What We Read This Year: 2015 Highlights

With nearly two million new posts published on WordPress.com each day, looking for editors’ picks is challenging but rewarding. Our team of editors has been busy like elves all year, compiling posts that you loved — and that we loved — from viral sensations to serendipitous finds.

This is not a definitive list, but rather a sampling of the delightful mix of work that we find each day. Enjoy — and do share posts from 2015 that have resonated with you in the comments.

Thoughtful takes on events around the world


We’re always curious about how writers in the WordPress community will respond to major news events and tragedies, from the mass shootings in the United States to the ongoing refugee crisis across Europe. We look for strong opinion pieces, but also considered and nuanced writing.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, Scott Long, the essayist at A Paper Birdexplained why he is not Charlie. At The Daily Thinkillustrator Laura Quick sketched her seven-year-old daughter’s reaction to radio commentary about the attacks.

"Charlie Hebdo: A Seven Year Old's Reaction" at Laura Quick's The Daily Think
“Charlie Hebdo: A Seven Year Old’s Reaction” at Laura Quick’s The Daily Think

In September, we rounded up other blogging voices on the refugee crisis.

At The Rahma Diaries, a blogger wrote a letter to a migrant mother, commenting on the desperate and dangerous conditions faced by refugees, many of whom are women and children:

You really must speak up, I’m struggling to hear you. I’m struggling to hear you through the blackness of that truck, through the gaping hole of that ebony mouth that seems to have swallowed you.

At SHESNOLADY, a Nottingham, UK-based writer has a more personal take on immigration, belonging, and identity in “A Foreigner at Home: When Your Accent Works Against You”:

To be constantly seen as an outsider, to be mistaken for a tourist in unfamiliar territory, is to be reminded that you don’t belong. For a person who grew up feeling that way, and came back to the country of my birth because I felt that I belonged here, this is a jarring and uncomfortable reminder.

For more commentary, explore the current events, commentary, and political commentary archives.

We came upon many posts in 2015 under the BlackLivesMatter tag, commenting on events in the US, from the Baltimore protests in April — which kicked off after the death of Freddie Gray — to the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

At Confessions of a Pseudo-Gaysian Suburban Dad, a father and teacher writes about life in New England with his husband and two kids, one black and one Latino. He published an open letter to a neighbor who had filed a complaint against his “Black Lives Matter” sign:

I wish I could talk to you face-to-face. I wish I could tell you why this sign means so much to my family.

Women’s voices on sexism and identity


Another recent noteworthy piece is Anne Thériault’s “Being a Girl: A Brief Personal History of Violence” at The Belle Jar.

In “The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About,” Gretchen Kelly describes the tactics women employ to navigate a world of sexism and harassment, encouraging women to tell their stories — and urging men to listen:

We are sexualized before we even understand what that means. We develop into women while our minds are still innocent. . . . We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives.

Explore our identity archive, with notable essays and personal perspectives on race, gender, religion, and more.

Actress Heather Matarazzo, who made her film breakthrough in Welcome to the Dollhouse 20 years ago, started a blog on WordPress.com and wrote a few pieces about her life and experiences in Hollywood. In a piece from the summer — “What’s in a Name?” — she explored the curiosity and fear that came when she secretly searched for her biological parents:

I’m 9 or 10 years old. I’ve snuck into my parents’ bedroom and am quietly walking across their carpet, praying that I don’t make a sound. I open their closet and find the brown metal box. . . . I lift the top up slowly. It doesn’t betray me by squeaking. I’m grateful. My little fingers search through the vanilla colored tabs labeled BILLS, LICENSES, etc., until I finally find the one I’m looking for: “FOSTER.”

Standout work from two photographers


Love photography? Dive into our photography recommendations.

Photographer Brad Trent, who blogs at Damn Ugly Photography, takes portraits that are anything but ugly — take a peek at his sessions with singer-songwriter Patti Smith or writer Gloria Steinem. One of our favorite photo essays from Brad features dancer Misty Copeland from the American Ballet Theatre, which includes behind-the-scenes shots:

Ballet dancer Misty Copeland, photographed in New York by Brad Trent in November 2014.
Ballet dancer Misty Copeland, photographed in New York by Brad Trent in November 2014.

