Best of 2016

December 18, 2016

It's December and time again for the annual media ritual — the best of list. We're sharing the best of the best of To the Best of Our Knowledge. 2016, the year in interviews.

  1. Best of 2016: Building a Mosque in America

    Rehman here. This story quite literally hit close to home for me. I grew up just about an hour away from the suburb it takes place in, and until working on this story, I never would have imagined that building a mosque could be so controversial, especially in a place as cosmopolitan as Chicago. Standing under its massive dome, I was struck by the odd realization that a building could simultaneously be a haven and source of community for some, and symbol of fear and hatred for others. Though the story took place more than a decade ago, it seems we’re still wrestling with many of the same questions around religious inclusion and American identity.

     

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  2. Best of 2016: Elif Şafak on the Pain of Living in a Polarized Culture

    Anne here. My conversation with Turkish writer Elif Şafak back in April still sticks with me as the year comes to a close. In many parts of the world, 2016 was the year of the populist leader—especially in Turkey, where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a crackdown on free speech and all forms of opposition. 120 journalists have been jailed, more than 2,000 academics have been dismissed from universities, and more than 100,000 public workers have been fired. How did Turkey—once a model of new democratic nations—become such a different place? Not only did Şafak see this coming, she warned that the West should not consider itself immune. 

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  3. Best of 2016: Terry Tempest Williams on the Importance of National Parks

    Steve here. 2016 marked the 100th anniversary of America’s beloved National Park system. I could think of no one better to reflect on the importance of national parks than one of my favorite writers, Terry Tempest Williams.

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  4. Best of 2016: Country Singer Brandy Clark on a Big Day in a Small Town

    This is Charles. This interview was recorded near the end of the presidential race when everyone and their brother was trying to figure out what was happening in the minds of poor, white voters. I grew up in poverty under the shadows of Northeast Ohio steel mills. And it struck me that many of the insight everyone was looking for was right there in the music of where I grew up. In my opinion, the best example of that voice in 2016 was country music singer-songwriter Brandy Clark. Her album, "Big Day in a Small Town," had the answers, if anyone dared to listen.

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  5. Best of 2016: Chuck Klosterman Thinks About the Present As If It Were the Past

    Doug here. I thought there was good back-and-forth between Chuck and myself in this conversation. I like how the interview went “meta” at the end, with Chuck speculating that if I’m right about his book being hailed as the “Moby Dick" of non-fiction in 300 years time. This interview belongs in a time capsule.  At the very least, a “Best of” show. I also really enjoyed the fact that we heard the musical stylings of John Philip Sousa, Chuck Berry, KISS and Veruca Salt.  Of course, if Chuck’s book taught me anything (and it actually taught me many things), I could be wrong.

     

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