Reading doesn’t get much better than this! This month, Something to read offers a special collection of the best magazine articles of the last 60 years. The articles provide a unique view of American history and culture by some of its best non-fiction writers. High intermediate and advanced English students will find many hours of good reading to feed their English acquisition process.
The list of articles was compiled by Kevin Kelly, web pioneer, cofounder of Wired Magazine, and former editor of the Whole Earth Catalog. The Open Culture web site, where I found the lists, calls special attention to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, and Gay Talese’s 1966 Esquire cover story, Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.
Here’s the list of the top 25 articles – based on the number of times an article was recommended – from the last 60 years. Links to the top articles from each decade – 1960s, 70s, 80s, etc. – are at the end of this article. The comments were written by the people who suggested the articles.
Gay Talese, Frank Sinatra Has a Cold. (Esquire, April 1966)
Hunter S. Thompson, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved. (Scanlan’s Monthly, June 1970)
Neal Stephenson, Mother Earth, Mother Board: Wiring the Planet. (Wired, December 1996) On laying trans-oceanic fiber optic cable.
David Foster Wallace, Federer As Religious Experience. (The New York Times, Play Magazine, August 20, 2006)
David Foster Wallace, Consider the Lobster. (Gourmet Magazine, August 2004)
John Updike, Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. (The New Yorker, October 22, 1960) About Ted Williams career framed by his last game. I read it every opening day without fail.
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. (Rolling Stone. Part I: November 11, 1971; Part II: November 25, 1971)
Richard Ben Cramer, What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now? (Esquire, June 1986)
Jon Krakauer, Death of an Innocent: How Christopher McCandless Lost His Way in the Wilds. (Outside Magazine, January 1993) Article that became Into the Wild.
Susan Orlean, The American Man at Age Ten. (Esquire, December 1992) [Ed.'s note: Not available in Esquire's online archive, but you'll find it with a little searching. Also republished in Orlean's The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup and Glass's The New Kings of Nonfiction.]
Edward Jay Epstein, Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? (Atlantic Magazine, February 1982) Diamonds, De Beers, monopoly & marketing.
Ron Rosenbaum, Secrets of the Little Blue Box. (Esquire, October 1971) The first and best account of telephone hackers, more amazing than you might believe.
Michael Lewis, The End. (Portfolio, November 11, 2008) Breaks down supposedly complex economic cause and effect into very engaging, easily understood analysis. Real life characters as interesting and entertaining as the best fiction. A must.
George Plimpton, The Curious Case Of Sidd Finch. (Sports Illustrated, April 1, 1985) I remember being extremely angry (for a few minutes) that the Mets were going to get this guy instead of my A’s. I was an honest kid and man, it just seemed so unfair. When I realized it was a prank, I wasn’t as upset. Because I always thought this guy, in some form, would someday show up and blow away the Twins, the Angels, and the Giants wearing an A’s uniform. I’m still waiting!
David Foster Wallace, Shipping Out: On the (Nearly Lethal) Comforts of a Luxury Cruise. (Harper’s Magazine, January 1996)
Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air. (Outside Magazine, September 1996)
Tom Junod, The Falling Man. (Esquire, September 2003)
Gene Weingarten, The Peekaboo Paradox. (The Washington Post, Sunday Magazine, January 22, 2006) Story about the weirdest clown, the Great Zucchini, you’ll never want to meet. Keep reading….
David Foster Wallace, Host. (Atlantic Magazine, April 2005)
Gene Weingarten, Pearls Before Breakfast. (The Washington Post, Magazine, April 8, 2007) Joshua Bell is one of the world’s greatest violinists. His instrument of choice is a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius. If he played it for spare change, incognito, outside a bustling Metro stop in Washington, would anyone notice?
Chris Jones, The Things That Carried Him. (Esquire, May 2008) It’s extremely moving without being saccharine or twee. It’s a military story, but utterly without jingoism or indictment. And it’s wonderfully observed.
Michael Lewis, Wall Street on the Tundra. (Vanity Fair, April 2009) An in depth analysis of the financial collapse of Iceland. Excellent. There are some great one liners (this isn’t actually one of them, but it’ll give you the idea): “This in a country the size of Kentucky, but with fewer citizens than greater Peoria, Illinois. Peoria, Illinois, doesn’t have global financial institutions, or a university devoting itself to training many hundreds of financiers, or its own currency. And yet the world was taking Iceland seriously.”
Gene Weingarten, Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime? (The Washington Post Magazine, March 8, 2009) Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing.
The best of each decade
- The best of the 1960s and earlier
- The best of the 1970s
- The best of the 1980s
- The best of the 1990s
- The best of the 2000s
- The best of the 2010s