Each day at the The Browser we recommend five or six pieces of outstanding new writing.
The Browser and Pocket present the Golden Giraffes for the best writing in small publications and blogs in 2015.
The 10 articles below make up the shortlist. The winner will be judged by David Brooks and Jeremy Paxman, and will be announced on December 18th.
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Scott Alexander | Slate Star Codex | 29th June 2015
Lessons learned from two years' residency in a psychiatric hospital. "If all science is physics or stamp collecting, psychiatry is stamp collecting par excellence with the world’s most interesting postal system, hunting through incredibly confused work done by thousands of brilliant people. Sometimes that involves dredging up weird drugs that no one else remembers which are perfectly suited for the precise situation at hand" (3,200 words)
Minal Hajratwala | Granta | 30th April 2015
"If you have acid thrown in your face, go to the hospital, then later to the police. The doctors will do something. The police will not. Consider suicide, although it is a crime to commit suicide. If you do not commit suicide, start an NGO for women who have had acid thrown in their faces. Teach them to make craft items such as wallets from colorful recycled Tetrapak. Speak internationally to audiences who will feel revulsion and pity" (1,920 words)
Duncan Weldon | Bull Market | 21st April 2015
"The place to start is with the railway company itself. It’s pretty clear that it is not a listed entity. The company engages in all manner of pursuits but few of them seem focussed on shareholder value. It could be state owned; I can’t rule that out but it raises bigger questions as to the nature of the state on Sodor. It’s most likely that the company is privately held, but closely entwined with the political forces of Sodor" (1,206 words)
Richard McAdams | New Rambler | 28th August 2015
To call this another review of Go Set a Watchman is to risk drastically underselling an original and perceptive essay on the politics of the American South and the strategies adopted by Harper Lee when turning those politics into fiction. It is not so much that Lee gives us a different Atticus Finch in Watchman; she gives us a different narrator, a grown-up Scout, who understands much more about her father and his world (4,600 words)
Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil | Matter | 29th June 2015
In which the writer escapes the Rwandan genocide at the age of six, criss-crosses Africa for seven years as a refugee, gains asylum in America, wins a scholarship to Yale, and meets her long-lost parents on the Oprah Winfrey show. "A few people ask if I feel guilty for surviving. Uh, no." The writing is so measured, the story so shattering, that the only possible response upon reading it is: Wow. An astonishing piece of prose (8,200 words)
Karoline Kan | Anthill | 22nd June 2015
A family story of modern China. "Our family grew big, like a tree. Grandpa was like the root of the tree that went deep underneath his waterside house". He was born at the close of the Qing dynasty; when he died in 2009 "he was buried in the field outside his waterside house, the field his father had lost gambling, not far from the graves of his old friends. We burned his Falungong books and his Communist membership card along with him" (1,500 words)
Amy Feltman | The Toast | 30th January 2015
"It starts when you are eighteen and you can’t hold down a shot of vodka. You can’t chase the non-shot with cranberry juice. Your mother suggests heartburn, which sounds like something only fifty-year-old men have and seems to be a dig about how oversensitive you are. Your roommates are concerned. Your friends are jealous. You are not gaining the freshman fifteen. You are light as a feather, stiff as a board" (2,790 words)
Amanda Gefter | Nautilus | 5th February 2015
Beautifully-done portrait of Walter Pitts, perhaps the most brilliant of the rarefied group of scientists — including Norbert Wiener and John von Neumann — who did foundational work on neural networks, cognition, computing and artificial intelligence at MIT in the mid-20C. Pitts was a self-taught polymathic genius who never finished school; he drank himself to death at 46, frustrated by his inability to model the human brain (4,900 words)
Alan Bellows | Damn Interesting | 16th June 2015
A metal chest topped with 23 toggle switches is left inside a Las Vegas casino. A note says the box contains a bomb big enough to level the building, which will explode unless a ransom is delivered by helicopter. The bomb squad arrives. "At first, they heard nothing. But then, just at the edge of hearing, someone thought they heard a whirring sound. After a lengthy delay they heard it again. Something inside was stirring" (8,500 words)
Scott Adams | 14th August 2015
Whatever his qualities as a prospective president, Donald Trump is an astonishingly effective candidate. "If you’re keeping score, in the past month Trump has bitch-slapped the entire Republican Party, redefined our expectations of politics, focused the national discussion on immigration, and taken functional control of Fox News. And I don’t think he put much effort into it. Imagine what he could do if he gave up golf" (1,500 words)
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With best wishes,
Robert Cottrell, Editor
Duncan Brown, Publisher