It’s weird to think about the fact that receiving email used to be fun, that there was a time when we’d check our inbox with eagerness, rather than trepidation. Those days are long gone; now, there’s rarely anything that we look forward to reading that comes via email, not least because “email” has pretty much become synonymous with “work.”
But seeing as how checking our inboxes is something we must do, we’ve had to find ways to make it more enjoyable for ourselves, give ourselves little rewards for performing one of the many annoying duties of adult life. The main way we’ve chosen to treat ourselves is by signing up for a whole slew of email newsletters, which arrive with enough consistency to actually get us excited about scrolling through the seemingly endless number of emails we receive on a daily basis. There’s little doubt that we’ve been living in something of a golden age of the email newsletter for a while now (with everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Lena Dunham having one, maybe the golden age has even peaked?), but the best ones aren’t run by huge celebrities (although we won’t deny our love for, or at least real fascination with, GOOP and Lenny Letter). Rather they are products of independent writers and editors, who just so happen to be generous enough to share their thoughts and words for free to subscribers. So, you know, subscribe and learn to love email again. It’s not going away, so you might as well enjoy having to constantly check it.
The following are a selection of our current favorites newsletters, covering a lot of ground in terms of not only topics discussed but also tone. All of them have one thing in common, though: They make us want to read our email. And that is a special thing indeed.
Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim: Edim’s newsletter is an extension of her IRL book club (also called Well-Read Black Girl), which celebrates the work of and spreads the word about talented black women authors. Edim is an enthusiastic advocate for the work of writers who don’t always get mainstream media attention, and her own writerly voice is infectiously smart and vibrant. So much of what we read online these days is filled with snark and fatalism, it’s refreshing to get a regular dose of positivity from Edim, and a reminder that there’s tons of good work being done out there, and Edim can guide you to it.
My Second or Third Skin by Claire Carusillo: If you’re a beauty junkie who also happens to have a twisted, subversive sense of humor, well, you’re in for a treat. Carusillo consistently makes us laugh as she incisively describes everything from the type of person who relates to Liz Lemon (“When people compare themselves to Liz Lemon, they always act like they’re being self-deprecating because they like eating cheese and watching TV, but really they just want people to be like, ‘Wow, that’s so true. You are smart and funny, and also you’re conventionally attractive...‘”) to what she’s learned in the last few years (“I didn’t discover that alcohol had calories until I was 23 or that you can pay like 5 cents for admission to most museums in New York until I was 25″). She also makes us scramble to order the beauty products she recommends because she clearly knows what she’s talking about. (On the topic of REN Flash Rinse One Minute Facial: “I bought this!!! It’s... obviously still stupid-priced, and I have used it twice, three days apart from each other. It’s 10 percent vitamin C. I love it, though take my suggestion with an ‘hmm’ because I’ve only used it twice.”) Who knew beauty writing could be so funny and helpful? Now, we all do.
Grief Bacon by Helena Fitzgerald: One of my favorite essayists (read this and this and this, just to start), Fitzgerald writes on an approximately monthly basis on topics ranging from football to relationships started on the internet to the echoes of back-to-school feelings that we get long after we’ve graduated. Every letter is beautifully composed, and her elegant writing will stay with you long after you’ve closed that tab. Fitzgerald’s knack for writing about the things you’ve been thinking about, only putting your thoughts into far more lovely sentiments than you might be capable of, is a thing of wonder.
Crime Syndicate by Michelle Dean and Reyman Harmanci: This relatively new newsletter is exactly what we need, living as we do in 2016, the age of true crime obsessing. Each week, Dean and Harmanci will send you an email about a real-life crime that they think you’ll want to know about. How can you trust that their instincts are good? Well, both Dean and Harmanci are accomplished writers and editors, and Dean wrote this incredible, thoroughly reported, stranger than fiction murder story for BuzzFeed earlier this year, so you just know you’re in good editorial hands.
