The joy of recommendations
Telling people about the good stuff, plus Links of the Week: Barnes & Noble turns hero, the tyranny of lists, a beautiful dog story, plus much more ...
Substack has a new feature where you can recommend other newsletters that you like. The way I understand it, the list pops up when somebody subscribes to your Substack. I just added my recommendations, which means that those of you who have already subscribed to the Writing Shed (a/k/a My Favorite People) won’t automatically see them. So I thought I’d share them here.
I’ve featured posts from all these newsletters from time to time in my weekly links, but they’re all so good they deserve more of your attention (and your subscription dollars, too).
Austin Kleon is my biggest inspiration when it comes to showing how I do my work and what it’s like to live a creative life. These Friday links are stolen directly from him—after all, he did write STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST. He just passed 100,000 subscribers on his Substack.
JoeBlogs is a look into the amazingly fertile brain of Joe Posnanski, the best baseball writer in America and my friend for more than 30 years. JoeBlogs is mostly about baseball these days—he’s working on a new book about it—but he’s also counting down the 100 greatest football players of all time, podcasting with the great Michael Schur, and writing about whatever else is on his mind (and there are a LOT of things on his mind).
North Carolina Rabbit Hole is, in some ways, the perfect example of what a newsletter should be—deeply committed to its own little niche. The niche in this case is “weird stories about North Carolina,” and my buddy Jeremy Markovich works it perfectly. If you saw any local or national news stories about the woman in Asheville with the FART license plate … thank Jeremy.
Story Club is the Substack home for George Saunders, who is not only the best short-story writer alive but a warm and generous teacher. He breaks down stories at the granular level, exploring why the author’s choices work (or don’t) and how he thinks about his own stories.
The Food Section is Hanna Raskin’s journey through the foodways of the South—everything from tidbits on good local diners to longform pieces on things like the difficulties of running a food truck. She’s essential reading if you want to go deeper on understanding the culture of Southern food.
One of the best parts about my job—and especially this newsletter—is being able to spotlight great things I’ve run across. It’s the modern version of inviting your best friend over to the house to listen to your new records. It’s always a little thrill when somebody pulls you aside and says, check THIS out.
So check out those Substacks. And share some favorites of your own in the comments—whatever you’ve been enjoying lately, be it other newsletters or music or books or whatever.
And now on to our previously scheduled recommendations …
10 things I wanted to share this week:
My other post this week was a new entry in my Heaven is a Playlist series, on Etta James’ transformational cover of “Take It to the Limit.”
My weekly for WFAE was about Tax Day, and those who manage to get out of paying theirs.
I’ll be honest—even though I knew it would be stunning, I hesitated reading the story by Tom Junod and Paula Lavigne about a former Penn State football player who was a sexual predator. I knew it would be a tough road. But the story is so powerful that I have to recommend it. Among other things, there are moments of kindness and hope. And it has an all-timer of a kicker.
Barnes & Noble, which used to be one of the big villains in the book world, has transformed during the Amazon Era into an unlikely hero.
DOG NEWS: While I work on my book about the Westminster Dog Show and the bond between dogs and their people, I’m devoting this slot to dog stories. This week: a beautiful story from Wade Livingston about lessons in writing from a good old dog. (Wade was kind enough to mention a piece I wrote a few years about our dog Fred.)
A profile of the black man who has been in charge of taking down some of the old South’s Confederate monuments.
This episode of the STILL PROCESSING podcast about “American Top 40” and the tyranny of lists challenged my thinking in a way any good piece of journalism should do. I still don’t think I agree with the idea that hitting no. 2 on the charts (instead of no. 1) is a form of erasure … but I do get where the discussion comes from.
I also really enjoyed this episode of YOU’RE WRONG ABOUT, on how email has evolved from a small joy to an octopus that can strangle every drop of energy and spirit from us. (He says, just before sending out this email.)
One more podcast: the LONGFORM PODCAST episode with NBA journalism legend Jackie MacMullan is just a joy, as is Jackie herself.
We’ve dived into the British mystery series DEATH IN PARADISE, where a stuffy but brilliant British detective ends up solving murders on a laid-back Caribbean island. It reminds me a lot of MURDER, SHE WROTE … in both series, there are a suspicious number of murders for a really small place. I always thought Jessica Fletcher was the real killer.
The best way to support my work is through a paid subscription to The Writing Shed. You can also subscribe for free. Either way, I’m glad you’re here. — TT