Each week, I share some of the most interesting articles I’ve come across in the past seven days. This week is a special year-end’s edition of lists. Enjoy.
PS: Inclusion does not mean endorsement.
World & Politics
Brexit was not stopped, populists made smaller gains than expected in May’s European parliament elections, and the S&P 500 beat our — and most other people’s — expectations. Along with Brazilian growth falling below the year before, the FT’s forecasting team got those predictions wrong for 2019, though Philip Stephens last year admitted he offered his forecast that Brexit would be reversed “as much in hope as expectation”. (Financial Times)
China’s designs in space, a drought crisis in southern Africa, and other stories you may have missed during this year’s chaotic and nonstop news cycle. (Foreign Policy)
Our editors’ top picks from print and web. (Foreign Affairs)
Our annual “country of the year” award celebrates improvement. Each December, therefore, we give a hostage to fortune. The places that climb furthest are often those that started near the bottom: poor, ill-governed and unstable. Freshly won democracy and peace do not always last, as Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar (The Economist’s country of the year in 2015) ended up reminding the world when she appeared recently at the International Court of Justice in The Hague and glossed over the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority, by her country’s soldiers. (The Economist)
Business & Economics
As the days grow shorter and the weather gets colder, what’s better than curling up inside with a good book? So, we’ve compiled our Winter Reading List — our biannual recommendations of what to read (you can see the summer version of our list here, and last winter’s here). There are 48 picks this winter (not including books we authored, though we highly recommend those too!).
This list covers the gamut, with an economic exploration of our planet’s hopes and the role of tech — the only repeat on this year’s list — to a grand yet grounded exploration of trees to personal essays, memoirs, and stories of family, tragedy, and relationships… the full range of human experience. (Andreesen Horowitz)
Here’s what had business leaders, scholars, and scientists talking this year. Expect these trends and challenges to evolve in 2020. (MIT Sloan)
‘Tis the season for “best of” lists, so we looked back at our year in Management Tip of the Day newsletters to share some of our favorite quick and practical pieces of work advice. Here’s our top 10. (Harvard Business Review)
Call them the comeback kids of the 2010s. Some of these brands failed and recovered. Others returned from oblivion. All of them were riding high by the time the decade closed. (Ad Age)
Science & Technology
Reviews of the essential science reads this year. (Nature)
It was a decade when billions of dollars were thrown at tech companies, and yet many of the promises those companies made never materialized, blew up in our faces or were indefinitely delayed. And while tech failures are nothing new, taken together they brought the innovation industrial complex closer to earth and made us all a bit more realistic — if less fun. (Washington Post)
From disappearing kelp to small hydropower dams, experts identify the trends that will affect the Earth’s ecosystems. (Scientific American)
When it came to space, there were plenty of successes to celebrate in 2019. China landed a spacecraft on the far side of the moon for the first time in human history. NASA’s New Horizons probe did a fly-by of the most distant object a human-made spacecraft has ever visited. A Japanese spacecraft retrieved samples from an asteroid’s surface––twice. It even shot a bullet into the asteroid to make an artificial crater. SpaceX launched its new crew vehicle to the International Space Station … without a crew, sure, but still, a step in that direction. The company also debuted the first prototype of its Starship. (MIT Tech Review)
Culture & History
So this year, The Conversation US jumped on a great idea dreamed up by our colleagues in Australia and launched a series of articles meant to answer questions kids ask, but that everyone probably wonders about. The Conversation’s editors collect children’s questions and then look for scholars who can provide clear answers based on their own research and expertise. (The Conversation)
Over the past 10 years, thousands of movies have hit the world’s multiplexes. It’s nearly impossible to watch, let alone review, all of them. Yet, looking back over the past decade, it’s easy to recall the ones that left indelible marks. The ones that caused audiences to leave the theater gobsmacked (or heartbroken, or mind-blown). For us at WIRED, this list (in chronological order) represents those movies. Not everything here is a genre film—our specialty—but there are probably more sci-fi, fantasy, and comic-book movies here than on any other best-of roundup. Good. We love this stuff. Hope you do too. (WIRED)
When I wrote up the event for my end-of-year summary, I included a sentence from Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves,” one that has become a kind of mournful mantra: “One cannot live outside the machine for more perhaps than half an hour.” (The New Yorker)
The shows below are emblematic of the year 2019, each a different version of what humans sound like or of what preoccupies our minds. Each has, in its own way, raised the bar for excellence in audio storytelling. Here’s to this year’s Top 50—and the 51 percent of Americans listening. (As usual, we’ve recused The Atlantic’s shows from the list.) (The Atlantic)