Here is a list, in no particular order, of essays and articles I enjoyed during 2020. They are mostly longform
essays, with a focus on music and culture, but with a few articles on other subjects included as well.

For a list of my favorite recordings of the year, click here.

“Every Place is the Same Now” by Ian Bogost  
The Atlantic, January 16, 2020  

“Why Are Pop Songs Getting Sadder Than They Used to Be?” by Alberto Acerbi and Charlotte Brand
Aeon, February 4, 2020

“What I Learned from the Worst Novelist in the English Language” by Barrett Swanson
The New Republic, August 6. 2020

“Brain Wave: Binaural Beats and the Poetics of Brainhacking” by Suzannah Showler
Real Life, February 10, 2020

“Winner Take All: Igor Levit in the Attention Economy” by Hartmut Welscher
Van, February 20, 2020

“America’s Best Wedding Band Will Be Back After a Brief Break” by Daniel Riley
GQ, July 22, 2020

“Reading Richard Rorty in Tehran” by Samuel Thorpe
The Nation, February 28, 2020

“An Existential Crisis in Neuroscience” by Grigori Guitchounts
Nautilus, January 23, 2020

“The Politics of Pop: The Rise and Repression of Uyghur Music in China” by Elise Anderson
Los Angeles Review of Books, May 31, 2020

"Black Mystery School Pianists" by Matthew Shipp
New Music Box, December 18, 2020

“Why a 272-Year-Old Philosopher Just Got Carted Across a College Quad” by Isaac Schultz
Atlas Obscura, March 4, 2020

“Buddy Bolden’s Blues” by James Karst
64 Parishes, May 22, 2020

“The Black Dahlia: The Long Strange History of Los Angeles’ Coldest Cold Case” by Miles Corwin
CrimeReads, September 10, 2020

“A Cultural History of the Cranked Snare Drum” by Jonathan Pfeffer
Full Stop, October 16, 2020

"The Missing Black Notes" by Harmony Holiday
Oxford American, November 10, 2020

“The Professor of Gimmicks” by Charlie Tyson
The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 25, 2020

“The Data of Long-Lived Institutions” by Alexander Rose
The Long Now Foundation, October 21, 2020

“The Woman in Black” by Eric Jager
Lapham’s Quarterly, March 23, 2020

“Why Do We Even Listen to New Music?” by Jeremy D. Larson
Pitchfork, April 6, 2020

“The Philosopher and the Detectives: Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Enduring Passion for Hardboiled
Fiction” by Philip K. Zimmerman
CrimeReads, September 24, 2020

“The Most Important Technology Critic in the World Was Tired Of Knowledge Based on Clicks. So He
Built an Antidote” by Maurits Martjn
The Correspondent, March 26, 2020

“Are There Laws of History?” by Amanda Rees
Aeon, May 12, 2020

“On Technodiversity: A Conversation with Yuk Hui” by Anders Dunker
Los Angeles Review of Books, June 9, 2020

"Bob Dylan Has a Lot on His Mind" by Douglas Brinkley
New York Times, June 12, 2020

“There Goes the Neighborhood: What Really Caused the Decline of 18th & Vine?” by Zeb Larson
Scalawag, December 8, 2020

"Do You Speak Euro English?" by Lindsey Johnstone
Euro News, April 23, 2020

“In Exile from Dreamscape” by Rubin Naiman
Aeon, December 23, 2020

“Audio’s Opportunity and Who Will Capture It” by Matthew Ball
Matthew Ball’s personal website, October 15, 2020
Follow Ted Gioia on Twitter at
Selected articles by Ted Gioia on the web

