This year I read a lot of great personal essays, but these were my favorites.
The story of young people moving to New York and learning how to navigate the city, particularly its real estate, will never get old, but it’s hard to do well/without sounding like you’re trying to mimic Joan Didion. I loved Meaghan’s piece because it was so perfectly of its time and place, and yet managed to capture the timelessness of feeling that, for the very first time, you’re really on your own in a city that doesn’t give much of a shit.
No one could quite believe it when Nora Ephron died, partly because she’d concealed her illness from all but her closest friends and family, but also because she was the premiere chronicler of love and relationships and making it as a woman, and if she was gone, what did that mean for the rest of us? There were lots of tributes to Nora Ephron, but Lena Dunham’s resonated the most with me, because she portrayed so beautifully Nora’s brilliance, her empathy and her wit.
The particulars of the story were so outlandish that it almost seemed impossible for someone to write about it eloquently, but Amity Bitzel’s essay about her parents adopting a young man who had murdered his parents, and what it was like for her as a 13-year-old, managed to be affecting and beautiful, and maybe most amazingly, not sensationalistic.
Emily is so, so good at talking about those feelings that you’d really rather not admit you felt, much less put on the internet, and she is also really good at being funny about it and making bigger points about success and jealousy and autobiography. She writes in this piece, which is also about “ladyblogs” and a visit to PS1, “I have made so many decisions based on my desire to never seem publicly weak or vulnerable,” and that seemed like just about the most perfect articulation of human behavior I’d ever read.