Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

Raised by YouTube by Alexis C. Madrigal for The Atlantic



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

Sunday, October 7, 2018

EDITORS’ NOTE: Happy Sunday! Today, we are excited to introduce The Sunday Long Read Membership Program.

As we prepare for Year 5(!) of the SLR, we have two priorities: promoting worthwhile stories for free every Sunday and offering more for our most loyal subscribers. To achieve those goals, we could really use your support!

Your dollars will defray the growing costs of maintaining and mailing the newsletter, help out the young team members who make the SLR possible, and—hopefully—go towards celebrating great journalism in new ways. There's plenty more detail on our website about the program, our vision, and how the money will be spent. Or you can skip to signing up right now, on either a monthly or annual basis. The first member-exclusive bonus newsletter is just a week away. Plus, we’ll be sending our charter members the SLR earlier on Sunday mornings for a head start on the week’s best reads.

We've been consistently wowed by all of the kind words you have shared with us over the past few years. Now when you e-mail asking what you can do to assist the SLR, we're glad to have a better answer than Tell a friend! (though spreading the word is obviously still much appreciated as well).

We're also asking our charter members to help us map the future of The Sunday Long Read. And we can't wait to get started! As always...

Don and Jacob

Don and Jacob's Favorite

   Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father
By David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Russ Buettner for The New York Times
 (~10 minutes)


With this one-year-in-the-making investigation that mines 100,000 confidential tax documents, a trio of New York Times reporters wields a wrecking ball to the myth that Donald Trump is a self-made businessman. On the Times’ alumni’s Facebook page, David Cay Johnson, one of America’s foremost tax reporters (and a former Timesman and Pulitzer winner), said this of the 14,000-word article: “The Trump takeout is phenomenal for many reasons, but one is that every single technical detail of accounting, law and tax is correct. Not once did I wince. Given the subject matter the story is told as clearly and plainly as humanly possible, a masterpiece. Bravo David Barstow, Susanne Craig and Ross Buettner.”

For an abridged video version, see our Long View choice below by Justine Gubar or this handy Cliffs Notes version of the piece’s 11 biggest takeaways.

How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump

   Why Two Chefs in Small-Town Utah Are Battling President Trump
By Kathryn Schulz for The New Yorker

 (~40 minutes)

A few more questions: How does a farm-to-table restaurant excel in rural Utah? More importantly, what’s it supposed to do now that its bucolic backdrop could become a pit mine? Most importantly, why aren’t you reading every word Kathryn Schulz writes? This story of our land and the nation on it sings and then sinks and never stops stunning.


   ‘I Can’t Believe I’m in Saudi Arabia’
By Lindsey Hilsum for The New York Review of Books

 (~20 minutes)

Saudi Arabia’s rulers are fighting the country’s modernizers and its traditionalists, trying to change the culture in order to protect the status quo.

➢ The Amazing 30-Year Odyssey of a Counterfeit Saudi Prince


   Raised by YouTube
By Alexis C. Madrigal for The Atlantic
 (~25 minutes)

It started as a simple Flash animation. Now ChuChu TV wants to be the next Disney, having already nearly conquered YouTube. Along the way, who’s asking: Should children’s entertainment be crafted by algorithms?


   Inside Our Secret Courts
By Jenn Abelson, Nicole Dungca and Todd Wallack for The Boston Globe 
 (~30 minutes)

In Massachusetts, criminal charges disappear at private hearings. The famed Spotlight team brings them to light.


   The Morality Wars
By Wesley Morris for The New York Times Magazine 
 (~25 minutes)


The best part of Wesley Morris's most recent must-read cultural critique might be the wide range of conversations it sparked.

Bob Iger’s Bets Are Paying Off Big Time for Disney


   The Movie Assassin
By Sarah Miller for Popula
 (~30 minutes)

A simply brilliant essay on “The English Patient,” writing, and so much more. 


   How Lee Krasner Made Jackson Pollock a Star
By Mary Gabriel for Literary Hub
 (~20 minutes)


What if Jackson Pollock was a bit overrated––his reputation improved thanks to his friend: art critic, and marketer-in-chief Clement Greenberg? And what if, more importantly, it was Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner, that really changed modern art? A great read from Mary Gabriel’s book, Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art.