The African Origins of the Love Song
The Rise of the Fragmented Novel
Why Are Music Scholars Ignoring Musical Universals?
The Adventurer's Guide to Finnegans Wake
Notes on Conceptual Fiction
Has Music Criticism Turned Into Lifestyle Reporting?
Schopenhauer for Millennials
Where Did Music Come From? (NPR Interview)
Vladimir Nabokov, Sci-Fi Writer
Bach the Rebel
How Sartre Cured Existential Angst with Jazz
If John Coltrane Had Lived
Lectures on Proust in a Soviet Prison Camp
Why Gregory Bateson Matters
The Decline of Satire
Music as Cultural Cloud Storage
My Year of Horrible Reading
The Backlash Against Jazz
The Con Man Who Invented American Popular Music
The Bumbling Shostakovich
The Rise of Artisan Music
The Year American Speech Became Art
What We've Learned About the NSA
The 8 Memes of the Postmodern Mystery
Ted Gioia Interviews Composer Terry Riley
Four Essays on Leo Tolstoy
Why the Fuss About Jonathan Franzen?
Slaves for Love: How Bondage Shaped the Love Song
A Conversation About Jazz with Ted Gioia
The 100 Best Recordings of 2020
The 100 Best Recordings of 2019
The 100 Best Recordings of 2018
The 100 Best Recordings of 2017
The 100 Best Recordings of 2016
The 100 Best Recordings of 2015
The 100 Best Recordings of 2014
The 100 Best Recordings of 2013
The 100 Best Recordings of 2012
The 100 Best Recordings of 2011
The Weirdest 1960s Novel of Them All
Franco: The James Brown of Africa
How Alice Got to Wonderland
Does the Music Business Need Musicianship?
The King of Western Swing
Post Cool
The Year of Magical Reading
Why Music Ownership Matters
The Tragic Story of America's First Black Music Star
Frank Sinatra at 100
Ella Fitzgerald at 100
Music and Violence (video talk)
What is the Clumsiest Classic Novel?
The Crisis in Music (podcast)
The Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft
How to Fix Online Music
My 10 Favorite Novels on Music
A Conversation with Ted Gioia about Love Songs
The Music of the Tango
The Letter That Changed the Course of Modern Lit
The End of the Angry Guitar
Is Miles Davis's Kind of Blue the Greatest Jazz Album?
The War Between Music and Mathematics (Video)
How Joan of Arc Conquered Mark Twain
The West Coast Jazz Revival
The Most Intriguing Musicians of 2017
Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook
Do Blues Musicians Need to be Really, Really Old?
The Unconventional Sci-Fi of Kurt Vonnegut
Twelve Essential Tango Recordings
Alan Lomax and the FBI
Robert Musil and The Man Without Qualities
Cool Jazz in 100 Tracks (Part 1) (Part 2)
Lecture on the History of Love Songs
Henry James, Horror Writer
Why Only Revolutions Will Not Be Televised
David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest
The Crisis in Music (video lecture)
How Good a Singer Was Dean Martin?
How Music Videos Changed Love Songs
Why Bessie Smith Matters
The Zombification of Popular Music
The New Revolt of the Masses
Was Ambrose Bierce Inspired by Agoraphobia?
Apple's New Paradigm for Music
Fix-Up Artist: The Chaotic SF of A.E. van Vogt
Jazz Vocals in the New Millennium
A History of New Orleans Music in 100 Tracks
The Making of Ulysses
The Great American Novel That Wasn't
In Search of Dupree Bolton
Gulliver's Travels and the Birth of Genre Fiction
Five Essays on Novelist John Fowles
Where Did Our Revolution Go?
How Lester Young Changed the English Language
The Reinvention of the Cowboy Novel
The Many Lives of James Joyce
The Complex Gender History of the Love Song
William Gaddis's The Recognitions
5 Lessons the Music Biz Can Learn from TV
Hipsters: The New Scapegoats
B.B. King's Best Performances
The Most Mysterious Woman in Sci-Fi
Whitney Balliett: The Poet of Jazz Writing
12 Memorable Works of Hispanic Fiction
Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice
The Alt Reality Nobel Prize
The Decline of a Great Jazz Record Label
Don DeLillo's Underworld
How NY Became Center of the Jazz World
Milton Nascimento: 12 Essential Tracks
When Science Fiction Grew Up
The Most Influential Film of the 20th Century
Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch
Is Sleep Music a Real Genre?
Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections
Curse You, Neil Armstrong!
Bill Evans: 12 Essential Tracks
Early Vintage Wynton Marsalis
Remembering Cordwainer Smith
My Favorite American Novel
Q&A with Ted Gioia
The Jazz Pianist JFK Saved
A Look Back at Martin Gardner
Robert Heinlein at One Hundred
The Fourteen Skies of Michael Chabon
Is Bird Dead?
Philip K. Dick's VALIS
Why Lester Young Matters
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire
Making a Case for Clark Ashton Smtih
Italo Calvino's Winter's NIght
Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude
Could Chet Baker Play Jazz?
Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow
The Jazzy Side of Frank Zappa
Fritz Leiber at 100
Günter Grass's The Tin Drum
John Coltrane: Prophet and Seer (video)
David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas
Harlem Jazz: 12 Essential Tracks
Mark Z. Danielweski's House of Leaves
The Postmodern Mystery: 50 Essential Works
Art Tatum at 100: 12 Essential Tracks
Fringe Guitar
J.G. Ballard's Crash
Interview with Dana and Ted Gioia
The Puzzling Case of Robert Sheckley
Robert Johnson and the Devil
Fear and Self-Loathing in Scandinavia
Herbie Hancock: 12 Essential Tracks
Remembering Drums of Passion
Three Existential Horror Novels
Keith Jarrett: 12 Essential Tracks
In Defense of The Hobbit
Brad Mehldau: 12 Essential Tracks
David Foster Wallace's The Pale King
The South Asian Tinge in Jazz
Assessing Brad Mehldau at Mid-Career
Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian
Can Clubs Legally Ask Musicians to Play for Free?
Jonathan Littell's The Kindly Ones
Lennie Tristano: 12 Essential Tracks
Virginia Woolf's Orlando
Why Cool is Dead
A Tribute to Richard Matheson
The Pianism of Denny Zeitlin
The Chronicles of Narnia
David Bowie's Jazz-Oriented Valedictory
Tito Puente: The Complete 78s (1949-1955)
Toni Morrison's Beloved
The Tragedy of Richard Twardzik
Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue
The Science Fiction of Samuel Delany
Can Tarzan Survive in a Post-Colonial World?
Duke Ellington's Sacred Music
Ian McEwan's Atonement
Can a Dictionary be a Novel?
New Details About the Young William Gaddis
Interview with Ted Gioia (on Delta Blues)
William Gaddis's JR
Roberto Bolaño's 2666
Talking to Myself About the State of Jazz
Harper Lee and Her Great Southern Novel
Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain
Italo Calvino's Neglected Sci-Fi Masterpiece
Philip Roth's American Pastoral
Ken Kesey's Novel-in-a-Box
How I Learned I Was a Jazz Fan

