Our Culture Writers Pick The Best Essays Of 2016

This year might have been our craziest yet. Thankfully, writing helped us make sense of it.

1. Bim Adewunmi

Gareth Cattermole / Getty Images
These five pieces gave me joy or illuminated a subject so cleanly and perfectly that I felt, briefly, like an expert. And in 2016, that was very welcome. —Bim
You Haven’t Seen Everything John Cho Can Do —E. Alex Jung, Vulture


To Love Your Sister Is To Grieve Your Twin —Tomi Obaro, BuzzFeed
Laura Mvula: ‘My body spasms. I think I’m going to collapse’ —Tom Lamont, The Guardian
Vertical Descent: Adventures in Synchronized Swimming —Elisabeth Donnelly, VQR
The Grace of Keanu Reeves —Angelica Jade Bastién, Bright Wall/Dark Room

2. Hannah Giorgis

These are five insightful pieces that tell stories about individuals or small groups — and cut at the heart of the world we all inhabit in the process. —Hannah
The Ecstasy of Frank Ocean —Doreen St. Félix, MTV News
My Father’s House —Reggie Ugwu, BuzzFeed
The Soccer-Star Refugees of Eritrea —Alexis Okeowo, The New Yorker
I Will Never Underestimate White People’s Need To Preserve Whiteness Again —Damon Young, Very Smart Brothas
Quiet Storm —Clover Hope, Fader

3. Scaachi Koul
Reading this year has been entirely about trying to distract myself from whatever fiery hellscape has been going on outside my front door, so most of what I read — even when it was, indeed, about Trump — served as some kind of distraction, or comfort, or something to bring me closer to sanity. Sometimes you just want to read some good writing and a weird story while you stock your underground bunker, you know? —Scaachi
The Year In Avatars —Navneet Alang, Hazlitt
As Not Seen On TV —Pete Wells, The New York Times
Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All —Jane Mayer, The New Yorker
The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens —Elspeth Reeve, The New Republic
Kim Kardashian West on Kanye and Taylor Swift, What’s In OJ’s Bag, and Understanding Caitlyn —Caity Weaver, GQ

4. Tomi Obaro
These are the five pieces that I can’t stop thinking about, months after I first read them. —Tomi
Why Pop Culture Just Can’t Deal With Black Male Sexuality —Wesley Morris, New York Times Magazine
Ready for Prime Time —Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker
Whatever Happened To the Most Liberated Woman in America? —Alex Mar, Atlas Obscura
The Weight of James Arthur Baldwin —Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, BuzzFeed
The Confessions of R. Kelly —Chris Heath, GQ

5. Anne Helen Petersen
These pieces speak my twin concerns as an academic-turned-journalist: how to engage in rigorous exploration of ideas while also devoting oneself to deeply-observed and reported detail. —Anne Helen
Slavery’s White Women —Sarah Blackwood, The Hairpin
The Great Recession —Shonni Enelow, Film Comment
Hunger Makes Me —Jess Zimmerman, Hazlitt
The Babysitter’s Club —Jesse Barron, Real Life
The Cost of Caring —Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker

6. Doree Shafrir
These are five pieces that I think did the best job illuminating some aspect of the direction that this country is going in, and what it means. —Doree
An American Tragedy —David Remnick, The New Yorker
Interview With a Woman Who Recently Had an Abortion at 32 Weeks —Jia Tolentino, Jezebel
With Child: the Right to Choose in Rapid City —Kiera Feldman, Harper’s
Now Is the Time to Talk About What We Are Actually Talking About —Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The New Yorker
Don’t Cry for Ivanka — Fear Her —Anne Helen Petersen, BuzzFeed
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