This is my second contribution to the genre this holiday season. The first, Ohio to Oregon: 20 photos for 2015, is a reflection of the places I’ve been, the things I’ve seen, in a year of great change and adventure. These take the place of my monthly “post script” blog, which I will resume next month.
The usual year-end list caveat applies: This list is subjective and likely missing some obvious candidates.
I’ve left off, too, stories reported by friends and colleagues — though I’ve read many important and inspiring stories from those folks. Some stories that are included were published in previous years, but I discovered them in 2015. Please forgive my tardiness.
I tried to focus on stories you might not have read, though some popular ones were too good to keep off the list. I hope you find something here that fits your fancy.
I only teared up twice while re-reading some of the stories that comprise the list.
Twenty reads for 2015:
After visits to several doctors, we first heard the word “autism.” Later, it would be fine-tuned to “regressive autism,” now affecting roughly a third of children with the disorder. Unlike the kids born with it, this group seems typical until somewhere between 18 and 36 months — then they vanish. Some never get their speech back. Families stop watching those early videos, their child waving to the camera. Too painful. That child’s gone.
— The New York Times, on how Disney helped a writer’s autistic son
I was in love with the Cirque. I loved the way wisps of fog raced across the face of East Huey, the mountain that watched us from across the meadow. I loved passing a flask around in Kitchen Cave, and the way a lithe, barely-seen ermine lurked in the shadows waiting for us to abandon a scrap of food. I loved how the light, when the sun came out, glinted off the bolts that marked the sport-climbing routes past generations of climbers had drilled into the mansion-sized boulders on the far side of the meadow.
— SB Nation Longform, on lessons learned in the wilderness
Eight-year-old Skylar Brijbag looked both ways and pushed her Disney Princess bike across the street. She lifted the front wheel over the curb and began to go up the slow hill of an asphalt lot.
— The St. Petersburg Times, on riding a bike
It was one of the mattressiest weekends of the year on one of the mattressiest stretches of the region. A three-mile strip of Rockville Pike contained Shaun’s store, John’s store, a Sleepy’s, another Sleepy’s, a Mattress Discounters, another Mattress Discounters, a Savvy Rest and a Healthy Back, and every store was competing for the customers who trudged between them carrying holiday circulars or humming jingles.
— The Washington Post, on Memorial Day mattress sales
The hills go from green to gold, but are no less beautiful. Soon, there are farms on either side of the highway, and pumpkin sellers and stables and dust. It feels very Old West, and you’re only an hour or so from San Francisco.
— The New Yorker, on the real Hollister
He still remembers the sound of her laugh, believe it or not. And the way she looked – “a pretty little thing” – the day they met along the banks of the River Thames, a few months before he parachuted into Normandy with the 101st Airborne Division. Some 70 years later, he can even recite her old mailing address: “4 Darrow Road, Richmond, Surrey, England.”
— The Virginian-Pilot, on romance rekindled after 70 years
In a superficial sense, Jake Brewer and Mary Katharine Ham were a true D.C. anomaly. Bipartisan relationships have always been fairly rare in Washington, where politics are felt so strongly, and Jake and Mary Katharine were far more than Election Day partisans: Their disparate ideologies shaped their increasingly high-profile careers.
— The Washington Post, on love
The Times hired Chivers at age thirty-four in 1999 to cover war. That was the handshake, he says. A former Marine officer, he might know how to handle himself in a war zone, the paper figured. What the Times could not have known was that Chivers would develop a brand of journalism unique in the world for, among other things, its study of the weapons we use to kill one another.
— Esquire, on New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers
It felt like fringe living, but in the center of it all. I can’t really describe what I mean.
— Dan Zak, on 10 years at The Washington Post
How does it feel to be left behind by the nation you help fuel? What is it like losing the war on coal? Wondering that, I packed my car and drove from Laramie to Gillette. Before long, I saw a familiar bumper sticker. It said, “
WELCOME TO WYOMING. CONSIDER EVERYONE ARMED.”
— California Sunday Magazine, on Wyoming’s Powder River Basin
It had been 20 days since the last time Bonnie left Cheyeanne by herself — 20 days since she was shot along with 15 others in a classroom at Umpqua Community College. Nine people were killed that day, adding to the hundreds of Americans who have died in mass shootings in recent years. And seven people were wounded but didn’t die, joining the ever-expanding ranks of mass-shooting survivors. There are thousands of them.
— The Washington Post, on victims of mass shootings
You realize that it’s not about hitting a goal weight, or lifting a weight. It’s about being able to wait. Waiting, being patient, and trusting that life will slowly inch along and things will eventually get better. After all, change takes time.
— Aaron Bleyaert, on Medium, on losing weight
“Have you heard of HIV before?”
Biting her top lip, she shook her head, no.
Rakhmanina told her that ignorant people sometimes say bad things about those with HIV, and because of this, she shouldn’t tell friends she has it. The doctor quickly added that many patients still live normal lives: marriage, kids, good jobs.
— The Washington Post, on a 10-year-old finding out she has HIV
Hello, my name is Brad Pearson. In March 2006, you were one of three people who kidnapped me in West Philadelphia.
I’m writing this letter not because I’m angry at you, or upset, or hurt. The opposite, actually. While the kidnapping and investigation were difficult for me, in the end they made me a stronger man.
— Philadelphia Magazine, on a writer who meets his kidnappers
“You want a photo?” he said, posing with a passerby. “Say ‘Flat tax!’ ”
— The Washington Post, on campaigning with Lindsey Graham
Ryland turned around, rolling his eyes.
“Your sheets and pillow are still in the car,” I said. “Should we just drop them at your dorm?”
For a second, our son stood there while his classmates waited. Then he came back to us. “No,” he said softly. “I’ll have plenty of time in the dorm. Can you get me later? I’d rather stay with you, for tonight.”
— The Tampa Bay Times, on a mother dropping her son off at college
U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett entered and everyone stood. He sat and then they sat. “Another hard one,” he said, and the room fell silent. He was one of 670 federal district judges in the United States, appointed for life by a president and confirmed by the Senate, and he had taken an oath to “administer justice” in each case he heard. Now he read the sentencing documents at his bench and punched numbers into an oversize calculator.
When he finally looked up, he raised his hands together in the air as if his wrists were handcuffed, and then he repeated the conclusion that had come to define so much about his career.
“My hands are tied on your sentence,” he said. “I’m sorry. This isn’t up to me.”
— The Washington Post, on congressionally mandated sentencing
There is no space left to build homes for the living. The dead are now flown to the mainland so the ocean won’t encroach upon their graves. Most here agree that the town should be relocated; where, when and who will pay for it are the big questions. The Army Corps of Engineers figures Kivalina will be underwater in the next decade or so.
— The Los Angeles Times, on climate change
The only athlete this year to have accomplished more, and at a younger age, than Ko, 18, was a 3-year-old named American Pharoah.
— The New York Times, on golf phenom Lydia Ko
Her head lay on her husband’s chest and she listened to his heart beat for the last time. He took his final breaths, his body pressing against her cheek. She held his hands, still warm, in a room full of doctors and nurses and the love of her life.
In the seconds after he slipped away, her first thought was of the way Michael Keck looked at their son. Such complete joy, like nothing else in the world mattered. She’d never seen anything like it. Still hasn’t.
— The Kansas City Star, on a football star who suffered from an advanced case of CTE