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The Best End-of-Year Reads

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Every publication–be it tangible or floating around on the web–inundates us at this time of year with end-of-year round-ups, lists, and reflections, some more nutritious than others. In an effort to weed out the less-than-cerebral, here are some of my favorites, all of which I highly recommend checking out (Note: The ‘Best of’ lists on here were not chosen for their specific selections but for their smart commentary on certain subjects and cultural moments):

1. “Fashion’s year in review” by Robin Givhan, The Washington Post – “In 2013, fashion delivered fistfuls of delightful baubles, nudged the culture forward in laudable ways and spoke to our imagination. It also faltered, failed and even debased. In 2014, may fashion be at its creative, wondrous, absurd best. But may it also strive — earnestly and unfailingly — for the moral high ground.”

2. “A Surprising Look at 2013’s TV Ratings” by Vulture – “Dive deeper into the 2013 Nielsen ratings…and interesting things are revealed: Cable is starting to cannibalize itself; niche hits are multiplying; and the difference between what young and old viewers watch is astounding.”

3. “It Was a Good Year for Women on TV” by Margaret Lyons, Vulture – “I hope there are more next year, especially more stories by and about women of color, queer women, and women with a wider range of body types and physical abilities. One show, one character — that’s not enough.”

4. “Prized Performers: The 10 Best Restaurants of 2013” by Pete Wells, The New York Times – “Some of the best new restaurants I reviewed this year came from chefs or owners who were relatively unknown, while established operators came up with places that weren’t quite convincing.”

5. “Feasts for the Eyes, 1,001 Nights’ Worth” by A.O. Scott, The New York Times – “The traditional 10-best list, always arbitrary, seems downright cruel — to filmmakers, to readers and to the overwhelmed critic who must kill, or at least neglect, some of his darlings and subject himself to the self-flagellation of second-guessing.”

6. “The Festival World and What’s Beyond” – by Manohla Dargis, The New York Times – “We are living in an era of cinematic abundance, so why does this feast sometimes feel like a famine? That’s the question every American critic needs to ask as she weighs the year’s bounty.”

7. “And A Teenager Shall Lead Them: Lorde Rules a Year-End List” by Jon Pareles, The New York Times – “Lorde writes about suburban provincialism, peer pressure, insecurity, determination and — in the irresistible “Royals” — about pop-culture fantasies and class-conscious realities. She’s 17.”

8. “The Year in Women’s Fashion” by T Magazine – A round-up of The New York Times’ most noteworthy 2013 fashion coverage which “showcased boldness, simplicity, and independence in women’s dressing.”

9. “The 10 Most Memorable Leadership Moments of 2013” by Jena McGregor, The Washington Post – “In a year that included a government management debacle on a colossal scale, a 16-day shutdown of the federal government and far too many CEOs offering pseudo-apologies, coming up with a list of the year’s best leadership moments was far harder than determining its worst.”

10. “2013 Was the Year of the Domestic Goddess Trainwreck” by L.V. Anderson, Slate – “No one, not even Nigella Lawson, is as competent in real life as Nigella Lawson appears on television.”

11. “The 10 Most Interesting Things People Said About the Future in 2013″ by Patrick Tucker, Slate – “It’s the end of the year, which means it’s prediction season—when pundits put forth their perennial prognostications about all that shall be in the following 365 days and beyond.”

12. “The Best Food Books of 2013” by Corby Kummer, The Atlantic – “Each year also brings a crop of chef’s books, almost uniformly useless in the home kitchen but worth looking at if the mind of the chef interests you. One exception is when a particularly talented editor works as interpreter for the home cook.”

13. “The Weight of the Past” by Todd May, Opinionator Blog, NYTimes.com – “For most of us, as our lives unfold we simply do not, we cannot, know whether we have peaked in an area of our lives — or in our lives themselves — in ways that are most important to us. The past weighs upon us, not because it must cancel the future, but because it is of uncertain heft.” (*Note: Not really an end-of-year piece but seems timely/relevant anyways.)

14. “Netflix’s War on Mass Culture” by Tim Wu, The New Republic – “Instead of feeding a collective identity with broadly appealing content, the streamers imagine a culture united by shared tastes rather than arbitrary time slots. Pursuing a strategy that runs counter to many of Hollywood’s most deep-seated hierarchies and norms, Netflix seeks nothing less than to reprogram Americans themselves. What will happen to our mass culture if it succeeds?” (*Note: Not really an end-of-year piece but seems timely/relevant anyways.)

15. “Beyonce’s fists-up feminism is the climax of a revolutionary year for women in pop” by Sarah Ditum, The New Statesmen – “From Pretty Hurts to Flawless, Beyoncé has turned her extraordinary voice into a powerful tool for expressing hurt and fury at sexism and the cult of beauty in the music business. Why aren’t men making music this good?”

And because The New Statesmen is so rad, I would also check out this list of their best pieces from the past year.

16. “A Wordnado of Words in 2013” by Grant Barrett for Loose Ends, The New York Times – “It’s tough to catalog the preoccupations of the year in a single word. There were many flying around that seemed to capture a moment, an emotion, a thought, a new way of doing or describing things, or the larger zeitgeist. Some were new, some not so new, but they all seemed to say something about the times.”

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Obviously there are about a million others, some worthy of mentioning–but unfortunately I don’t have time to troll the whole internet.

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