The 10th annual edition of “The Best American Magazine Writing” has just been published, and this year, more than previous years, it is a celebration of the venerable magazine and the kind of writing that you can only find in magazines.

The Best American Magazine Writing: 2009 Introduction by Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired magazine. Compiled by the American Society of Magazine Editors, Columbia University Press, New York. 2010. $16.95


The 10th annual edition of “The Best American Magazine Writing” has just been published, and this year, more than previous years, it is a celebration of the venerable magazine and the kind of writing that you can only find in magazines. With the closing of several highly esteemed magazines in 2009, readers will find themselves savoring these journalistic tour de forces with even greater awe and appreciation.


There are 17 pieces featured here, all finalists or winners in the annual American Society of Magazine Editors National Magazine Awards contest. The articles are compiled and published by Columbia University Press. This year, Wired magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson writes a short, eloquent essay that clarifies a few important points: magazine circulation remains at near all-time highs.


“Don’t confuse the advertising climate with the appetite of readers,” he cautions. “People still want what we make — we’re just trying to figure out how to pay for it.”


Runner’s World editor David Willey, who also writes an introductory essay, calls Anderson “one of the most forward-thinking commentators on technology and its impact on our culture.” Both of these men’s essays are worth reading and repeating.


The editors say, as well, that the 6,000-word magazine articles that we find in magazines such as The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic and Esquire, for example, take months of research, writing, editing and collaboration between writer, editors, photographers, graphic artists and others. A full-length feature article can be 12 computer screens long, not an optimal length for reading on a computer. And the gorgeous graphic design and photography display and their interaction with the articles cannot be replicated by computer — at least not yet. (That may change as e-reader products become more sophisticated.)


A few weeks ago, in a Manhattan pub co-owned by Sebastian Junger, a few journalists with pieces featured in this publication read short excerpts to a packed and rapt audience. A few days later I made a trip to Barnes & Noble in Union Square to buy the fat paperback. The first story I read was “The Things That Carried Him: The True Story of a Soldier’s Last Trip Home.” Chris Jones, the writer of the winner for feature writing that appeared in Esquire magazine, said that once he started work on this project, he called his editor and asked, “Can I just go with this?” They both understood the importance of what was taking shape. Both thanked each other and spoke briefly about the process that evening in Junger’s pub.


“The Things That Carried Him” tells the story of Sgt. Joe Montgomery’s death in Iraq, his transport back to the United States and his burial. Chris Jones’s gathering and shaping of tens of thousands of details into a slow-moving picture that you, the reader, unconsciously step into and inhabit, his method of telling the story backward, starting at the grave site, and his unembellished but relentless narrative is utterly mesmerizing. By the time you finish reading, you will have a new sense of soldier, duty, Iraq, danger, family, grief.


There are other devastating stories. Tracy Ross’s “The Source of All Things,” the essay winner published in Backpacker magazine, is the account of her molestation by her beloved stepfather and the eventual harrowing three-day hike she took him on, years later, in order to ask him four questions about his actions. The story of how her trauma manifested, her long solo retreat in Alaska, her discovery of writing and her continuing relationship with her abuser, is told in the heartfelt details and the brilliant way she structures her storytelling.


“Making It: How Chicago Shaped Obama,” a long piece Ryan Lizza wrote for the New Yorker, is the fascinating account of Barack Obama’s carefully orchestrated rise in politics, something worth revisiting as he delivers his State of the Union address this week.


Not all the writing is sobering. Tom Chiarella’s delightful first-person account of his decision to become a butcher, “Butcher” published in Esquire, brings us to respect and admire, even more than we already do, our neighborhood butcher (if we are lucky enough to have access to one). “Papa,” by Sean Flynn for GQ, is an amusing and surprising story about James Brown, his life, death and the estate he left behind for others to fight over.


The last piece I’ll mention is “Broken” by David Darlington for Bicycling magazine. Cyclists already know that lots of drivers harbor resentments and lots of others drink and drive and others simply don’t pay attention. All of this adds up to extreme danger for the vulnerable cyclist. For those who don’t understand how vulnerable, “Broken” is an eye-opener.


Rae Francoeur’s memoir “Free Fall” comes out in April. She can be reached at rae.francoeur@verizon.net or via her blog freefallrae.blogspot.com.