Aaron Joel Santos, a photographer based in Southeast Asia, has also been busy this year, shooting on assignments across Thailand, Japan, India, New Zealand, and Vietnam. We loved his visual homage to Hanoi, the city he currently calls home. From vibrant street landscapes to black-and-white portraits, his ode to Hanoi shows the range of his work.

A farmer in Hanoi, Vietnam, photographed by Aaron Joel Santos.
A farmer in Hanoi, Vietnam, photographed by Aaron Joel Santos.
Portraits by Aaron Joel Santos.
Portraits by Aaron Joel Santos.

Three perspectives on health and the body


Discover writers with different styles in the essay, memoir, fiction, and nonfiction archives.

As we sifted through past editors’ picks, we were drawn to several pieces of personal writing and memoir on health and body image. In “Like a Hole in the Heart,” Sydney-based writer Sam Rodgers recounts his experience of having a stroke:

I was dealt my mortality moment right at the end. The seriousness of the stroke, and my blasé response came to a point. It became real.

At dearlilyjune, a mother writes to her daughter Lily to explain why she acts the way she does. In “Forgiving the Flesh — In Which I Recount the Ways My Body Has Betrayed Me,” she describes the breakdown of her body as she matured into a young woman, from battling autoimmune disorders and complications during pregnancy:

And so I tried to control the breakdown of the body with a buildup of vocabulary. I tried to hide my pain under a mountain of to-do items revolving around work and study. I tried, even with my hair falling out in patches, to again ignore my body. Unfortunately, the body will not be ignored forever.

Turning 40 this year, Felicia Sullivan at love.life.eat also penned a memorable personal piece on health, “What You Write On the Body,” in which she talks about the war waged on her own body — and later, her journey to a healthier life:

The past year has been about ripping off the bandaids and dealing with anxiety head-on and not using food as I once abused alcohol and drugs — as an anesthetic.

Two bold poems


Over the years, some of you have asked us to feature more poetry, so we’re building our poetry archive, and are happy to share a few poems here that moved us.

Lucia Lorenzi, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia, studies the aesthetics and politics of silence in narratives of sexual violence. In “One and Five Chairs,” she writes a powerful poem commenting on sexual assault and rape culture:

Weeks later, I learn that my scene partner has assaulted another woman in my class.
I want to say I am surprised,
but I know that he is well-rehearsed in his craft.

Nakinisowin is the personal blog of Billy-Ray Belcourt, a poet from the Driftpile Cree Nation and 2016 Rhodes Scholar-elect at the University of Alberta. In “Love and Other Experiments,” he shares a different kind of love poem:

1. He told me he was into natives, but he couldn’t love the traumas hidden in my breathing.

Academia, with splashes of humor


If you’re looking for something light, explore our humor picks. We loved, for example, math teacher Ben Orlin’s “Why I’ve Stopped Doing Interviews for Yale,” in which he describes his stint interviewing Yale University applicants during admission season, which he calls a “spectacularly crazy” process:

Being rejected by a university ought to feel like getting swiped left on Tinder. There’s nothing terribly personal about it. They don’t really know you. The university is just looking out for its own interests, and you don’t happen to fit into the picture.

One of Ben Orlin's typically bad drawings, from Math with Bad Drawings.
One of Ben Orlin’s typically bad drawings, from Math with Bad Drawings.

Science and comedy writer Dave Steele at Delight Through Logical Misery keeps the laughs coming with another favorite, “Does Sean Bean Always Die at the End?” In an engaging analysis mixing humor, popular culture, and statistics, Dave examines whether it’s actually true that actor Sean Bean always dies in films:

Sean Beans are most likely to die from being shot intentionally by a human or from being in the middle of their career trajectory.

Attention, word nerds: browse similar picks in the language archive.

For a final lighthearted pick, language lover Matt Davis at Word Jazz celebrates a big year for science fiction, from the 60th anniversary of Frank Herbert’s Dune to the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens, released this month. In “From ‘CHOAM’ to ‘Chewbacca’: 10 Ways to Create New Words for New Worlds,” he discusses how science fiction writers can create lands and universes with complex and sophisticated languages.

We’re excited to discover more excellent posts in 2016! In the meantime, explore our archive for more — and have a fantastic end of the year.

December 17, 2015Writing