Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

My 72-Hour Safari in Clinton Country by Adam Wren for Politico Magazine


The week's best reads, carefully curated by Don Van Natta Jr. and Jacob Feldman.



      Brighten Our Sunday!

   SUNDAY — April 1, 2018   

EDITORS’ NOTE: Chag same’ach/Happy Easter/Happy Sunday! Also, let this be your first warning not to believe everything you read on the internet today (or, let's be honest, most days). Instead, stay inside and feast on these certified links. Plus, make sure to check out today's podcast conversation between Don Van Natta Jr. and NYT bestselling author Shea Serrano of The Ringer. We've got some great guests lined up for the coming weeks too, including Rachel Syme, Tom Junod, Brett Michael Dykes, and Charlotte Wilder.

One more exciting thing before we get to the list. We're on Facebook! Check out our page on the social media site that's so hot right now. We'll be using that (as well as our still-new Twitter account) to promote great stories and writers all week long.

Don and Jacob

How a Young Woman Lost Her Identity
By Rachel Aviv

 (~40 minutes)


This is the spellbinding story of Rachel Upp, a young middle school teacher in Harlem who vanishes in New York City. After being spotted via closed-circuit camera at a Harlem Apple store, she is eventually found, bobbing in the water not far from the Statue of Liberty, and hospitalized. After recovering, Upp was transferred to a psychiatric unit run by Columbia University Medical Center, where she was diagnosed with “dissociative fuge.” This is described as “a rare condition in which people lose access to their autobiographical memory and personal identity, occasionally adopting a new one, and may abruptly embark on a long journey.” From Manhattan to Maryland and finally to St. Thomas in the weeks following Hurricane Irma, Rachel Aviv tracks Upp’s attempts at building a normal life, buoyed by the help and concern of her family and circle of concerned friends.

Aviv is one of my favorite longform writers. The reason is simple: She always delivers. Here, she has written a lovely masterpiece about mystifying wanderings and maddening mysteries. And the ending might just wreck you.

"Whatever’s your darkest question, you can ask me."
By Lizzie Presser

 (~35 minutes)


"The first abortion Natalie assisted was her mother’s."

Nathalie's name has been changed, as have most in the story, seeing as nearly two-dozen have been arrested since 2000 for performing or assisting in at-home abortions. Yet, without using identifiable details, and in the absence of over-powering graphics on The California Sunday Magazine's gorgeously minimal website, Lizzie Presser is able to stop you cold with sentences like that one while sharing the stories of the women who opt for herbal or medical procedures outside of the clinic system. Everyone can learn something about that system—with its history mixed into the narrative—but what will stay with you is the people. People like Anna, who joined the secret network as a strip club dancer, who has invited clients to her trailer, and who continued providing help even as she carried a baby to term.

Legal debates aside, this story packs more raw humanity than any I've read this year.
A People in Limbo, Many Living Entirely on the Water

By Ben Mauk

 (~35 minutes)


The paradoxes stack atop each other: "Khmer bodies (with) Vietnamese minds," "nonimmigrant foreigners," and most of all, a place with no land. The people stuck between nations have learned to live on the water. 
If You See Something, Write Something

By Stephen Harrison

 (~5 minutes)

Two teenagers are working diligently to improve all of the Wikipedia articles about the New York Subway system. A charming piece of work by Stephen Harrison (rumor has it this is his first piece for the Times. Bravo.)
The Last Joke is Tide Pods

By Kaitlyn Tiffany

 (~10 minutes)

It's hard to write a better essay than this one, on how humor (hardly) lives and dies on the internet.
Saving Baby Boy Green

By Eva Holland

 (~20 minutes)

Neonatal medicine continues to advance, but for many new parents, it's still not good enough. 
War of Words: Meet the Texan Trolling for Putin

By Sonia Smith

 (~40 minutes)


Sonia Smith travelled to Ukraine to figure out how a middle-aged Texan arborist became a propaganda celebrity—in the Donetsk People's Republic.
Do Brain Exercises Work?

