1. Letter of Recommendation: ‘Passport to Your National Parks’
“Lately, my America has felt too vast and fragmented, and fixating on regional curiosities like state-fair butter sculptures and St. Paul sandwiches only exacerbates this crisis of faith. I’ve been searching for new ways to keep liking this country, meaningful ways that don’t feel like work.”
2. In an Era of Online Outrage, Do Sensitivity Readers Result in Better Books, or Censorship?
“In today’s hair-trigger, hyperreactive social media landscape, where a tweet can set off a cascade of outrage and prompt calls for a book’s cancellation, children’s book authors and publishers are taking precautions to identify potential pitfalls in a novel’s premise or execution. Many are turning to sensitivity readers, who provide feedback on issues like race, religion, gender, sexuality, chronic illness and physical disabilities. The role that readers play in shaping children’s books has become a flash point in a fractious debate about diversity, cultural appropriation and representation, with some arguing that the reliance on sensitivity readers amounts to censorship.”
3. What Happens When the Richest U.S. Cities Turn to the World?
“What happens to America’s manufacturing heartland when Silicon Valley turns to China? Where do former mill and mining towns fit in when big cities shift to digital work? How does upstate New York benefit when New York City increases business with Tokyo?”
“There is something powerful about being in the presence of faith when you yourself are doubting.”
5. Flying Saucers and Other Fairy Tales
“Our alien encounters, whether real or imaginary, are the same kind of thing as the fairy encounters of the human past — part of an enduring phenomenon whose interpretations shift but whose essentials are consistent, featuring the same abductions and flying crafts and lights and tricks with crops and animals and time and space, the same shape-shifting humanoids and sexual experiments and dangerous gifts and mysterious intentions.”
6. Pop Music in 2017: Glum and Glummer
“Rhythm tracks are just as often hollowed-out and sporadic, with a beat that’s inferred rather than spelled out; kick drums arrive as eruptions rather than foundations. Often, percussion sounds are spattered intermittently around a bass line, or they tick steadily like a suspense-film soundtrack — more haunted house than dance floor.”
7. Who Wants to Buy the Most Expensive House in America?
“Asked why, Mr. Niami shrugged, looking slightly baffled by the line of questioning. ‘Because it’s cool,’ he said.”
8. Yes Me Can
“‘Me’ has expanded, inverted, politicized; at this moment in history, it is suddenly, bracingly synonymous with ‘we.’”
9. Instagram Is Now a Dating Platform, Too. Here’s How It Works.
“After my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, he started liking a lot of my stuff and watching all of my Stories. He would DM me, he would send me memes. And I sort of knew he was trying to get my attention.”
10. Close Reading
“What happens when a leading Catholic intellectual reads the Quran?”
“The move from Egyptian papyrus to locally prepared animal skins after the fall of the Roman Empire changed the shape of books from square to rectangular: ‘most mammals,’ after all, ‘are oblong.’”
12. Jordan Peele’s X-Ray Vision
“Peele developed a tone, other than hysteria, to present the black experience of discomfort in seemingly benign white worlds and the way their residents chronically deny the reality of that experience. Peele takes that reality as a given, but he is amplifying the paranoia that results from its constant denial. It’s a movie made by a person having the same bad dream I and lots of other black people have had.”
13. How to Escape a Burning Building
“Don’t prolong it.”