"I can't speak highly enough about Music: A
Subversive History
Michael Dirda in Washington Post

“A dauntingly ambitious, obsessively researched
labor of cultural provocation."
Robert Christgau in the Los Angeles Times

"An entirely new way to look at how music
The Atlantic

"One of the most perceptive writers on music has
cut a wide swath down the path of history,
illuminating details often left in the shadows and
broadening our understanding of all things sonic.
Gioia vividly points out that the wheels of cultural
advancement are often turned by the countless
unsung heroes of inventiveness. A mind opening
and totally engaging read!"
Terry Riley

“In the past, [Gioia has] written a series of
acclaimed books about jazz, but
Music: A
Subversive Histor
y is by some distance the most
wide-ranging and provocative thing he’s come up
Alexis Petridis, The Guardian

“The highlights are too many to list, and mostly
arrive via Gioia’s refreshingly non-academic take
on the subject – he knows how to tell a story in a
way that will keep people reading….He has a
lovely light touch, a mischievous sense of humour
and a determinedly skewed take on how music
has been chronicled.”
Lloyd Bradley, The TLS

"In this excellent history, music critic Gioia dazzles
with tales of how music grew out of violence, sex,
and rebellion. Crisply written with surprising
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Gioia's sprawling and deeply interesting history
of music defies all stereotypes of music
scholarship. This is rich work that provokes many
fascinating questions. Scientists and humanists
alike will find plenty to disagree with, but isn't that
the point? 'A subversive history' indeed."
Samuel Mehr
Director, The Music Lab, Harvard University

“This book fells like the summation of a lifetime’s
avid musical exploration and reading. It has an
epic sweep and passionate engagement with the
topic that carries one along irresistibly.”
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph

"Ted Gioia's Music: A Subversive History is one of
the most important and welcome books I've
encountered in the last decade. If ever there were
a book the world sorely needed, it's Gioia's."
Jeff Simon in Buffalo News.

"As a fan of 'big histories' that sweep through
space and time, I gobbled this one like candy as I
found myself astounded by some idea, some fact,
some source, some dots connected into a fast-
reading big picture that takes in Roman
pantomime riots, Occitan troubadours,
churchbells, blues, Afrofuturism, surveillance
capitalism, and much more. A must for music
Ned Sublette
Author of
Cuba and Its Music and The World
That Made New Orleans

"In this meticulously-researched yet thoroughly
page-turning book, Gioia argues for the
universality of music from all cultures and eras.
Subversives from Sappho to Mozart and Charlie
Parker are given new perspective--as is the role
of the church and other arts-shaping institutions.
Music of emotion is looked at alongside the
music of political power in a fascinating way by a  
master writer and critical thinker. This is a must-
read for those of us for whom  music has a central
role in our daily lives."
Fred Hersch

“A sweeping and enthralling account of music as
an agency of human change.”
Booklist (starred review and selected as one of the 10
best arts books of 2019)

"A bold, fresh, and informative chronicle of
music's evolution and cultural meaning."

“Thought-provoking….Gioia’s argument is
persuasive and offers a wealth of possibilities for
further exploration.”
Library Journal
The Best Online Essays of 2020
One of the 15 Best Books of the Year
(The Atlantic)
One of the 50 Notable Nonfiction Books of the Year
(Washington Post)
One of 13 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Year
(Christian Science Monitor)
Best Art Books of the Year
(Library Journal)
Best Art Books of the Year