I’m going to handle the Eliot Awards a little differently this year. I still am going to link to my favorite magazine writing of the year, but for a few reasons this year’s edition will not be as tightly organized as in past years.
Partly that’s due to time. Partly it’s due to the way media is shifting. Speaking only for myself, I find that most of the writing that really blows my hair back and makes me see something in a fundamentally new way is from someone’s Substack or a relatively small magazine while the pieces that present in a better way something I knew to some degree or thought already tend to show up in the establishment outlets. The result is the most creative work happens along the margins while the more cautious, safer articulations of good work comes from the mainstream.
To some degree, that’s probably how it’s always been—small places or self-published places will take more risks, after all. But I also think the relative ease of publishing probably means that the wild stuff is more likely than ever to be on Substack or a small mag while the established places get more set in their ways and locked into a particular brand. In any case, I wanted to include something in this year’s edition to highlight some broader “year-in-reading” type issues, so I spent a bit less time on organizing and formatting the links.
Also, just a word on format and scope here: The Eliot Awards are intended to honor in-depth reporting and essay writing. So the intent here is not to promote columns or book reviews or short-form work, but rather to highlight excellent essays, long-form writing, and in-depth reporting in the past year.
Anyway, on to the awards:
Eliot Award Winners
These are my choices for the five most important things I read online this year. The Tjarks piece was the best thing I read all year, and the most sobering. The Askonas, Anderson, Helena, and Sacasas essays all are essential pieces for understanding our moment, I think, because they all in different ways hit the primary crisis of the moment, which is “how can we live as creatures in a technopoly?”
Does My Son Know You? by Jonathan Tjarks published in The Ringer
Reality is Just a Game Now by Jon Askonas published in The New Atlantis
Is There a Right to Have Children by Matthew Lee Anderson in Plough (Disclosure: Anderson is a friend and the founder of Mere Orthodoxy and I am a contributing editor with Plough.)
By Any Other Name by Helena published on Substack
The Meta-Positioning Habit of Mind by L. M. Sacasas
These are my other favorite pieces from the past year.
Failure to Cope ‘Under Capitalism’ by Clare Coffey in Gawker
In the Shoes of the Woman Considering Abortion by Kirsten Sanders in Plough
What Was the TED Talk? by Oscar Schwartz published in The Drift
Dead Man Living by Elizabeth Bruenig in The Atlantic
Post-Liberal Gods and Monsters by John Ehrett in Ad Fontes
Why Conservatism Failed by Jon Askonas published in Compact
Rich Mullins: Ragamuffin, Celebrity, Disciple by Bethel McGrew published in Plough
How a Hospital Chain Used a Poor Neighborhood to Turn Huge Profits by Katie Thomas and Jessica Silver-Greenberg in The New York Times
The Case for Kids by Kevin DeYoung published in First Things
Why the Last Ten Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid by Jonathan Haidt published in The Atlantic
What Comes After the Religious Right? by Nate Hochman in The New York Times
The Making of Nikole Hannah-Jones by Marc Weitzmann in Tablet
The Impotence of World Cup Protests by Alfie Bown published in Compact
This Texas teen wanted an abortion. She now has twins by Caroline Kitchener published in The Washington Post
This is Not Justice by Jake Tapper in The Atlantic
Transformation of a Transgender Teen by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra published in The Gospel Coalition
Keep the Home Fires Burning by Paul Kingsnorth published on Substack
The Dirty War Over Covid by Ari Schulman in National Review
Code Snitching: Nashvillians Are Weaponizing Metro Codes Against ‘Undesirable’ Neighbors by Radley Balko published in Nashville Scene
There is no ‘Mary Problem’ in It’s a Wonderful Life by Clare Coffey in The Bulwark
Designing Women by Leah Sargeant in Comment
Brokenism by Alana Newhouse in Tablet