The best things I’ve read recently (Jan. 2019)

Today I learned what a swipe file is: a bunch of stuff you like.

It’s a marketing term, which explains why we got a cutesy phrase for what amounts to good ol’ basic inspiration. That said, I like the idea that as writers we (I) should keep better track of the pieces we find inspiring. Even better: we (I) should go a step further and think about what exactly makes those pieces swipeable.

In that spirit, here are my favorite recent reads with a little about what makes them great.

1.Alternative Reality: Inferno in Paradise

I put a swipe list on my swipe list. Boom.

Matthew Kassel’s list is better than mine, because he’s got his finger on the pulse of national alt-weeklies. Explore his list for some great examples of local journalism still going strong. (Fun fact: I met Tom Zoellner, the author of “Interstate 10: A Personal History,” at a creative writing workshop once. He was nice.)

2. After Summiting Everest, He Returned Home to Face His Demons

I don’t have too much generosity for personal essays. They are self-indulgent and trite until proven otherwise.

In this piece, Cory Richards reflects after summiting Everest in 2017. The topics he touches on — drug addiction, marriage, trauma — are easily and often belabored, but Richards tells his story with a light touch.

His stories carried me easily along meandering paths. Though this piece is far from linear, I didn’t mind the digressions because they felt so true to life.

And, as Richards writes, “Why do I talk publicly about divorce and PTSD and alcoholism and infidelity and confuse the whole conversation with adventure and a river in Africa—where is this going? The answer is simple: It’s all tied together.”

3. Jack Dorsey Has No Clue What He Wants

This interview’s introduction is golden. Of Jack Dorsey’s answers the author writes, “The words themselves sound like they should probably mean something, too. Dorsey is just hard enough to follow that it’s easy to assume that any confusion is your own fault, and that if you just listen a little more or think a little harder, whatever he’s saying will finally start to make sense.”

Well done, Ashely Feinberg, I’d never read that experience so succinctly described.