Great writing comes in many shapes and sizes, from a single sentence of stunning lyricism or profound insight to an epic novel that captures a particular time and place in all its complexity, or an essay that succeeds as much because of its form as its content.
Important writing has a narrower spectrum. It’s less likely to be lyrical, or aesthetically pleasing, or experientially evocative. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a pleasure to read for a variety of other reasons: a good story, a compelling argument, clear language, a topic that matters, or an agenda that inspires.
Another key trait about important writing is that there is a lot of it. At least weekly, and often daily, I read articles I find important and meaningful. I usually tweet them, but not everyone is on twitter, and none of us should be on it all day long.
So starting today, I’m going to post lists of my favorite important articles of the previous two weeks. And just to be clear, I’m not saying these are the most important articles of the month, just ones that resonated for me. Also, for each I’ll mention 1-2 writing aspects I admire.
Here’s my list for the last two weeks:
– Death Takes a Weekend. Another moving, insightful essay by pediatrician-writer Perri Klass. New writers, especially new doctor writers, often think they have to move away from the story to really make their case. Klass shows how the story can make the case and do so powerfully and effectively.
– Dick and Jane Grow Up. A blog post on the Dr. Bill Thomas’ ChangingAging blog by writer, educator Jeanette Leardi. She smartly and creatively uses the Dick and Jane children’s books as a lens onto culture change and the language and stereotypes around aging. A new approach to a topic of ongoing importance.
– Medicare at 50 – Moving Forward. New England Journal of Medicine. This one is super important and broken down into bite-size morsels. But there’s a lot here and it’s long by 21st century standards so ‘harder’ to read than others on this list. (OK, I admit it. I haven’t finished this one yet…mea culpa)
– Dying Shouldn’t Be So Brutal. Terrific essay by palliative care doc Ira Byock, the first in a new NY Times series on end-of-life called The End. Great use of 1-line paragraphs for emphasis and nice mix of story and data. (And how cool is his website?)
– Health Care for the Homebound. This one is a blog post Q & A from the Commonwealth Fund and two incredible geriatricians. The format lets the reader see the topics by scanning questions and the brief answers are great for the attention span challenged.