Gustavo Ballvé on December 24th, 2010
Food for thought, Home, Mental models

Continuing a yearly tradition (see it here and here), here’s something to fill your Christmas holiday with great reading material: Kevin Kelly’s “The best magazine articles ever”. The top-25 listed right in the main post include some magnificent pearls of journalism and story-telling, some of which we highlight inside. However, the fact that one of the top-25 is extremely well-written and yet potentially very wrong – Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air”, as we’ve discussed here – is a great reminder that prose and fact don’t always travel together. Keep an eye out for bias, causality/ factual mistakes, incoherence and always seek the contrarian opinion. As we’ve said in our post linked above: “one must be prepared to hear all sides of the tale with an open mind… even if that means a constant ‘sparring’ of contradicting ideas in one’s mind. For every piece of hard-to-dig ‘evidence’ there’s likely a solid counter-argument that should be considered just as diligently.”

Highlights from the Top-25 articles:

* Neal Stephenson, “Mother Earth, Mother Board: Wiring the Planet.” Wired, December 1996. On laying trans-oceanic fiber optic cable (Kevin Kelly). — The Internet and dot.com boom was already under way, and Wired had already built its reputation for grandiose praise of the New Economy and all things online. Even so, taking the era’s best and most innovative science-fiction/ cyberpunk writer to accompany such an epic journey and report it produced a classic piece.

* Gene Weingarten, “Pearls Before Breakfast.” The Washington Post, Magazine, April 8, 2007. Joshua Bell is one of the world’s greatest violinists. His instrument of choice is a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius. If he played it for spare change, incognito, outside a bustling Metro stop in Washington, would anyone notice? (Kevin Kelly) — Absolutely brilliant article! We just wish the videos were longer, but they’re still interesting.

* David Foster Wallace, “Federer As Religious Experience.” The New York Times, Play Magazine, August 20, 2006. – Perfection rightfully praised, and yet Federer nowadays reminds us he’s human – and that we should temper expectations accordingly.

* David Kushner, “The Wizardry of Id.” IEEE Spectrum, August 1, 2002. – OK, this wasn’t in the Top-25, but it’s a classic subject for all 30- to 40-year-olds who have ever played a game by Id. A tale of creativity, genius, obsession and hubris.

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