrilesky guest spot happen…). Havrilesky really has been killing it with her Ask Polly column, and this entry is no different – a beautiful essay on the limits of chasing after fame.
Get rich or die vlogging: the sad economics of internet fame – It’s an act of boldness to show people your weaknesses and your balance sheet. Gaby Dunn does it here in order to reveal the trials and tribulations of being in the Internet’s “middle class.” Sometimes, hundreds of thousands of subscribers and followers don’t convert into income cleanly, and Dunn gives voice to this anxiety.
25 Years in LA (parts 1-5) – While I don’t always agree with Drew McWeeny’s opinions on films or the entertainment industry, I’ve always found his to be an essential voice in our world. Plus, I’m fascinated by the backstories of how my favorite writers came to be who they are. Drew’s “25 years in LA” series was moving and personal, and gave readers a glimpse into a time in his life (and perhaps in all our lives) when it felt like anything was possible.
Raiders of the Lost Web – The web we know is dying piece by piece. Linkrot affects all elements of our society, all the way up to the Supreme Court. Adrienne LaFrance’s piece for The Atlantic about how a Pulitzer-finalist investigative series almost vanished should give any online content producers pause: we are partially responsible for preserving the work that we produce. And we must do all we can to make that happen.
The Lonely Death of George Bell – This extraordinary investigative effort documented what happens to a person when they die in New York. Most people who have friends and family have people to take care of their affairs for them. But for those who live lives of solitude, the resolution of their affairs fall to civil servants, who are brought together across time to help put this person to rest.
How Snoopy Killed Peanuts – In advance of the new Peanuts film, Kevin Wong published this loving chronicle of how Peanuts became less biting (and less intelligent) over time. This piece will make you miss the Peanuts of yesteryear.
The art of sound in movies – A fascinating behind-the-scenes look into the sound design of films like No Country for Old Men and Miles Ahead. These people are some of the many unsung heroes in the film industry.
The Last Day of Her Life – Sandy Bem knew her mind was deteriorating, and she wanted to die on her own terms. But how does one choose when it is time to die? A heartbreaking story of love, life, and loss that makes me consider how to approach the end of my own life.
The Myth of the Ethical Shopper – Buying clothing that isn’t made in terrible conditions is becoming more and more challenging these days. Shopping responsibly is an intractable issue, and Michael Hobbes’ piece for Huffington Post explores these problems in depth.
How to lose weight in 4 easy steps – Hilarious and touching, this piece by Aaron Bleyaert is (obviously) not just about weight-loss. It’s about how to deal when your life blows up and how to reconstitute it afterwards.