Feature Writing, Reading

The best essays of 2019… so far!

Old typewriter on wooden desk with caption 'The best essays of 2019 so far' by Ruth Dawkins

According to my blog stats, a post I wrote back in 2017 about 20 Places to Read Great Personal Essays has proved to be enduringly popular. I suspect it’s mainly other writers who seek it out, looking for publications that might be a good fit to submit their own personal essays to. But perhaps there are also a few people out there – like me – who just really enjoy reading good quality essays and feature articles online.

One problem I’ve found over the years is that I tend to lose track of those favourite reads. I save the link on Facebook, or favourite it on Twitter… but then never manage to go back and read it a second time. Sometimes I forget to save it at all, which can be infuriating if I’m trying to find it again later! I’ll remember a great turn of phrase, or a theme that resonated, but no combination of Google search terms will bring the piece back to me.

This year I decided to be a bit more organised, and I’ve been keeping a word document on my desktop – partly for my own use, and partly because I thought it would be a great follow up blog post. Whenever I’ve really enjoyed reading a piece online, I’ve saved it to the document, happy to know I can return to it later without having to look in a dozen different places.

Since we’re approaching the half-way point of 2019 (already – eek!), I thought this would be a nice time to share some of my favourite essays from the year so far. I hope you enjoy at least one or two of these yourself…

Writing about food

Do online recipes come with too much backstory? by Adam Liaw. Chef Adam Liaw responds to all the complainers who don’t appreciate when food bloggers include stories with their recipes.

If Food is Love, my Kids Must Hate Me by Chaunie Brusie. Food is such an emotive, powerful thing, and this excellent piece in the NYT Parenting section absolutely captures that.

We asked ambassadors where they eat when they’re homesick. We did not expect Taco Bell and Ikea. by Richard Morgan. This is a cute piece in the Washington Post with specific restaurant and dish recommendations from dozens of ambassadors stationed in the US.

Eating Alone by Stephanie Rosenbloom. Another great piece about food. I really enjoyed this piece about the writer becoming more comfortable with eating alone, overcoming her anxieties and progressing from fast food joints to fancy French restaurants.

Writing about place

Unnameable Things by Kerri ní Dochartaigh. This is about – oh goodness, what is it about? Butterflies, and ladybirds, and violence in Northern Ireland. It’s a lovely, astonishing piece. (I’m so very excited by the news that Kerri recently signed a deal with Canongate, so we’ll be treated to more of her work in book form!)

The Climate Change Apocalypse Has Arrived. You Can Hear It on the New South Wales Country Hour by Josh Nathan-Kazis. Written by a New York-based journalist, who listens to podcasts from around the world, this is a fascinating piece about the ABC radio program Country Hour, and what the discussions on that show reveal about climate change in Australia.

House Un-American by Leslie Kendall Dye. I’ve long been a fan of Leslie’s writing, and have included links to her pieces on the blog before. This one on Longreads is really special – about home, history, and family secrets.

Anaana by Nancy Forde. This gorgeous essay of photographs and words on The Island Review really struck a chord with me because it was written about somewhere I’ve been – Ilulissat in Greenland. Very enjoyable.

The Heart of Beyond by Malachy Tallack. I really enjoy Malachy Tallack’s writing – his gentle novel The Valley at the Centre of World is one of my favourite recent reads. This piece examines the fiction of ‘remote’ places and deconstructs that term. As the subheading of the piece asks, ‘Remote from what, exactly?’

A Language for Antarctica: Summer at Mawson by Jesse Blackadder. Back in high school, where I studied geography for the full six years, I loved the language of land even more than I loved the science. This piece in Kill Your Darlings, about the challenge of writing and talking about Antarctica, is absolutely cracking. Well worth a read.

Taking Refuge in the Treetops by Melissa Harrison. The new style of nature writing, in which writers place themselves firmly within the landscape they’re writing about, is something that really excites me. I think it gives readers a way in to appreciating the natural world that they might not find otherwise. This piece is a perfect example.

Writing about living

An Honest Living by Steve Salaita. A beautiful long read about Salaita’s transition from life as a tenured professor to life as a school bus driver. What a story.

‘I lie to my health visitor. I lie to myself’: the truth about postnatal depression by Emma Jane Unsworth. I have a good friend who is currently dealing with the exhaustion and emotion of a colicky newborn, and we exchange tearful messages when I sent through this piece. It’s incredible writing, which brought back a flood of memories about my own early days as a mother. I believe so strongly that every single piece like this makes it easier for the next person to speak up and ask for help.

My Father’s Stack of Books by Kathryn Schulz. As a keen reader, I always love to learn about other people who keep towers of books around the house – what their motivations are, what books they love, and what words mean to them. This piece in the New Yorker is a really lovely reflection on the reading habits of the writer’s father.

Your New Bicycle by Sady Doyle. This is such a good piece of political writing! So good! It’s about why Beto O’Rourke’s brand of ‘cool’ politics is only available to male candidates.

When Your Body Says No by Christopher Solomon. My writer buddy Tracy Ross, someone who writes incredible pieces about outdoor life, shared this piece on Facebook. Tracy only ever shares pieces that are worth reading. This writing – about a runner who is suddenly hit by a physical breakdown – will stay with me for a long time.

Let me know which of these reads was your favourite, and if you have any suggestions for something you’ve loved that I’ve not included, please feel free to drop the link in the comments below.



Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

3 thoughts on “The best essays of 2019… so far!”

  1. Thank you for this: a wonderful and helpful idea. I’m so happy to hear that you read Malachy Tallack too: Gregory and I have just discovered him, after the two of them did a reading together in Aberdeen. I loved The Valley at the Centre of the World and feel he deserves to be much better known – though that applies to many writers.


      1. Yes, it was great! MT came over as incredibly thoughtful and insightful, just like his writing.


Leave a Reply to dorkymum Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s