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Top Stories of 2021

The ten most viewed pieces of the past year

Photo by Joyce McCown via Unsplash

As we head into a new year, one that marks the Oxford American’s thirtieth anniversary, we’re thrilled to look back at the most viewed stories of 2021. In many of these essays, our writers detail the music, food, and pastimes that helped them cope with long stretches of pandemic-induced isolation. The archival pieces on this list embody a shared restlessness, with essays from our Greatest Hits Music Issue tracing Nina Simone’s roots back to Tryon, North Carolina, or revisiting the OutKast record that rattled through college dorms in the late Nineties. These stories strive for connection—with ourselves, our history, and ultimately, with the communities where we make our home. Here’s to another year of good Southern writing. 

10. Chewing on Toothpicks by William Boyle

         “For me, chewing a toothpick now merely ignites memories of my grandfather. A map back to him unfolds.”

9. Nina Is Everywhere I Go by Tiana Clark

      “What does it mean to see yourself everywhere and not know where you come from?”

8. Dollhouse of Horrors by Mary Kay McBrayer

      “Nothing I cared about before really matters now, so I redirect my attention to the house.”

Miniatures by Mary Kay McBrayer. Photos by EWANG for Oxford American

7. Everybody Knows You When You're Down and Out by Amanda Petrusich 

       “Often her delivery of a line feels truly unprecedented, as if she has just invented a new way to sing.”  

6. Trash Food by Chris Offutt 

       “Strictly speaking, my food writing wasn’t technically about food.”  

5. Da Art of Storytellin’ (A Prequel) by Kiese Laymon

       “This was the stank from whence black Southern life, love, and labor came.”  

Illustration of OutKast by Adam Shaw


4. The Seeds We Keep  

       A film supplement to the Food Issue.

3. COVID Kitchen by Crystal Wilkinson

       “I stand in our kitchen straddled between past and present.”

2. Who Are You and What Are You Doing Here? by Mark Edmundson

      “Education is about finding out what form of work for you is close to being play.”

1. The Haunting of Lake Lanier by Anjali Enjeti

      “We were lucky. We had tempted fate, and survived.”

Illustration by Wesley Allsbrook

Oxford American

From the editors of the Oxford American.