How Jackson Pollock became so overrated


   The Most Honest Book About Climate Change Yet
By Nathaniel Rich for The Atlantic
 (~10 minutes) 

The author of Losing Earth writes a book review that transcends the form.


   How Much of a Doctor's Diagnosis Is Gut Feeling?
By Amitha Kalaichandran for The Walrus
 (~10 minutes)


Why physicians should revisit their traditional response to decision making, according to Toronto doctor and New York Times contributor Amitha Kalaichandran. A fascinating answer.

Terminal Lucidity: The Researchers Attempting to Prove Your Mind Lives On Even After You Die


   Why Iran's nomads are fading away
By Thomas Erdbrink for National Geographic
 (~5 minutes)


The New York Times Tehran bureau chief Thomas Erdbrink visits Iran's nomads, whose population is diminishing because of the "combination of persistent drought, dust storms that turn the skies orange, widespread urbanization, mobile internet, and the spread of higher education."


   Safe House
By Lizzie Presser for The California Sunday Magazine
 (~20 minutes)


The gut-wrenching but touching story of a group of Latina women secretly providing shelter to abused immigrant women in California. 


   Godmother of intelligences
By Eileen Hunt Botting for Aeon
 (~15 minutes)


Mary Shelley foresaw that artificial intelligence would be made monstrous, not by human hubris but by human cruelty.


   Husband Shopping in Beijing
By Sheng Yun for the London Review of Books
 (~20 minutes)


"If any institution has fundamentally worked against women in China, it is marriage," writes Sheng Yun, an assistant research professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, in this diary. 


   THE SUNDAY ORAL HISTORY: 'We Changed Culture': An Oral History of Vibe Magazine
By Dan Charnas for Billboard
 (~35 minutes)


From the East-West rap wars, to the story that inspired the Fast and Furious franchise, Vibe's influence on music and pop culture is undeniable. This is its history, told by the people that made it. 


    Why Did No One Save Gabriel?
By Garrett Therolf for The Atlantic 
 (~40 minutes)


He was eight years old, showing obvious signs of abuse. And in a story happening far too often in cities and towns across America, caseworkers from child-protective services failed to help him.

‘Just Assimilate Her Into Your Family and Everything Will Be Fine...’


By Thomas Boswell for The Washington Post
 (~10 minutes)


Pulitzer-winning sports columnist Dave Anderson "may hold one sportswriting record that may never be broken: most liked by the most people for the best reasons."


   How We Know Kavanaugh Is Lying
By Nathan J. Robinson for Current Affairs 
 (~55 minutes)


In a long week of outstanding reporting and analysis leading up to Brett M. Kavanaugh’s seemingly inevitable confirmation as Supreme Court justice Saturday, this piece carefully and, at times, hilariously deconstructs Kavanaugh’s he-said, I-like-beer testimony.

Brett Kavanaugh Discovers the Unfairness of the World
“None of This Was Fair”


   Cat Power’s Past Imbues “Wanderer” With Empathy and Weight
By Amanda Petrusich for The New Yorker
 (~10 minutes)


A fascinating portrait of Cat Power’s evolution from soul and blues indie rocker to folk singer, by the always-terrific Amanda Petrusich.


   The Surgeon Who Works on Babies Before They’re Born
By Shawn Shinneman for D Magazine 
 (~10 minutes)


Dr. Timothy Crombleholme (a name that sounds as if John Irving invented it) has dedicated his career to operating on the smallest, most vulnerable patients.


   Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Unlikely Path to the Supreme Court
By Jill Lepore for The New Yorker 
 (~25 minutes)


This is just wonderful.

Last Week's Most Read

   ‘This guy doesn’t know anything’: the inside story of Trump’s shambolic transition team
By Michael Lewis for The Guardian 

   The Abandoned World of 1982
By Caitlin Flanagan for The Atlantic 

   The Real Cost of Working in the House of Mouse
By Jaeah J. Lee for Topic 


Lede of the Week

Like so many inventions, the scooter was a child of necessity: Specifically, the need to get a bratwurst without looking like an idiot.


