Incredibly, we’re already in the final days of 2015, and it’s time once again to begin the end-of-the-year traditions on this site. In years past I’ve given “Blog Awards” for the best, most interesting and engaging blogs I read during the preceding year. This year, which found a community of wonderful bloggers whom I read and whose stuff I consistently share, I’ve decided to present my favorite individual blog articles from 2015 that I think are worth looking at again. I tried to narrow it down to ten, but simply couldn’t do it! I’ve thus chosen these posts–the writings of the bloggers whose material engaged and intrigued me the most–as worth another look at the close of the year. Most, though not all, of them I reblogged on my own site because they reflect interests I have or like to share here. If you missed them on their original go-by, here’s another chance to read them.
In chronological order, here are my Best of Everyone Else’s Blogs from 2015:
In The Beginning There Were 12 Byzantine Rulers… (If It Happened Yesterday It’s History, February)
Robert Horvat, a frequent contributor to this site, runs two of his own blogs which have appeared consistently in my “best of” lists. In this article from February Robert interviewed Byzantine historian Lars Brownworth, who brought the history of the Byzantine empire to a new generation with his highly acclaimed “12 Byzantine Rulers” podcast series. Robert has also scored interviews with various other Byzantine historians, all of which are interesting and illuminating.
Holdout Buildings That Survived The Bulldozer (Ephemeral New York, March)
Ephemeral New York is a wonderful blog that brings us the vanished history of America’s largest city, through architecture, art and geography. This post details some of the most amazing stories of buildings that should have been torn down long ago, but have stubbornly managed to survive into the modern age. A fascinating subject, this is one of Ephemeral New York’s best-ever articles.
The 1910 Great Flood of Paris (If It Happened Yesterday It’s History, March)
Robert Horvat scores again with a really interesting and in-depth look at a natural and environmental disaster that swept the French capital in 1910. While Robert’s prose and scholarship are high quality enough, it’s the photos that really push this article over the top. I learned a great deal about this disaster, which I hadn’t known about before. This is the mark of a great history blog, if it teaches you something.
Distinctly Emasculated (Cody Delistraty, April)
This really is one of the most thoughtful and fascinating blog posts I read in 2015. New York writer and historian Cody Delistraty gives us a fascinating analysis of the currents of masculinity, sexuality and homoeroticism in the works and friendship of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. I guarantee this is a look at these classic writers’ work that you have never seen before. Incredibly thoughtful and inventive article!
Julian the Apostate (The History of the Byzantine Empire, May)
Horvat’s doing all the dishes! Here he is on his other blog, dedicated specifically to Byzantine history. This is the first of what became a three-part series on the life and reign of Byzantium’s only non-Christian emperor, Julian, usually known as Julian the Apostate. The analysis of the political and religious factors in this troubling period of the 4th century is very prescient.
A Night at the Castle (Critical Dispatches, May)
I found this article from Richy Dispatch’s “Critical Dispatches” blog a very interesting departure from what I normally share here. Here is a very vivid and literary rumination on a specific London pub which is, as you’ll see, less than inviting! The descriptions, dialogue and atmosphere of this piece is really vivid, and it’s not the type of thing you see on a blog very often.
Saturday at Salubria (Jaunting Jen, May)
Jaunting Jen, one of my all-time favorite bloggers, was pretty quiet during 2015 but when she spoke up she had a lot to say. Her profile of an 18th century estate in Culpeper County, Virginia called Salubria is filled with great descriptions, lovely photos and her usual personal you-are-there feel for a historical place that has consistently marked her blog as one of the best history and travel blogs you’ll ever see. Really outstanding work.
Wrecked Truck Became “The Terminator” (ThorNews, May)
ThorNews is another incredibly fun blog I just can’t get enough of, bringing us off-beat stories from Norway that usually have a historical or cultural angle. This one is just too cool not to share. It’s the story of one Jan Smiebakken, a Norwegian science fiction buff who turned parts from a wrecked truck into a stunning replica of the killer robot from the film The Terminator. If I had to make an even shorter list of my favorite blogs from 2015 this would be on it!
The Theater District’s 1982 Broadway Massacre (Ephemeral New York, June)
Ephemeral New York gets on the scoreboard again, this time with a sad story of what turned out to be a mass demolition of various historic theaters in the Broadway district, all of which dated from the first two decades of the 20th century. This article brings out the historical and architectural heritage of the city and illustrates how easily it can be lost, especially in big thriving cities like New York.
