I’ve read several of the “best of” series books, though primarily short story collections, so when I stumbled across this compilation for magazine writing on the discount display at the Colorado College bookstore, I was intrigued. Compiled by the American Society of Magazine Editors and introduced by former Newsweek editor Jon Meacham (whose writing and opinions I greatly respect), this book is a real gem. The articles vary from investigative journalism to features to commentaries, and they come from varied sources: Vanity Fair, Wired, The Atlantic, Esquire, NYT Magazine, Harpers, and one magazine I’ve never even seen, Texas Monthly. But with the exception of one or two articles, I devoured each one of these. Excellent writing and a range of topics to suit nearly everyone. Some of my favorites: In “Still Life,” Skip Hollansworth writes about a high school boy paralyzed in a football accident whose mother cared for him at home for nearly 40 years without complaint virtually by herself (In fact, she said it was an honor). In “Vanish,” Evan Ratliff writes about his challenge to disappear from society for 30 days, creating a new identify for himself. His editor at Wired offered a $5000 reward to anyone who could find and identify him. It’s a manhunt via technology. Atul Gawande writes about McAllen, Texas and its health care costs which are higher than almost anywhere else in the country, though its labor and living costs are far lower. This public interest winner, “The Cost Conundrum” is a must read for anyone who wants a voice in the health care debate. “Lead us not into Debt” takes us on a Dave Ramsey ‘live within your means’ journey, and “Trial by Fire” tells the story of Todd Willingham who appears to be innocent of a crime for which he was executed by lethal injection in Texas. Each article grabbed me, and since I could link them here, I hope they’ll grab my readers as well.
Picking up this book is like stacking up all the great magazines and then plucking out their most prized feature. For students who need to be reading a lot more nonfiction and a lot more about real issues, this is the type of reading they should be doing. Everyone will love something—if not most everything—in this anthology of magazine writing. If I come across a 2011 or 2012 version, I’ll snatch it up on the spot if it’s anything like this one.