Coffee & TV by Ruth Curry: The title of this newsletter pretty much explains what it’s all about: coffee and TV, Curry’s “two favorite things in the world.” (Which, same.) The content of each installment is always smart, funny, and takes the reader places they weren’t necessarily prepared to go. Curry also happens to now be my favorite authority on television shows, thanks to her brilliant observations on everything from Bojack Horseman to Game of Thrones and Fleabag. Here she takes on I Love Dick:
I Love Dick takes place in 1993/94; the economic and social reality (especially vis a vis feminism) is completely different from today. Setting the show in the present decontextualizes the material conditions in a weird way I can’t quite wrap my head around, like a double anachronism. A female indie filmmaker of any small success visiting Marfa, TX in 2016 wouldn’t be immediately written off as a faculty wife the way the grad students (grad students!) dismiss Chris during the reception scene; the same indie filmmaker wouldn’t be tongue-tied when a man (ostensibly sophisticated, educated, etc.) challenges her to name some great female directors. She would be Over. It.
See? We need more of Curry’s writing in the world, in general, and in our inbox, for sure.
Opulent Tips by The Prophet Pizza: Do you think tweets should always be stylized in all-caps? Do you think NYC is over, but not for the reasons everyone else thinks it’s over, but, like, for real and good reasons? Do you love boring gossip about Leonardo DiCaprio and find it hilarious? Us too. This is why we love TPP’s newsletter, of which, we’ll admit, we’ve only read one installation, but it’s exactly the kind of irreverent insane hilarity that we need more of in our life. We bet you’ll feel the same.
Links I Would Gchat You If We Were Friends by Caitlin Dewey: Recommended by no less a person than David Carr, Dewey’s relatively long-running and frequently published newsletter is full of interesting information and tons of links to exactly the kind of stuff that you want to waste your work day reading. Like, ever wonder why the internet is so blue? Now you can easily find out.
My Feminism Involves Witchcraft by Haylin Belay: Feminism and witchcraft just so happen to be very aligned with our interests, so it’s no wonder we’re so invested in Belay’s newsletter “for magical thinkers,” in which she promises that “every installment [will] contain one spell or ritual alongside brief musings on life, resilience, self-care, and social justice.” Yes, please.
Mess Hall by Marian Bull: Centered around food, Bull’s newsletter covers topics like vegetarian sandwiches, eating alone, and making nut milk. Each letter is also, of course, about so much more than just the (reliably excellent) recipes included within. Here, then, is Bull on eating hard-boiled eggs in Mexico:
So here we are in a kitchen in Mexico, this friend and I, pulling out boiled eggs from his refrigerator to snack on before dinner, and I get myself all the way through a competent Spanish translation of “actually, it’s easier to peel an egg if you do it underwater!” just to be laughed at, ja ja. What’s the point, he said, I’m in no rush. Why should you care so much about pock marks on your boiled eggs, why should you worry so much about quickness. I assume there is no accurate way to translate the phrase “life hack” and why would you want to, other than to explain that, where I come from, people brag about using a straw to poke the stem out of a strawberry.
Now I’m off to think about the weirdness of “life hacks,” and what it is I’m even doing with my life for a while. Ahh!
Finding Doree by Doree Shafrir: Shafrir’s “Finding Doree” is, as she describes it, a “periodic newsletter of what I’ve been up to and stuff I love,” and while you might be like, Well, why do I want to read about what someone who I don’t know is up to? I’m here to tell you that you want to know because, like all great writers—epistolary or otherwise—Shafrir talks about her personal experiences in such a way that they’re generally engaging and can relate to your own life even when they don’t, you know, relate to your own life. Plus, she always links to really interesting stuff. Including her own writing, like this great piece she wrote about the new Bridget Jones movie.
Thank You Notes by Justin Wolfe: These lovely missives are something I look forward to every day. Wolfe describes this newsletter as being about “presentness as grace? IDK,” probably because it’s hard to sound too honest when it comes to describing gratitude without sounding overly earnest. But Thank You Notes is anything but self-serious and is a welcome respite from the rest of the internet’s (and our inbox’s) noise. It’s also a participatory newsletter in that you can tell Wolfe what it is you’re grateful for, and he might run it as a future installment.
Sign up for Thank You Notes here.
The Maris Review by Maris Kreizman: Beyond having one of the great newsletter names of all time, Kreizman’s Maris Review is a great resource for lit lovers (Kreizman is the editorial director of Book of the Month and creator of brilliant Tumblr Slaughterhouse 90210) because she frequently discusses and recommends books she’s reading, as well as literary events she is or would like to attend. Plus, she always ends the newsletter with a photo of her perfect pug, Bizzy. Which, I now realize, is how everyone should end every email: with a picture of a dog. The world would be a better place. Or at least, our inboxes would be.