Woden’s 2016 Best-of Reading List
by the entire Woden team
Consuming great content is part of Woden’s DNA. In addition to make us better writers and storytellers, it also provides a peek into each Wodenworker’s unique personality. This year, Moriah coerced each team member into providing a list of the best things they read this year.
Here are some great picks to enjoy on this quiet week between holidays:
This has been my favorite piece of writing for the past two years. Cheryl Strayed is known for her book Wild but for me, The Love of My Life resonates more viscerally. Her strife is voiced with conviction and compassion, making me feel like I got hit by a train and also took a lavender infused bath.
I read the NYT Modern Love column every week because I like to know the drama in other peoples’ love life and no longer live in an apartment where I can eavesdrop on my neighbors. This piece is a women’s reflection on becoming fixated with a person on tinder disguised as a sandwich. Has a similar thing happened to me? Maybe.
Wells Tower, a writer for GQ, attends Burning Man with his dying dad. I often read this before writing a paper because every line serves a purpose. Prepare for sonorous descriptions of nudity and acid.
Don’t be shocked if the endearing scruffy guy at your local coffee shop appears to be Redditing nonchalantly but is actually controlling the Black Market. This piece makes me contemplate how radical a seemingly inconspicuous human can become when obtaining power.
A podcast with a sex offender I am still pondering. I was left with more questions than answers so if you listen to this, lets discuss.
A piece about Ed Houben who is the biological father to 106+ babies and a husband to none.
I’m part of a niche community of magicians and “cardists.” Seeing our community finally be recognized by mainstream media and culture was quite wondrous.
This is truly one of the greatest and most unforgettable stories told in a photograph. As an aspiring photographer, it inspires me to seek a great story in every photo I take.
As someone who’s introverted, I’m not the fondest of small talk. This article isn’t the most impressive I’ve read, but there was a line in here that changed my perspective on it and really got me thinking about how I should be communicating with people.
Cardistry has always been people hiding away in their rooms and shuffling cards. It’s amazing to see that it has become an art form over the years and this project with DTS is truly a landmark.
This article details the writing techniques of some of the best rappers of our time, and breaks down the poetry in iconic examples of flow. The accompanying Spotify playlist is amazing:
This article calls out a bad habit and urges more rigor and specificity in the words we use. Own what you’re saying and identify the distinction between fact and opinion. So important in 2016. Yes!
Nerdwriter1 on YouTube
This may not be an article, but each of the Nerdwriter’s brilliant video essays is packed with relevant observations and analysis of our culture. If you don’t follow the Nerdwriter, you probably should. Here are a couple favorites from this year, but they are pretty much all good:
From the important distinction in using the words “water protectors” vs. “protestors”, to what moved thousands of veterans to join Standing Rock, there are many lessons here. This article doesn’t focus on grammar or linguistic style, but on a more important issue: how to heed the call to action and effectively make your voice heard on the most vital issues we face as citizens —threats to our human and environmental rights, and unchecked police brutality.
Generally speaking, I read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times every day, and the New Yorker every week. I love all the journalism in all three, even if I don’t always love the viewpoints. I also collect RSS feeds from about 120 news sources that I scan the headlines of a few times a week seeking nuggets of interestingness. Here’s a representation of some stuff that I ended up making my way through:
John Legere is a pretty neat guy. This interview on Business Insider explained well how, in order to reinvent T-Mobile, he first had to reinvent himself.
Since I’m a news nerd who spent my early career hacking the media business model a bit, I appreciated this piece on Medium suggesting that paying for news is what allows us to earn our Democracy.
I appreciated this piece in the Federalist about how the 2016 turned Ilya Shapiro into a libertarian, since I identify with many of the positions of the libertarian movement.
Since I’m fascinated with poverty being such a huge global issue that hasn’t been successfully disrupted (yet), I appreciated these articles:
This opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal about how some elected officials thrive off of keeping people in poverty — Along with this WSJ piece about providing a guaranteed income for every American in lieu of the social welfare machinery — And this Washington Post piece about how those trying to help poor countries might actually be hurting them.
And my own piece about my efforts to seed the disruption of poverty in Haiti, since you should not criticize without making efforts of your own!
2016 was a wonderful, shit-show of year. I must admit I had high hopes! I had a blast, enjoyed the ride but in the end was blindsided by a Trump truck running a red light, T-boning me and crushing all my dreams for 2017. Politics consumed my attention, both by choice and by force, as it did for many Americans. But this year was different. Some stories struck a chord with me this year in an unpresidented way. Here are some of my favorite works of the year:
The most powerful thing I read in 2016 was the Stanford Rape Victim letter. If I have kids, boy or girls, this will be a required reading assignment when the time is right. Rape and sexual violence isn’t a topic anyone enjoys discussing at length. Emily Doe sat us all down at the table and, not just had us talk about it, but made us deeply understand the impact of sexual attacks on women. And when a judge said six months is punishment enough, she made sure the scars she has from that night will rightfully live long with Brock Turner as well. Almost as important as her own letter, the response from Joe Biden sent a message that women’s safety is an important and top priority of our highest office. Something I will surely miss come 2017.
