Most Read in 2016
We don’t publish a lot of lists here on creativenonfiction.org. But at the end of every year we do like to take a look back at the stories that resonated with our readers.
In that spirit, we’ve compiled the most-read pieces published on our website in 2016, as well as the most-read work from our archives.
And for good measure, we’ve pulled together a few pieces worth an honorable mention; CNF content that was published elsewhere on the Internet; and the best advice, inspiration, and think pieces from some of our favorite publications.
If you enjoy what follows, please know that there's more where that came from. Less than 10 percent of CNF's content is available online.
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Top Stories from 2016
- I Survived the Blizzard of ’79
As the snow falls ever heavier and the temperature drops ever lower in the author's hometown, she ventures out into a world of white // BETH ANN FENNELLY
- In the Grip of the Sky
If you're wracked with joint pain, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows // SONYA HUBER
- The Math of Marriage
One simple equation compels the author to take a fifth trip down the aisle // ELANE JOHNSON
- Finding Truth in Technology
Five memoirists share their favorite tools for re-creating scenes and setting //SEJAL H. PATEL
- The Marrying Kind
Married for twenty years, happily divorced for six, the author vowed never to wed again—except in the role of officiant // JANE BERNSTEIN
- Before We’re Writers, We’re Readers
Fifteen contemporary writers of creative nonfiction discuss the nonfiction books they remember best from childhood and which influenced them as writers // RANDON BILLINGS NOBLE
New York Times obituary writer Margalit Fox has the last word // JANE MAHER
- How the Mind Works
The better we understand the brain's processes, the more artful our writing can be // DAVE MADDEN
- Writing Motherhood
Parenting blogs and magazines have become ubiquitous, but is the literature of motherhood still undervalued? // MARCELLE SOVIERO
- A Story We Tell Ourselves & Others
Finding inspiration in marriage memoirs // RANDON BILLINGS NOBLE
Top Stories from the Archive
- Picturing the Personal Essay
A visual guide // TIM BASCOM
- The Line Between Fact & Fiction
On borrowing the tools of novelists // ROY PETER CLARK
- How to Write Like a Mother#^@%*&
A conversation with Cheryl Strayed // ELISSA BASSIST
- The Same Story
Two young women, pregnant at the same time by the same man // SUZANNE ROBERTS
- Poetry & Science
A view from the divide // ALISON HAWTHORNE DEMING
- The “Five R’s” of Creative Nonfiction
Breaking down the essentials of the form // LEE GUTKIND
- True Empathy or Understanding Is Rare
A conversation with JUDITH BARRINGTON
- Believe It
Narrative credibility is in the eye of the beholder // SARAH SMARSH
- Man on the Tracks
When you watch a man on the tracks before an oncoming train, that’s exactly what you do: watch // ERIKA ANDERSON
- A Genre by Any Other Name?
The story behind the term creativenonfiction // DINTY W. MOORE
- Nature Mothers
From Rachel Carson to Cheryl Strayed, what women writers have found in the wild // VIVIAN WAGNER
Work originally from CNF but appearing elsewhere in 2016
- Hidden Stories and Historical Half Truths
Lies your ancestors told you // On history, heritage, and whitewashing // LITHUB
- The Suicide Memoir
True crime, mystery, and grief // A brief look at a dark genre // LITHUB
- I Invited Twelve People to Write about Their Mental Illnesses for the First Time
Here’s what happened next // WASHINGTON POST
- Pulling Your Hair Out Is Actually a Mental Illness
Here’s how I learned to stop doing it // WASHINGTON POST
- The Life of a Supermodel Sounds Glamorous
But I lived it—and it made me severely depressed // WASHINGTON POST
- On the Ethics of Writing About Your Children
Four nonfiction writers discuss how to navigate writing parenthood // LITHUB
- Dangerous [Language]
A young teacher tires of hearing “boys will be boys” // BRAIN, CHILD
- How I Helped Tell a Soldier’s Story
Jane Bernstein on finding the human detail in a memoir of war // LITHUB
- The Hidden History of Gas Station Bathrooms
By a man who cleans them // NARRATIVELY
- Larimer and Orphan
How the last Italian store on a forgotten street in Pittsburgh found a state of grace // PLACES JOURNAL
Our favorite stories from around the Internet
ADVICE & INSPIRATION
- How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity
On finding what you’re not seeking // NY TIMES
- Can Confessional Writing Be Literary?