The Historic Consequences of Rainy Summers (Anna Belfrage, July)
This article caught my eye because it deals with climate change and climate history, two things I care a lot about (and which involve my academic work as well). Anna Belfrage often blogs about the history of Sweden, and in this article she connected climate events to a surge in immigration out of Sweden in the latter part of the 1860s. I was not familiar with this event, so Anna’s article taught me something I didn’t know–always the mark of a good history blog!
Tri-Tip Beef With Sugar Snap Peas (AnotherFoodieBlogger, August)
I follow several food and wine blogs, and a great thing about them is when they help you discover a new recipe or wine that you’ve never had before but really end up liking. That was the case with Kathryn (AnotherFoodieBlogger) in August who showed us how to throw together a very tasty and easy Asian dish that pleases every time. Food blogs are among the toughest kind of blog to keep fresh and interesting, but they’re also among the most fun to read, and this is a great example of a success in that category.
800-Year-old “Gay Graffiti” Carved on the Nidaros Cathedral (ThorNews, August)
Who carved “Lars is Peter’s Butt” in runes on a stone in a Trondheim cathedral built centuries ago? ThorNews tells us that experts believe a gay priest did it, and that he was referring to his boyfriend. This charming story is exactly the kind of off-beat but fascinating thing that ThorNews does so well. In a year that saw a lot of gains for LGBT rights, this was a fun and heartening story you wouldn’t have seen on a blog even a few years ago.
Alex’s Farm: On Time, Space and Going Places (HistoryLinksDornoch, September)
Here’s another unusual article, kind of like “A Night at the Castle,” that’s more narrative and evocative than it is straight history or raw information. History Links Dornoch is a small blog that deals with local history of a specific region of Scotland, but the kind of thing they do is very thought-provoking and fascinating. This account of a visit to a historic farm strikes a tone I really like, and it’s a good example of how history blogs can push the envelope and present their subjects in unique and innovative ways.
When Political Parties Implode: The Battle over the Lecompton Constitution and Its Relevance Today (Padre Steve, October)
Last year I gave Padre Steve, a historian who often tackles complex subjects in politics and religion as well as history, a well-deserved award. This magnificent article from October is one of the most lucid and informative historical analyses I read in 2015, highlighting events from the 1850s pre-Civil War implosion of the Democratic Party over slavery-related issues and linking them to modern political events involving today’s deeply troubled Republican Party. If you’re not reading Padre Steve’s blog regularly, hopefully this article will get you to start.
Film Club: The Shining (What About The Twinkie, October)
Film Club is an ongoing series where a slate of movie bloggers get together to discuss a pre-selected film. October’s was the classic 1980 film The Shining, perhaps the best horror movie ever made, and the various opinions and analyses represent the very best of what film blogging has to offer. As a result of this article I saw things in the film I’d never noticed before and it left me with a lot to think about. This is a masterful example of how blogging can really open up the intellectual dimensions of modern cinema.
Bypassing WordPress’s “New” Interface–Bye Bye Beep Beep Boop (Serendipity, November)
In addition to offering cool insights and information, it’s great when a blog can provide you with something you can really use. I discovered Marilyn Armstrong’s terrific Serendipity blog as a result of this article, which presents a very useful technical solution to completely circumventing the dreadful new article-creation interface unveiled–to an almost unanimous chorus of derision from users–by WordPress in October. If you’re on WordPress and hate the new interface, this article tells you how you can banish it forever with a few easy clicks.
A Humble Thank You (RockinRed, December)
This is a great one to end on. It’s terrific to see your friends and colleagues get the recognition they deserve, and when wine blogger Michelle Williams’s site was named one of the Top 100 Most Influential Wine Blogs by Exel Wines, it felt like a tremendous win for all of us who have read and loved her stuff for a long time. As I’ve said before a blog really is a community, and a blog’s readers and fans have as much right to share in the limelight as does its author and proprietor. In this article from December Michelle celebrates her train coming in by making sure everybody gets a ride. This is exactly how the blogging world should work.
Although it’s so tough to pick the “best of the best” since I read so many awesome blogs, I love it when I’m able to showcase some of the truly exceptional work being done out there by writers on so many different and interesting subjects. Congratulations to all the hard-working bloggers for providing some great stuff during 2015, and here’s to another year where we all hope you keep at it. Have a great New Year!