By Andrew Zaleski

 (~15 minutes)


After years of playing football, Greg Ortman suffered from post-concussion syndrome. Then he began brain training, a tactic that Tom Brady heartily recommends. But as Andrew Zaleski asks in this fine piece: Is brain training a legitimate treatment? Or is it nothing more than self-help fantasy?
The 'Roseanne' Reboot Is Funny. I'm Not Going to Keep Watching.

By Roxane Gay

 (~5 minutes)


Roxane Gay says she enjoyed the first two episodes of the rebooted ABC sitcom “Roseanne” but she can’t separate “Roseanne” from Roseanne Barr. So Gay won’t watch again.
My 72-Hour Safari in Clinton Country

By Adam Wren

 (~30 minutes)


"Why didn’t Venezky regret voting for Clinton, what with the stock market rallying and jobs aplenty, with people wishing one another Merry Christmas again, and with North Korea reportedly coming back to the diplomatic table to talk denuclearization?" 
Knifed with a Smile

By Carl Elliott

 (~15 minutes)


When Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, a surgeon at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, first began implanting plastic tracheas experimentally, some doctors thought the method was revolutionary. And then patients began dying.
Robert Mercer's Secret Adventure as a New Mexico Cop
By Zachary Mider

 (~15 minutes)


Why did Robert Mercer, the ridiculously wealthy Trump donor, volunteer as a policeman in a tiny desert town?
There's Something Funny About Tiffany Haddish
By Caity Weaver

 (~20 minutes)


Caity Weaver is soon leaving for The New York Times. She went whale watching with Girls Trip star Tiffany Haddish for what is likely one of her last GQ stories.
Jeff Sessions Is Winning for Donald Trump. If Only He Can Keep His Job

By Molly Ball

 (~15 minutes)


Jeff Sessions has efficiently shifted the Justice Department to take on drugs, gangs and immigration violations. But is that enough to keep his boss happy?
Gun Fatalism Is Reasonable in a Terrifying Country

By Anna Merlan

 (~30 minutes)


By studying a January school shooting in Benton, Kentucky, described as “small town, USA,” Anna Merlan draws powerful lessons about how and why mass shootings resonate in the places where they occur—as well as with the rest of America (and its fickle, easily distracted mainstream media). In Benton, practically no one blamed the shooter or the handgun that he borrowed for the school shooting that killed two students and injured more than a dozen. Instead, residents blamed video games, parenting failures, bullying and Satan.

On sister site Deadspin, an explanation of how anchors on countless local TV stations ended up delivering the same PSA about "the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country."
Christopher Steele's Other Report: A Murder in Washington

By Jason Leopold, Anthony Cormier, Heidi Blake, Tom Warren, Jane Bradley, Alex Campbell, Richard Holmes

 (~10 minutes)


A riveting BuzzFeed investigation into another Russian murder that Western officials called “not suspicious,” about the death of Mikhail Lesin in DC. New information uncovered by this crack seven-person team of investigative reporters suggests he was killed by FSB agents moonlighting for a rival oligarch.

If you're more intrested in the scandal du jour, head to The New Yorker for a smart piece on Cambridge Analytica and the Perils of Psychographics.
New York Doesn't Love You

By John DeVore

 (~5 minutes)


"Money only buys two things: lavish self-deceptions and comfortable suffering,” John DeVore writes in this irresistible essay.
Help! I Married My Dreaded Baseball Rival (A Love Story)

By Daniel Brown

 (~5 minutes)


Brown v. Slusser is not a fair fight.
What Happens When Your City Becomes Bachelorette Central?

By Anne Helen Petersen

 (~30 minutes)


This story has it all: white women being white women, gentrification, white supremacists, “experience-minded tourism,” ridiculously good photography and… oh, yeah, bachelorettes looking for fun.
It's Cold in Omaha

By Roberto José Andrade Franco

 (~5 minutes)


Omaha is home to both Malcolm X and Gerald Ford. Roberto José Andrade Franco explains how boxing and baseball now demonstrate that duality in the Nebraska city.

