New Yorker Classics That Resonated In 2020

This has been a strange year to be an archivist, a role that seeks to illuminate the present by excavating the past. Typically, my routine consists of unearthing pieces that allow readers to experience some measure of diversion or quiet reflection amid the hubbub of the world swirling around them. This year, it was the world that seemed, at times, to stand still. As many of us began working remotely, the fundamentals of my job shifted. Living through such an extraordinary time has expanded my work in surprising and meaningful ways. In July, The New Yorker published a dissent-themed Archival Issue that reflected the growing calls for change resounding across the globe. The urgent nature of the pandemic and life under quarantine elicited new examinations of past pieces about outbreaks of disease, such as Richard Preston’s “Crisis in the Hot Zone” and Michael Specter’s “Nature’s Bioterrorist.” James Baldwin’s “Letter from a Region in My Mind” drew an upswell of interest during the marches for racial justice over the summer, as my colleague Michael Luo has noted. It turns out that, for many, there’s been more time to spend on archival spelunking—alighting on themes both familiar and further afield—when there’s very little chance of being interrupted by in-person office meetings and social commitments.

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