The 9 Best Reads From Lesser-Known Sources In 2013

I love the internet. I love internet culture — the way things whip around twitter, offered up to each of us as objects for examination. We are not all of the same mind, of course, but now more than ever we can all be in the same conversation. That’s awesome for many many reasons.

The downside, though, is that it sometimes feels like there is nothing new under the sun. The same sites appear over and over. Whatever you find, someone found it first.

When we do come across little gems off the beaten path, it’s worth celebrating. So, at risk of being the guy shouting about the speakeasy, here are my nine favorite reads from lesser-known sites and blogs this year. If you have some of your own, please add them in the comments.

1. “How To Make Love In America” – Sarah Nicole Prickett / Random House Canada

Raw and beautiful, teetering on madness, this feels like the place we think we’re going to get to when  — sleep-deprived, dopamine-fried, and coming down — we’re already at the end. Prickett gets there, and it’s amazing.

If I had to choose, I’d choose to fall asleep with somebody every night and wake up alone. I don’t know where he would go; it’d be none of my business. On the roads outside cities I realized how true it is that everything’s less polluted in the mornings, even the mind. Also, when you wake up alone, it’s easier to remember your dreams.

2. “The Logic Of Stupid Poor People” – Tressie McMillan Cottom

2013 was ripe with new culture war — a war, in my preferred phrasing, between the communally-minded and the terribly wrong. Both sides had victories — New York elected DeBlasio, social services were brutally cut. This piece speaks to the core of the problem, from the heart of the issue, asking and answering the question: “Why do poor people by $2,500 handbags?”

I do not know how much my mother spent on her camel colored cape or knee-high boots but I know that whatever she paid it returned in hard-to-measure dividends. How do you put a price on the double-take of a clerk at the welfare office who decides you might not be like those other trifling women in the waiting room and provides an extra bit of information about completing a form that you would not have known to ask about?

3. “On Mothers, Mothering, And Mass Incarceration” – Sheila Bedi

Published on Mother’s Day, Sheila Bedi speaks from her experience as a lawyer and advocate for underage defendants, on behalf of all of their mother’s.

Mothers like Mrs. G., who testified before the state legislature about seeing the light going out in her fourteen year old son’s eyes after he spent months in solitary confinement.

4. “The Unexotic Underclass” – C.Z. Nnaemeka

MIT Entrepreneurship Review

2013 may also be remembered as the year Silicon Valley went from America’s golden child to exposed as hypocritical and self-serving as anything else. Nnaemeka, who presumably is or was an MIT student, takes us on a walk through all the problems to which our “best and brightest” could, and should apply themselves.

Now, why the heck should any one care? Especially a young entrepreneur-to-be.  Especially a young entrepreneur-to-be whose trajectory of nonstop success has placed him or her leagues above the unexotic underclass.  You should care because the unexotic underclass can help address one of the biggest inefficiencies plaguing  the startup scene right now: the flood of  (ostensibly) smart, ambitious young people desperate to be entrepreneurs; and the embarrassingly idea-starved landscape where too many smart people are chasing too many dumb ideas, because they have none of their own.

5. “Grief: A Beautiful Place To Visit” – Alex Gallo-Brown

The Good Men Project

Gallo-Brown reflects on the time after he lost his father, and gives us a touching meditation on the edifying parts of grief, and on the nature of things that are gone forever.

Grief, deeply felt, can be a beautiful place to visit. Stay there too long, though, and you risk inhabiting purgatory permanently, treading some middle ground between life and death.

6. “No Clues” – Peter Rubin

Approaching 30, I’m at the age where people I’ve known my whole life as sharp and with-it have begun to go senile. It brings into sharp relief that this will one day not be our grandparents but our parents, and then us. Here, a touching and sad story about what it is like to watch one’s father fade away, and the things one will do to make one last connection with him.

Physically, he’s fine; he has 15 or 20 years in front of him. Not good years, just…years. Years of single moments, each lived with no connection to any that came before or any that lie ahead. And that’s terrifying. Every time I hear someone speaking about the importance of living in the moment, of mindfulness, I think of my dad in a chair, looking at nothing, thinking of nothing, and I want to throttle them.

7. “Post-Scarcity Economics” – Tom Streihorst

L.A. Review Of Books

Tom Streihorst — who seems like an all-around interesting, if obscure, fellow — takes us through the history of the modern economy, and how we got to crash and post-crash, evoking the same principles hedge-funder Ray Dalio did in his famous viral video, though with a more humane face. Importantly, Streihorst identifies a core but overlooked precept of modern capitalism — that we make more stuff than we can consume. While his conclusions leave me wanting (there are plenty of people and parts of the world where demand radically outstrips supply), his analysis of the economic history is a great 101-type read for anyone curious about why things are the way they are.

It is a paradox: our ever-growing productivity and our more insecure lives. Our understanding of economics is stuck in the past, in a world of scarcity, a world without advertising, where making things rather than selling them was the fundamental economic problem.

8. “A Potted History Of “Failed States”” – Elliot Ross

Africa Is A Country

I am cheating a bit here, since a version of this piece did appear in The Guardian, but I found it on his blog so let’s count it. This year, Mali, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan notably descended into outright or near civil war. Yet the term “failed state” unreasonably puts responsibility on the state for failing, and so justifies all types of things that humans do when “something is not our fault.”

A civil war is a civil war. A famine is a famine. A political crisis is a political crisis. A failed state is really just rhetoric without a substantial theoretical or historical basis.

9. “The Key Lessons Of Touchy Feely” – Sumi Kim


I’m cheating again here, as Quora is not quite off the beaten path, but this response to the question “What are the key lessons from the Touchy Feely class at Stanford GSB?” gets an A+. The backstory: Stanford’s renowned business school has a notorious course about interpersonal wisdom, appropriately nicknamed “Touchy Feely.” Many graduates cite it as the most meaningful piece of their experience, and luckily for us, Kim proves willing to share.

Show appreciation: we read a study that found that successful marriages have something like a 10:1 appreciation to negative feedback ratio. So for every 1 thing you criticize, you express positive appreciation for 10 things. It’s really important to built up this “credit” of good will. While business and work relationships aren’t marriages, a lot of the same lessons apply.Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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