While we're in the central time zone, The Dallas Morning News has a deep look at how cities are fighting against each other for business.



     Vanity Fair
A Matter of Life and Death (2005)
By Marjorie Williams

 (~55 minutes)

As Marjorie Williams entered death's embrace at the age of 47, she left us with this meditation on mortality, family, and love. There is no writer whose voice I miss more than hers.


Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

On The Media: We, The Liberators (iTunes | Overcast)


On The Media is still one of the five or so best radio shows on the planet. This look at the Iraq War is them at their best—reflective but urgent, a wide range of voices, tons of archival and smart sound design. Not easy listening, but much needed.

Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the new "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN.


DVN: How many writers are you mentoring right now?

SS: I think like 600.

Don and Shea discuss how he first resorted to writing, how comments got him a job, how he found his unique voice, and the first compliment Bill Simmons gave him. From the first to graduate high school in his family to a New York Times bestseller, Serrano's story—just like his personality—is one-of-a-kind.

Subscribe to The Sunday Long Read Podcast, leave a review, or tell a friend using this link.

How a Young Woman Lost Her Identity

Hannah Upp had been missing for nearly two weeks when she was seen at the Apple Store in midtown Manhattan. Her friends, most of them her former classmates from Bryn Mawr, had posted a thousand flyers about her disappearance on signposts and at subway stations and bus stops. It was September, 2008, and Hannah, a middle-school teacher at Thurgood Marshall Academy, a public school in Harlem, hadn’t shown up for the first day of school. Her roommate had found her wallet, passport, MetroCard, and cell phone in her purse, on the floor of her bedroom. The News reported, “Teacher, 23, Disappears Into Thin Air.”


She Thought She'd Shot A Burglar. Then She Realized It Was Her Roommate.


"It’s unfortunate it was my friend behind the door, but if it hadn’t been I would have saved my own life and his, too. If somebody is busting through my door, I would pull the trigger every time."

—Alexis Bukrym



The Last Conversation You'll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right
By Mark Bittman and David L. Katz

When Trump Met Stormy Daniels: The Strange Story of Four Wild Days in Tahoe

By Ben Schreckinger

How August Ames' Suicide Is Changing the Porn Industry

By Tina Horn


By Richard Goldstein

 (~5 minutes)


Growing up in northern New Jersey in the 1970s, I was a Mets fan, which meant I was a Rusty Staub fan. During that magical 1973 National League pennant season, I was mesmerized by every pitch thrown by Seaver, Koosman and Matlack. And to my nine-year-old eyes, Rusty Staub appeared to be chiseled out of orange granite. Five years later, on a cool, drizzly night at Shea, Staub was thicker, slower and the fans, including my Dad, relished razzing him after he committed a wobbly error on a routine squib grounder skittering up the first-base line. I can still see Staub wincing at the home fans’ catcalls; to me, their razzing was a betrayal.

When Staub died Thursday at the age of 73 (on Opening Day, no less), his old Mets teammate Keith Hernandez wept, declaring that Staub, the big-hearted, philanthropic restaurateur who buoyantly urged Keith to “live in the city” after he was traded to NY by St. Louis, was an even better man than he was a ballplayer.

The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling [$]
By Judd Apatow

 (~260 minutes)


Now streaming on HBO: The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling. Judd Apatow's two-part documentary looks at the complex life and legacy of his friend and mentor who died of a heart attack in 2016. Apatow intersperses intimate handwritten lines from Shandling's diaries with archival clips and interviews with comedy A-listers in a valiant effort to get you to commit 4 1/2 hours of your life to premium subscription TV. It’s worth it.  Try out the trailer here.

The Long View is curated by Justine Gubar, Vice President, News Narratives at Fusion and the author of Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan. 


