Throughout the month, before we don our 2020 novelty glasses and ring in the new year, we’re looking back at some of our top pieces of the decade. Cheers to a great ten years, and here’s to many more.


Weather Reports: Voices from Xinjiang

Ben Mauk

Untold stories from China’s gulag state. 

“Chinese officials initially denied the existence of mass internment camps in Xinjiang. Since 2018, they have described them as vocational and educational centers for ‘criminals involved in minor offenses.’ But leaked documents suggest that residents are targeted for detention en masse based on their ethnic background, religious practices, and any history of traveling abroad. According to one internal report by Xinjiang’s agriculture department, the drive has been so thorough that ‘all that’s left in the homes are the elderly, weak women, and children.'”


The Empathy Exams

Leslie Jamison

A medical actor writes her own script.

“Empathy isn’t just remembering to say That must really be hard, it’s figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing.”


Toward a Pathology of the Possessed

Esmé Weijun Wang

Schizophrenia’s effects are often discussed in metaphors. What is it like to live with those metaphors?

“It is disconcerting for anyone to be told that her brain is being damaged by an uncontrollable illness. It might have been especially disconcerting to me because since childhood my brain was one of my more valuable assets.”


Peter Matthiessen

Jonathan Meiburg


This interview with the writer, thinker, activist, and naturalist, was conducted a month before his death and published posthumously.

“The great penalty for whatever we do is knowing that we’re going to die. There’s no other animal that knows that. They never do. Even the ones that are scarce and rare, if they don’t feel good, they just get up under a rock so that they’re not preyed upon so easily. But we’re the only one that knows…it’s curtains.”


Mindy Kaling

Kathryn Borel

The comedian, writer, actor and then-executive producer of The Office on catharsis in comedy and making her parents laugh.

“I would be the first to admit that I have incredibly high, ambitious standards for my life and my career, and I’ve had those my entire life. It’s something that was just instilled in me by my parents. In some ways, if I didn’t have that kind of confidence or the feeling that I was a little bit special, I don’t think I’d have the job I have now.”


What Happens There

John D’Agata

Aside from heart attacks, strokes, and three types of cancer, the thing most likely to kill you in Las Vegas is yourself.

“More people kill themselves in Las Vegas ­every year than in any other place in America. People kill themselves in Las Vegas so often, in fact, that one has a better chance of killing oneself in Vegas than of being killed there, despite the fact that Las Vegas is also one of the most dangerous cities in which to live, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report.”

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