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Tis the season for lists, friends.

Lists tend to get a bad rap in journalism, but consider that there are no small lists, just small writers.

I get a lot of good feedback at VOSD events about the reading lists I put together each week with stories from outside outlets.

So for this final column of 2019, I wanted to create a little list of some of the best things I read this year, both journalism and novels.

Stories

Jeff Bezos is an unlikely candidate to have written one of my favorite stories this year. But his open letter to the owner of the National Enquirer, calling out the paper’s attempt to blackmail him, was both jaw-dropping and an actual act of service.

This essay about the unconscious bias at work in the presidential election is as true as it was six months ago when it was written, and rips to shreds the myth of “electability.”

The New York Times produced three gorgeous and infuriating video op-eds by three brave women and onetime Nike athletes – Alysia Montaño, Allyson Felix and Mary Cain – describing how the company mistreated and discriminated against them.

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project for the New York Times Magazine is something they’ll teach in both history and journalism classes for years to come.

Police officers across the country are members of racist and white nationalist Facebook groups, Reveal discovered.

This Paris Review essay was the most beautiful thing I read all year.

Books

I read 20 books this year (hit me up on Goodreads!). These were the best ones.

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

I read a lot of heavy books this year that dealt with ugly issues like assault and racism. This might have been the heaviest. That might not sound like an endorsement, but it was also haunting and memorable.

Fleischman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

I was curious about whether Brodesser-Akner, one of the country’s best profile writers, could translate her warm, hilarious, absorbing style into a novel. She can.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Most of the reviews of this book have focused on how Miller was able to reclaim the narrative of being the high-profile victim of a sexual assault by a onetime Stanford athlete. I want to focus on something else. This is the arrival of a formidable author on the national stage. I would read an Ikea instruction manual if it was written by Miller.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

The shorthand description most outlets have used for this book is that it’s a study of female desire. But desire isn’t what comes to mind when I try to describe it. What comes to mind is grief, agency and the ways women’s lives are shaped and limited by the men around them.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Whitehead’s previous novel, “The Underground Railroad,” was about the brutality of slavery and yet somehow I found this book even more devastating. Again, I know that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement but just trust me, it’s also good, OK?

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

This book was the perfect antidote after so many heavy, gut-wrenching reads. It’s warm and lovely and the only time it had me truly sad was when it was over.

What VOSD Learned This Week

This is the time of year we tend to look back and reflect on what we’ve produced as a staff – both because it’s useful to take stock, and because, y’know, we need content.

I broke down the biggest ways our reporting impacted the city and state this year. The staffers each reflected on their favorite stories of the year. And we put together our favorite photos of the year.

Charter schools had a particularly rough year in San Diego and at the state level – and it’s not clear what the future holds.

Meanwhile, looking forward, none of the candidates for mayor is 100 percent committed to the city’s new homelessness plan.

Line of the Week

“‘Do you have all three phones?,’ his bodyguard said as Giuliani stepped out of the car. ‘Yeah, I got all three phones,’ he said. ‘I gotta get down to two. I’m gonna try that tonight.’ A few minutes later, as we made our way downtown, I saw from the corner of my eye the sun reflecting off of something. It was the screen of one of the phones, which he had left on the seat next to me.” – I would read a book about Olivia Nuzzi’s encounters with “cybersecurity expert” Rudy Giuliani.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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