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What Writers and Editors Are Reading: February 2023

What wellness means when you’re living with an incurable disease, why everyone feels like they’re faking it, and how colleges support formerly incarcerated students: Catch up on the best recommendations from the writers and editors we love.

Pocket Collections

Read when you’ve got time to spare.

Every month at Pocket, we ask our favorite writers and editors to share their good taste and discerning reading habits with us. They tell us the best pieces—both new and old—they’ve read this past month, and we share them with you. It’s like being in a group chat with all the writers you love, swapping links of great pieces and why they loved them.

Our January edition included articles on fixing violins and figuring out New York city rents. It’s a similarly fun and varied mix this month, with stories on menopause, Madonna’s face, the greatest quarterback of all time, and so much more.

Image by Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

Madonna’s Face Is Not Subversive

Jessica DeFino
The Unpublishable

Recommended by Rebecca Seal: “You should read this even if you think you don’t care about Madonna’s face (tbh, I don’t care about Madonna’s face). Because the thing about Madonna’s face—as Jessica De Fino so brilliantly explains here—is that it’s not about Madonna’s face. It’s about the socially constructed morality of beauty. It’s about the ethics of ageing so-called ‘well.’ It’s about how we control women and how we are set up to fail regardless of what we do, or how we look or choose to look.”

Read Rebecca’s piece “Be Bad, Better – From Anger to Laziness, How to Put Your Worst Habits to Good Use” which was one of Pocket’s great advice articles last year.

Performance as Immolation

Matthew Aucoin
The New York Review of Books

Recommended by Jesse Barron: “After reading approximately ninety-thousand stories about the fictional conductor Lydia Tar, I got curious about the working methods and inner lives of people who wield the baton in real life, so this graceful piece on the German-Argentine conductor Carlos Kleiber was an intriguing find. I’m the kind of person who couldn’t tell his mass from his oratorio (I had to google those terms even to write this sentence), but Matthew Aucoin is such a welcoming writer, my ignorance doesn’t matter.”

Read Jesse’s piece “A Tinder Revenge Story” which featured in Pocket’s best long reads of 2022.

Women Have Been Misled About Menopause

Susan Dominus
The New York Times

Recommended by Jaime Stathis: “Menopause shouldn’t be a mystery, and yet it is. I’m so glad this important part of life is finally seeing some press. And this: ‘Menopause could represent a time when women feel maximum control of our bodies, free at last from the risk of being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy. And yet for many women, menopause becomes a new struggle to control our bodies, not because of legislation or religion but because of a lack of knowledge on our part, and also on the part of our doctors. Menopause presents not just a new stage of life but also a state of confusion. At a time when we have the right to feel seasoned, women are thrust into the role of newbie, or worse, medical detective, in charge of solving our own problems.’”

Read Jaime’s article “How to (Ethically) Get Rid of Your Unwanted Stuff,” which featured in Pocket’s great advice collection last year.

The New AI-Powered Bing Is Threatening Users. That’s No Laughing Matter

Billy Perrigo

Recommended by Michelle Drouin: “Some leaders in tech have proclaimed AI to be the most important invention of our time, but is there peril looming? The author suggests that in order to fix the problems of chatbots threatening humans, AI needs to be aligned with ‘human values.’ But isn’t open source AI doing just that—unearthing human values? This is an important thought piece for anyone who will ever be touched by the internet.”

Read Michelle’s piece “The Time Hack Everyone Should Know” which was one of Pocket’s most read articles in 2022.

Why Everyone Feels Like They’re Faking It

Leslie Jamison
The New Yorker

Recommended by Kari Paul: “A compelling piece from Leslie Jamison offering some cultural context on the concept of imposter syndrome, questioning whether it has become means of shifting the blame of systemic discrimination onto those who experience it and asking ‘if everyone has it, does it exist at all?’”

Read Kari’s piece “Slobbing out and Giving Up: Why Are So Many People Going ‘Goblin Mode’?” which featured in Pocket’s 2022 collection of stories that lived in our heads rent-free.

The Number Ones: Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”

Tom Breihan

Recommended by Dan Moore: “I’m thoroughly addicted to Tom Breihan’s ‘Number Ones’ column on Stereogum, in which he breaks down, in delightful prose and precise history, the making and impact of Billboard #1s. Really you could pick any entry, but recently I was taken by his write-up on ‘Hey Ya,’ by Outkast. Come for his incisive take on an important piece of music history. Stay for his just fantastic writing.”

Read Dan’s piece “What Do Cities Lose When They Lose Pro Sports?” which featured in Pocket’s best sports articles of 2022.

Everything Is Hyperpolitical

Anton Jäger
The Point

Recommended by Derek Robertson: “In this essay the political historian Anton Jäger proposes we’re living in an era of ‘hyper-politics,’ in which the superficial, self-obsessed ‘post-politics’ of the 1990s and 2000s have been replaced with...a superficial, self-obsessed fixation on political issues, using a handful of French novelists as his guides. Heady stuff, but worth it.”

Read Derek’s piece “‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Is America’s Cry for Help ,” which featured in Pocket’s collection of stories that lived rent-free in our heads last year.

To Patients, Herpes Can Be Devastating. To Many Doctors, It’s Not a Priority.

Dani Blum
The New York Times

Recommended by Hope Reese: “It was so refreshing to read something about the incredibly common—yet highly stigmatized and misunderstood—condition of living with herpes. There are few pieces that address the psychological affects of this particular diagnosis, and it was a brave to tackle this subject from this perspective.”

Read Hope’s piece “A Neurologist’s Tips to Protect Your Memory” which was one of Pocket’s most read articles in 2022.

“Revolutionary” Housing: How Colleges Aim to Support Formerly Incarcerated Students

Gail Cornwall
The Nation

Recommended by the author: “With a change to federal financial aid eligibility policy, a wave of formerly incarcerated students is likely to arrive on college campuses across the U.S. A significant percentage of them will face such substantial barriers that they won’t return for a second semester. That’s a loss for society, for formerly incarcerated individuals, and for the college communities to which they would otherwise have made valuable contributions.”

Read “Stop Venting! It Doesn’t Work.” by Gail and Juli Fraga which featured in Pocket’s best great advice articles of 2022.