My President was Black and I couldn’t be prouder. He is also a feminist. To all the haters (which aren’t many), thanks for your input. We will kindly use the salt from your wounds for the icy roads ahead.
The complexity of the war is something that’s not often grasped and repurposed through the media. I’ve had plenty of conversations about the war in Afghanistan and if it’s worth it, if we are helping or if it was even necessary to go. Kirk, my husband, has deployed to Afghanistan, so I always wanted a definite answer to justify the months away. This is how he put it: When you’re up close and involved, you see signs of change, the area is progressing but not fast. It can be hard to accept that the changes we are fighting for take so long. This article sheds some light to the situation. This war is still going on and there are still important decisions to be made about it.
Lastly, sometimes click bait is satisfying.
The Cracked podcast discusses an array of different subjects, usually from a very open-minded and inquisitive way. This particular episode discusses some amazing techniques marketers have used over the years, some negative, some positive, but all very interesting for anyone wanting to learn more about the field.
From the Authors of Freakonmics, this book makes you think differently. It questions your questions with preposterous answers, and then backs the ridiculous claims with facts. It’s hard to explain, easy to read, and definitely worth a read.
I love content that shifts my perception. My top-five list reflects some of the best content I’ve encountered this year. From linguistics to Shazaam to bee theory, these are my favorite things from 2016:
This article was first written in 2015, but I didn’t encounter it until this year. I love linguistics, and this article really displays the power of language in how we perceive our world. What color is the sky? What color is grass? It all really depends on what language you use to navigate the world.
Want to spend the day questioning all of your assumptions? Do you know the difference between the Sinbad movie Shazaam and the Shaq movie Kazaam? This article left me wondering just how much memory can be trusted, even when other people remember the same exact thing.
Time is regarded as a constant. Yet, the way we relate to time is far more conceptual. Our idea of time changes and evolves to reflect technological, economic, and social shifts. Time is “a collective myth, devised by emperors, industrialists, protesters, and tinkerers,” and this piece traces those shifts and delves into just how much our current view of time impacts our lives and our happiness.
I love dogs. I love anything to do with animal behavior, psychology, and social habits. The relationship between humans and dogs literally shaped the history of the Earth. More than that though, this piece delves into the scientific and archaeological history around the domestication of man’s best friend, posing two separate domestication events that led to modern day dogs (as opposed to a previously believed singular event), and exploring what that means for our understanding of ourselves and the pre-historic world.
All the distant baby bees are listening to this podcast. So what’s it all about? Bee theory, bread theory, wandering frog people, living dolls, the tragic time travel adventures of Jackie Rodowsky, the eternal sadness of Claudia Kishi, the omnipresent religious undertones of Dawn books, Kanye West’s raiding of Claudia’s closet, and so much more. This podcast is a book-by-book exploration of The Babysitters Club book cycle as written by Princeton’s own Princess Annabelle Matthews Martin and unpacked by two dudes who write for Buzzfeed. This is my favorite podcast, and the highlight of my Mondays this entire year.
Each year I read thousands of pages of content, and curate the best finds each week on my blog. There was a lot of exceptional content in 2016, and here is the best of what I read across a number of subjects:
Most of this great content comes from the expanding role of social media in making every person a publisher. But it also raised thorny questions about when public figures have the obligation to speak up, or whether they ought to remain quiet. Likewise, the lines between creator and publisher are blurred: Google’s decision to erase blogs without explanation and Backpage’s claim of ignorance about prostitution through its sites offer very different conclusions about who owns content published online.
While this empowerment of individual creators has largely been positive, it has in many ways led to a closing of the American mind, on both the right and left. I suspect much of that comes from people too existing in worlds where their opinions remain unchallenged, leading them to dismiss the half of the country that does not agree with them.
Not surprisingly, much of my reading relates to Woden’s business. It’s been a tough year to be an entrepreneur for a lot of reasons, including our demonization by many of the political candidates. Beyond the political discussion, the trends MIT has uncovered in entrepreneurship are concerning: fewer sustainable businesses, more large organizations, and a higher number of failures.
It wasn’t just entrepreneurs who were challenged by 2016. Apple under Tim Cook resembles the Microsoft of the early 2000’s: valuable and averse to innovation. Yahoo! has gone from being one of the dominant Internet players to a company on the verge of failure.
Stories like the Panama Papers highlighted this same struggle for traditional publishers. Legacy print publications still churned out some great content this year, such as the Philadelphia Inquirer’s bracing description of the city’s imported heroin crisis or the New York Times’ piece on an attorney waging a Quixotic battle against DuPont.
The Cubs finally won the World Series this year, and the Bostonian in me was happy for Theo Epstein and his journey to the top, again. I was similarly enraptured by Guy Talese’s The Voyeur’s Motel, my favorite “weird America” piece to appear in some time. The best book I read this year was Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book that gave me new perspective on race, in a year where such a complex issue was mostly reduced to angry screes on the Internet.
Looking forward: 2017 seems to be full of uncertainty. We’ll all be curious to see how the brilliant tactics that Trump used in the election will play out on a global stage. And the pace of technological change will likely continue unabated, bringing us closer to the terrifying possibilities (outlined in the best article I read this year) of the coming Artificial Intelligence revolution.