Few things seem as forced as all those end-of-the-decade retrospectives that list the most important people (Pope Francis, Tina Fey), worst disasters (the climate crisis, the Sopranos finale), or best podcasts (Slow Burn, Season One; Slow Burn, Season Two).
It’s impossible to distill the last 10 years in bullet points—we prefer to look back at Air Mail’s entire existence of five months. O.K., six, come January.
When we launched in July of 2019, we had no clue that two of our columnists, Walter Isaacson, 67, the definitive biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Leonardo da Vinci, and Cazzie David, 25, the definitive biographer of Instagram, would have so much in common.
They were both among Air Mail’s most read authors. More importantly, they explained phenomena that nobody in this office fully understood. In his essay “Should the Rich Be Allowed to Buy the Best Genes?,” Walter explained how gene-altering technologies like CRISPR could further deepen class divides and income inequality. Cazzie’s piece “Instagroan: The End of Silent Suffering” explained how perception-altering technology like Instagram can blur class divides and disguise income inequality by allowing privileged, good-looking people to share their sorrows and insecurities on social media and insist that they, too, deserve pity and support.
We also learned that most of our readers like what we like: scandal and crime. Prince Andrew’s ruinous BBC interview about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein had a bit of both; we added to the historical record by publishing Vassi Chamberlain’s vivid description of the late-night debauchery and dating habits of the Royal Highness formerly known as the Party Prince. Vassi’s first-person account turned out to be our most-read article of all.
Air Mail readers share our devotion to art, music, theater, television, film, and books, as well as our fascination with history, particularly when it involves spies or Nazis. They are drawn to culture stories that have an element of the unexpected, such as Andrea Lee’s piece revealing why Italian women don’t like or read Elena Ferrante, the author of My Brilliant Friend.
Most people like cartoons and everyone loves Stuart Heritage, a Britain-based Air Mail Editor at Large who is dazzlingly funny and skewers the rich, the bad, and the pompous on an almost weekly basis. This week, he takes aim at a con man/roué who chiseled credulous older women out of their fortunes. Last week, Stuart took us back to a scandal not of this past decade but one that defined the 1980s, the infamous Hitler-diaries hoax, forgeries published by Newsweek and The Sunday Times of London—early in the reign of Rupert Murdoch.
Yes, we are at the end of a tumultuous decade. But we don’t need to make sense of the past 10 years; we are too busy planning big stories and exciting improvements to our site in 2020. We don’t like to march in step with all the somber list-makers and appraisers of defining moments. We’ll wish you seasonal greetings some other time. At Air Mail, we aim to please, amuse, and also to surprise. So those are three good reasons to read on.