If 2013 was the year I started listening to podcasts (Remember Longest Shortest Time, Stuff You Should Know, and Books on the Nightstand?), 2021 was the year of the email newsletter. I have subscribed to newsletters before this year to get ideas for recipes or book recommendations, and I still subscribe to those. But this year I started shifting more towards reading newsletters in my spare time instead of scrolling Instagram and have found it to be rewarding. I have dipped in and out of some newsletters by famous people like author George Saunders, acclaimed chef and food writer Ruth Reichl, essayist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and pastry chef living in Paris, David Lebovits, to name a few. There is a paywall for many newsletters, but many are free to the public. I think that the newsletter medium lends itself to more depth (or at least less visual noise) than other social media platforms. Online spaces are always potentially frivolous and addictive, but they can also be oases of beauty and hope and springboards for meaningful reflection. For now, I am finding newsletters to be the latter.
Here are some newsletters I have been eager to read every time they have appeared in my inbox:
Snakes and Ladders-This has been my favorite newsletter this last year. I loved author Alan Jacob’s books Breaking Bread with the Dead and How to Think, so I was happy to find his newsletter. It is sort of a mashup of his own blog posts, articles he’s written, and reflections on art and music that have moved him. It’s great.
A Window in the Country: My college friend, now mother of four in Vermont, Rachael, offers reflections and recommendations I am always glad to read. This year she interviewed Amber from Heritage Mom whose perspective and resource-filled website (specifically her Heritage Packs) have helped me plan engaging study units with my sons this school year.
Making it Work– Here is a newsletter from product consultant and mother of two, Youngna Park. It is a combination of beautiful, relatable essays and recommendations for kids and adults. Essays that still resonate: “My Phone Keeps Reminding Me of My Past Self” and “The Humbling Domestic Marathon that is Cooking for Children.” I also learned (from Rachael) of Youngna’s Kids Book Recs account, which is a trove.
5 Quick Things: Here author Tsh Oxenreider shares her recent favorite things, such as books, music, and articles. From her newsletter, I learned about author Mitali Perkins, whose book Steeped in Stories was one of my favorite reads this year. I also learned of Hugh Grant’s narration of A Christmas Carol, which is delightful.
Reclaiming Hope: Along with using Longform to access op-eds and essays, I have benefitted from reading other people’s article roundups. Because of this newsletter by Michael and Melissa Wear, I have read articles that I am still thinking about today, like Who Actually Gets to Create Black Pop Culture? by Bertrand Cooper.