2012. The not-very-definitive list.


Everyone does it, I know, but there’s been some really interesting stuff around this year and I wanted to collate some of it.

The death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin sparked a debate about race, violence and guns. Months later another teen died in similar circumstances. Here, David Simon, creator of The Wire, and author of two of the best books I’ve read – Homocide and The Corner – discusses the “ugly” world of American justice.

Do we judge ourselves by how we treat our children? Probably we should at least consider what it says about us. This story in Rolling Stone is a heartbreaking look at the town that hates its gay teens.

This American Life is always fabulous, but here, just days before the over-hyped, over-reported United States Presidential election the acclaimed radio show drilled down into the serious chasm between Democrats and Republicans. It’s really fascinating. And it managed to explore new ground in a crowded field of election reportage.

How much money did they spend on that election? Too much. And here’s how – this Atlantic article on the new era of big money in American politics walks you through it.

And this New York Magazine story on Obama and the Clintons was a great insight into the complicated relationship between the two most recent Democrat presidents. .

Imagine talking down a killer, who was the only person in the world who knew where you were – with them. This woman narrowly escaped a serial killer trucker in the 1980s, and she wrote about it for GQ.

What happens when the kids get asked to grade their schools? The Atlantic took a good look, with illuminating results.

If your church asked you to dump your boyfriend and take up with a movie star, would you? One woman reportedly did. The movie star? Tom Cruise. The details are all here, in Maureen Orth’s Vanity Fair cover story in the wake of the TomKat split.

“In their assault on the standards of mainstream women’s magazines, Jezebel’s editors seemed determined to prove their aptitude for bad behavior—and not bad meaning titillating, but meaning reckless, abrasive, or just disgusting.” A thoughtful take on online women’s mags.

Stephen Colbert! Would we have survived US election season without him (and Jon Stewart)? Clever, delicious comedy. Here’s a great profile of the man himself in the New York Times Magazine.

GQ’s walk through of the Norway massacre of 2011 is thorough, meticulous reporting.

As a cat owner, I devoured this excellent and fascinating story about a cat parasite that might just be making us all crazy. Am I crazy? Probably. But I don’t think it’s the cat’s fault.

Oh my God, New York Times, your take on data journalism is always impressive, original and compelling. But this package is something else. Just amazing.

My great friend Aubrey Belford is hands down one of the best journalists around. He did some amazing work this year, but this story on how the Australian government is stopping refugees leaving conflict zones to help solve a political problem was a standout, and a must read for every Australian.

Elmo Keep went mad over the summer, and then she wrote about it for Meanjin. An early favourite of mine, this remains one of the best things I’ve read in 2012.

And Lena Dunham’s ode to her friend and mentor Nora Ephron on her death was the best eulogy I’ve read in a long time. Thoughtful, honest, warm and a joy to read.

Smart, interesting and challenging: Women writers. Rebecca Giggs in Overland on women who write and how we think about them and their work (being one herself, I think she’s well qualified).

Big Sugar. Not so sweet after all.

Ryan Lizza, my pick of US political journalists, on the Republican Party’s demographics problem.

A wonderful essay on the politics of the gay rights movement in the US.

I’m not big on celebrity gossip, and I have little to no time for the Twighlight tweens and their obsessive love of the series’ stars, but this piece by Jodie Foster on childhood in the spotlight and the trappings of fame is quite interesting.

Science can make you trust me. No, really. Trust me.

Everyone and their dog read this article and had an opinion on it. Mine? I reject the premise. Women “having it all” is a bullshit idea. Men don’t “have it all” either. We all need to adjust our expectations of what “all” is, and build a society where men and women can make equal choices about their families and careers. But, it’s definitely one of the must-reads of 2012.

Nick Bryant is an astute observer of Australian politics and culture, and this essay on Gina Rinehart is a great insight into our most fascinating and eccentric billionaire (yes, even more fascinating than Clive).

And of course, Wayne Swan’s shot across the bow at the woman herself, and her peers in the obscenely-rich club is also not-to-be-missed (or forgotten).

Fairfax’s crack environment team pulled together this read on global warming, and what the world might look like in 2100.

Chris Johnson is a beautiful writer, and one of Australia’s best chroniclers of our social history – if newspapers are the first draft, Chris gives the historians some wonderful bones. Anyway, I loved this on milkbars.

Some thoughts on how the One Percent should be more selfish, from Joseph Stiglitz.

And finally, I love her – despite the fact she’s younger than me, much more successful than me, and a resident of NYC. This is what Lena Dunham learned from 2012. I don’t think it’s profound, or even particularly insightful. But she’s right about her dad being right about hard work. That’s the thing about dads – they are often, annoyingly, right.

This list leaves out a lot of things, and a lot of major stories of the year. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more comprehensive. I’ve tried to pick the stuff that kept on standing out, even months after I first read it. I’ve tried to pick the things that stood out for their clarity or their ideas, not just because they were the best version of the big story.

Have a wonderful, safe, joyful New Year – may your 2013 be everything you hope for.


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