Yesterday we showed you the essays and reviews that drew the most readers to our site in 2017. But there are other metrics–less literal but no less meaningful–by which we assess work. Thoughtful writing about books, reading, and the writing life is often a casualty in the digital economy, and it has suffered particularly in the gruesome news onslaught of 2017. Below, in no particular order, is a list of some (not all!) of the pieces I loved at the site this year. Think of this is as a great big “In Case You Missed It (ICYMI)” list for 2017.
1. What Gets Lost in Translation Gets Transformed: A methodical and incredibly illuminating study of English-Chinese/Chinese-English translation by Jianan Qian.
2. Returning to My People: A poignant essay by Zak Salih on being invited to join his Sudanese father’s book club, and the book he chose for the group to read.
3. In Defense of the Third Person: Meticulous reader and polite partisan Adam O’Fallon Price laments the shift to first person in contemporary fiction.
4. Footprints in the Snow: Na Zhong’s haunting, evocative essay on memory and digital life.
5. The Right Book at the Right Time: The inimitable Rosa Lyster describes falling in love.
6. An Ode to Reading on Public Transit: You can do some of your best reading and thinking on the bus; Kaila Philo reminds us of the inherent possibilities of a transit commute.
7. What’s a Library to Do?: Ryan Krull reports on the particular challenges facing a library that serves a large homeless population.
8. Austerity and the British Library: Speaking of libraries, Corinne Purtill offers a lovely sketch of a London library and its role in the age of austerity.
9. Who is Greek?: An informative personal essay on Greekness, queerness, and diaspora by Niko Maragos.
11. The Proust Book Club: Staffer Hannah Gersen’s Proust diary is one of my favorite series at the site, and it came to an end this year.
12. I Don’t Love You, Toronto: Sometimes we don’t particularly like the places we live; Manjushree Thapa writes about the books that made her feel more fondly toward her adopted city.
13. Requiem for a Reader: Sometimes the only way we can really communicate with someone is through a shared love of books. Sarah Cords writes about the books in her late father’s library.
14. Travesty and American Usage: “When Trump says, ‘Obama founded ISIS,’ it is not meant to be verifiably true. It is meant to be rhetorically uncompromising, to valiantly prove its own point about what can be said.” The obscenely nimble thinker M.C. Mah on the rhetoric of the new administration.
15. The Damascus Journals: A gorgeous description of pre-war Damascus, a memory of happier times, by Roua Horanieh.
16. Better Late than Never: Contributing Editor Sonya Chung writes about the books she came to as a later-in-life reader.
17. For the Love of the Books: Another piece on formative reading years, this by Habibe Jafarian on her secret raids of her brother’s library.
18. The Grueling, Painful, Beautiful Fiction of László Krasznahorkai: Staffer Il’ja Rákoš pens a vivid encomium to the Hungarian author.
19. The Man behind the Mask: An investigation of Nabokov’s simultaneously obfuscating and revealing forwards by Chris Townsend.
21. On Setting and Craft: An essay about place-love and figuring out how to write the story you want to write by Laurie Ann Doyle.