On the challenges of writing about trauma // BREVITY
- What You Read Matters More Than You Might Think
Want to be a better writer? Read better // QUARTZ
- If You Just Keep Writing, Will You Get Better?
It’s complicated // JANE FRIEDMAN
- Can the Academic Write?
A conversation about style // THE AWL
- How to Be a Writer
Joy, suffering, reading, and lots and lots of writing // LITHUB
- Essay Is the New Black
What I learned from veteran writers at a panel on essays // THE WRITER
- Seven Ideas to Inspire and Improve Personal Essays
Advice from the NY Times // NY TIMES
- The Need to Read
Reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world, become a better person, and understand life’s questions, big and small // WALL STREET JOURNAL
- Consider the Lobster Mushroom
A brief theory of the craft of creative nonfiction // BREVITY
- Choose Your Own Memoir
Comic // GRANT SNIDER
THE STATE OF NONFICTION
- Print is the New “New Media”
On the resurgence of print publications // COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW
- How Stories Deceive
A look at the uses (and abuses) of narrative // NEW YORKER
- How to Win an Election
How candidates use the art of storytelling to help swing elections // NY TIMES
- Fiction v Nonfiction
English literature’s made-up divide // THE GUARDIAN
- Confessions of a Reluctant Memoirist
Why has an entire genre come to be defined by its worst iterations? // LITHUB
- Can the “Literary” Survive Technology?
Sven Birkerts on our changing brains and what comes next // LITHUB
- Do You Suffer from Memory Blindness?
The influence of others on what we remember // SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
- Where Are All the Women Writing Longform?
Roy Peter Clark checks the history of the Pulitzer Prizes // POYNTER
- The Dark Side of Longform Journalism
On waiting for the bad to happen // LITHUB
- When You Write a Memoir, Readers Think They Know You Better Than They Do
Dani Shapiro on the loneliness of the long-distance memoirist // NY TIMES
- Dealing in Uncertainty
The essay may be the perfect form for our time // LA TIMES
Our favorite non-fiction books of 2017 (so far) vary widely in format, tone and content, from Scaachi Koul’s humorous personal essays in One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter to David Grann’s damning reporting on a Native American tribe targeted by genocidal murderers in Killers of the Flower Moon. What these books have in common is the ability to compellingly take readers on journeys emotional, physical or historical.
Blind Spot, Teju Cole
The author annotates his own photography with short essays that read like prose poetry, ruminating on presence and absence, the concept of sight and the tie between light and shadow. Even when observing domestic scenes, Cole contemplates geopolitical affairs. The book isn’t out just yet, but set your pre-order for June 13.
Order it now
Somebody With a Little Hammer, Mary Gaitskill
In the novelist and short story writer’s first book of non-fiction, she brings her razor-sharp prose to reviews, personal essays and other pieces that cover her experiences in life, from surviving rape to the Republican National Convention.
Buy it now
MORE:Best Paperbacks of 2017 So Far
Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann
TheLost City of Z author reports on the Osage nation of Oklahoma, a group that had grown wealthy from the oil on their reservation — in the 1920s, the Native American tribe was the richest population per capita in the world. As they began to be murdered, one by one, the mystery spurred a nascent FBI to investigate.
Buy it now
One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, Scaachi Koul
In a series of heartfelt, clever essays, Koul reflects on her life as an anxious young Indian-Canadian woman. She pokes fun at others and herself; for instance on people who try to “find” themselves through travel, she writes, “No one finds anything in France except bread and pretension, and frankly, both of those are in my lap right now.”
Buy it now
MORE: Best Fiction Books of 2017 So Far
The Rules Do Not Apply, Ariel Levy
At age 38, Levy thought she could have it all; that the women of her generation had risen above the rules that governed their mothers’ lives. But after losing a baby, her marriage and her home in a matter of months, as she recounts in this artful, moving memoir, she had to reassess life’s possibilities.
Buy it now
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