Recommended by Mike Sowden
I'm so glad Anna has arrived on Substack, and also intimidated, because now I have to describe her work to you. I hate this. I've known her for over ten years & I've NEVER found a way. Look: she’s a writer (food and bicycles and Swedish ways of living...) - but also an artist (her papercutting work is spectacular). And documentary film producer. And teacher! Uh - I give up. (Again.) But she's a terrific guide to living a more creative life, and I think that's all you need. Please read her.
Ali's an accomplished...everything-er in the entertainment industry: writer, actor, film director, it's mad how she fits it all in. (Most notably, writing for AppleTV+'s Emmy-winning "The Morning Show".) And 'Little Things' is about the *big* things in a working writer's life, like regaining faith in your own work, & negotiating the knocks of a whirlwind industry - all hard-won, reliable advice from someone in the trenches doing that work every day, delivered with kindness and wit.
Alf is a psychologist tackling mental health issues (not just fixing problems, but finding new ways to understand yourself & others) - and he's doing so in a wonderfully clear-eyed, straight-talking, inclusive & helpful way, which is exactly what you want from someone advising you on these things. Really nicely done, this.
A rare treat for the curious, this newsletter: in every edition, Heather Wall picks a question about natural phenomenon - trees, lightning, the brains of woodpeckers - and then tries to answer it as thoroughly as possible. I always learn something new, and I always love the journey towards the answer (Heather's a great writer). Much to love!
This is about videogames, but from the perspective of what they mean & what's underneath them if you look hard enough, which is: ALL SORTS OF FASCINATING THINGS. It's a joyfully focused, super-interesting journey in all directions, powered by infectious enthusiasm. (And it's brilliant in another way - check out the way Jay & Jenny use tables of contents, which is a work of art.) Definitely not just for the gamers - but if you are one, you'll fall hard for this newsletter.
The Substack of the podcast of the upcoming book (!), this is a really fascinating series of profiles of weird & wonderful rulebreakers through history. The production values are terrific, Valorie is a great host & researcher and really knows how to tell a rattling yarn, and - as I said, there'll soon be a book, because it's *that* good.
Annie Murphy Paul, author of "The Extended Mind: The Power Of Thinking Outside The Brain" (a really incredible book, filled with so many "wow!" moments) and something of a science-writing legend, is now looking at the science behind creativity. I'm in with both feet.
Miss the heyday of travel blogs - all that thoughtful, adventurous curiosity about what the world's really like beyond the news headlines? Brent & Michael's newsletter is the best of that stuff reborn on Substack: finely written, restlessly interested in everything and everyone, and with all the infectious energy that comes from being written from the road. Reckon you'll like. (They seem like super-nice guys too.)
Yes, it's a newsletter about snacks, but that's like saying 'Dune' is a book about sand. What you get here is a look at snack food through the unique brain of Doug Mack, one of the best travel writers at work today, with fascinating dives in all directions into the history, the meaning & sometimes the utter farcical absurdity of snacks. (Doug's hilarious.) So well-written it often makes me try a lot harder with my newsletter, and while I HATE that (thanks Doug) I'm grateful too. Madly good.
Annette is probably the hardest-working newsletter writer on here. She's a historian using Substack to teach US & UK history in a chatty, accessible style, and I *really* don't know how she writes as much as she does. Her work is great, I love how she just throws herself in, and - did I mention the amount she writes? (If I ever discover she's really five different people, I promise I'll come back and edit this recommendation.)
You know the feeling of stepping in out of the wind & rain into a toasty-warm kitchen smelling of freshly cooked bread and other delights? That's the vibe that professional baker Jolene is after here, with her tour of the recipes and kitchen styles of the 20th Century. A newsletter to take the edge off your day.
Florence writes about early medieval women in a way that's sorely needed (as evidenced by what certain British politicians have recently said in a disgracefully truth-twisting manner). This is history with an expert's eye, beautifully written and illustrated, and with a knack for skewering accidental or weaponised myths. (Florence is also well worth following on Twitter where they're hilarious & fearless at mythbusting in realtime.) Like nothing else on Substack, this one.
Tad is a real, honest-to-goodness astrophysicist and physics teacher - meaning, he's a FAR more reliable source of scientific research than I am. He describes his Substack as aiming at the "slightly more 'advanced' lay-person or students of the fields at, say, the sophomore or junior level" - but it's so piercingly clearly written that I'd say it's open to everyone. Delightfully nerdy and filled with wonder.
Jodi is an extraordinarily fine writer with the most curious and wide-ranging interests of anyone I know (sometimes I think she *is* the Internet). Curious About Everything is a fascinating, thoughtful grab-bag of the best of everything she finds online, and her writeups are a treat. Also find more of her work at LegalNomads.com.
Antonia writes about walking (she's the author of a book on the subject), about walkability & the struggle over the commons, the things that should belong to all but are frequently getting nibbled away by private property owners and businesses. And the way she writes about these things, casting her net far & wide, is absolutely delightful. She has a deeply beautiful & thoughtful way of putting things & you'll come away with your head brimming with new ideas. One of the best writers on Substack.
If you're reading my newsletter, I reckon there's a 50/50 chances you're an astronomy enthusiast. That's a solid reason to read WIll Dowd's fascinating, Moon-focused newsletter. But the reason everyone else who *isn't* interested in space should also read it is the quality of the writing here, which is as spectacular as you'd expect from someone with credits at The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, NPR etc. So: I reckon that's all of you? Go click on over.
This is a newsletter about paying deep attention - and Nishant leads by example, by drawing beautiful line-sketches of people with a fountain pen, and documenting his process of becoming an even better artist. He's immensely generous with his ideas, deeply curious about everyone's creative process, and he's a thoughtful guide to life as a professional sketch artist. You'll learn a lot.
I object to David's newsletter in that it's frequently a lot more interesting than mine, on really fascinating topics that I quickly realise I know nothing about. This is an appalling state of affairs and it makes me look bad - so I'll only recommend it to you for its curiosity, insight, fine writing and infectious sense of adventure. In all the remaining ways it's a total disgrace & I hope he's ashamed.
"Dearest" is about antique jewelry - except, imagine the most interesting person you know knocking back 5 espressos and then researching All The Stories about that jewelry, then coming back and telling you things you'd never hear from anyone else. Monica is the thing you want in any newsletter writer: she's hugely enthusiastic and hugely interested, and she chases both in a ton of delightful and surprising directions. You'll learn stuff, but more importantly you'll *feel* stuff. So, go do that.
Terrell's enthusiasm for running really shines through with his newsletter, along with his passion for helping others get out the door and find their own races to take part in - but I also love his curiosity and willingness to chase ideas wherever they might lead. It's really not hard to see why he's building a great community around his writing.
Phil Plait is a legend. I mean, if you know anything about modern astronomy I could just leave it there, and you'd nod your head and say "damn right". But just in case: he's a popular science writer, he's an infectious enthusiast on all things cosmic, and his Bad Astronomy newsletter contains more "WOW" moments per square foot than any others I read. If you have any interest whatsoever in offworld things, you'd be daft not to sign up to this one.