By Julie Beck

 (~15 minutes)


Mary H.K. Choi, the author of the new book that everyone is falling helplessly in love with, Emergency Contact, says of the people in her book: “They’re all lonely, there’s so much noise, and I wanted to focus on a story that was about being able to find your signal in all the noise.” Yes!

The 101 Dishes That Changed America

By Thrillist Food

 (~135 minutes)


From hot dogs to rainbow bagels.

'As If'

By Stephanie Merry

 (~15 minutes)


Forty film comedies that change the way we talk. This is a delight, although it’s an outrage that Barry Levinson’s 1982 classic, “Diner,” was overlooked.
Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google have on you

By Dylan Curran

 (~5 minutes)


This is frightening. 

"The Whole World Is Watching": An Oral History of the 1968 Columbia Uprising

By Clara Bingham

 (~30 minutes)


Parkland's are just the latest students to say enough

'The Americans' Final Season: An Oral History of the FX Drama

By Cynthia Littleton

 (~15 minutes)

A series that almost everyone I know worships (full disclosure: I haven’t seen an episode) has just begun its final season. And this oral history was recommended by more than a few of my pals who are mad for The Americans.

Cover story: Making America Toxic Again

By Rebecca Leber
Illustration by Tim O'Brien

 (~30 minutes)


In the March 11 issue, guest editor Lea Goldman selected Jason Fagone's "Jerry and Marge Go Large" as one of her picks for the week.  Fagone's article about a retired couple who discover—and exploit—a glitch in the math behind lottery games now has an academic equivalent: Giuseppe Corvasce of Rutgers University has just released a 22-page scholarly article with the self-explanatory title "A Simple Methodology for Predicting the U.S. Lottery Mega Millions."

The academic article can be found here.


Ryan works as a professor at Florida State University, where he teaches research methods and sports law.  He writes a lot of academic articles and some mainstream pieces too.




"Asked who they trust more to tell the truth about important issues, 24.5 percent of registered Ohio voters said Trump and 34 percent said the news media." 

From Tim:

There was a young man from Maumee
Who thought most reporters were free
From telling the truth;
Then too this stout youth
Thought Trump was a fib devotee.

Tim Torkildson is a retired circus clown who fiddles with rhyme. All his verses can be found at Tim's Clown Alley.

Damn, Just a Good Thread About a Lunch Thief

By Brian Feldman

 (~5 minutes)


Nothing beats a “thrilling food-thief story.”


The Sunday Ampersand is chosen by Erik Malinowski. Erik is a freelance features writer based in the Bay Area and the author of Betaball.


Come Through

By The Regrettes

Read Later

Founder, Curator: Don Van Natta Jr.
Producer, Curator: Jacob Feldman
Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer
Senior Limerick Editor: Tim Torkildson
Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan
Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg​
Producer: Étienne Lajoie

Digital Team: Nation Hahn, Nickolaus Hines, Megan McDonell, Alexa Steinberg
Podcast Team: Peter Bailey-Wells, Cary Barbor, Julian McKenzie, Jonathan Yales
Campus Editor: Peter Warren

Header Illustration: Alex Fine

Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Chris Cillizza, Rich Cohen, Pam Colloff, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Justine Gubar, Maggie Haberman, Reyhan Harmanci, Virginia Heffernan, Matthew Hiltzik, Jena Janovy, Bomani Jones, Chris Jones, Peter Kafka, Paul Kix, Mina Kimes, Peter King, Michael Kruse, Tom Lamont, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Erik Malinowski, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Heidi N. Moore, Eric Neel, Joe Nocera, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Joe Posnanski, S.L. Price, Julia Rubin, Albert Samaha, Bruce Schoenfeld, Michael Schur, Joe Sexton, Jacqui Shine, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, John A. Walsh, and Seth Wickersham

You can read more about our staff, and contact us (we'd love to hear from you!) on our website: Help pick next week's selections by tweeting us your favorite stories with #SundayLR.

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