Quotation of the Week

   Terminal Lucidity

“It’s hard to discuss these things in an unbiased way, because people immediately think about religion, and maybe also wishful thinking. When I heard about these studies on terminal lucidity, about these reports, I just wanted to know. Therefore, we started a survey, to study, to see whether the phenomenon is real. Now, I do suspect it’s real. We need more evidence, but currently, much points toward the mind being more than a product of the brain.”

-Alexander Batthyány

The SLR Podcast


No new episode again this week, but upcoming episodes will feature Hadley Freeman, Rachel Sklar and Ben Smith. Please catch up on one of our recent recordings, and then let us know who you'd like to hear from!

Subscribe today!

The Classic Read
from Jack Shafer

   The Case for Impeaching Clarence Thomas (2018)
By Jill Abramson for New York Magazine

 (~20 minutes)

Jill Abramson returns to the confirmation hearing of Justice Clarence Thomas that she covered in such detail with Jane Mayer for their 1994 book Strange Justice. Resifting his testimony, Abramson find that he lied about sexual harassment and for his lies he should be booted from the court.


Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

The Sunday Still
from Patrick Farrell

One Man’s Journey

Madrid-based Reuters photographer Juan Medina has spent two decades documenting the cruel exodus of African and Middle Eastern migrants risking death to seek a better life in Europe. On Oct. 2, he captured this haunting image of a sub-Saharan African man aboard a Spanish rescue boat after a ship wrecked in the western Mediterranean Sea. What a wonderful example of a photograph that stops people in their tracks and begs the question, “What is going on here?” The slightly underexposed photo is saturated in brilliant color, with the rescue ship’s red hull as a backdrop. The viewer’s eye is drawn in, searching and finding the eyes of the man draped in a red blanket. Beauty and tragedy are combined in a simple, still image that doesn’t move, but certainly moves you.


Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he has worked since 1987. He is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Management at the University of Miami School of Communication.

The Sunday Pod
from Jody Avirgan

Jody is off this week, but why don't you ask him for a podcast pick in person tonight in Chicago!

The Long View
from Justine Gubar

   4 Ways Fred Trump Made Donald Trump and his Siblings RIch
By Susanne Craig, Russ Buettner, David Barstow and Gabriel J.X. Dance plus Brad Fisher, Tim Wallace, Grant Gold, Greg Chen, Jamie Collazo, Aaron Byrd and Andy Mills for The New York Times


If you thought the The New York Times blockbuster story on the Trump fortune was a little dense, these 4 short videos break down the terminology and techniques Fred Trump used to prop up Donald Trump and his siblings with income from the his real estate empire. According to this comprehensive investigation, Donald Trump, from the age of 3, was receiving money from his father’s investments, shattering his preferred narrative that the President is a self-made man.

The Long View curator Justine Gubar is a former Vice President, News Narratives at Fusion and the author of Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan. Reach out to Justine at if you have a suggestion for next week's long view.

The Sunday Cover
from Étienne Lajoie

   How Christine Blasey Ford’s Testimony Changed America
By Haley Sweetland Edwards
Illustration by John Mavroudis

Étienne Lajoie, the curator of The Sunday Cover, is a journalist based in Montreal.

The Sunday Esoterica
from Ryan Rodenberg

   Senator Richard Blumenthal, et al., v. Donald J. Trump


“When Members of Congress sue the President in federal court over official action, a court must first determine whether the dispute is a ‘Case’ or ‘Controversy’ under Article III of the United States Constitution, rather than a political dispute between the elected branches of government.  A critical part of this inquiry is whether the plaintiffs have legal standing to bring the action.”  So begins a September 28, 2018 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in a case pitting over 200 members of Congress against President Trump.  The case involves the 'Foreign Emoluments Clause' of the Constitution.  In the recent 58-page decision, Judge Sullivan ruled that "plaintiffs have standing to sue the President..."

Sunday Esoterica curator Ryan Rodenberg 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.

The Sunday Long Play
from Kelly Dearmore

Charlie Robison - Life of the Party (iTunes | Spotify)

Drop the needle on ZZ Top's Fandango, or Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger, and as much as you might hear a number of sounds and styles, you'll also hear, rather clearly, an inherent Texan-ness. Rule-breaking, hell-raising and boundary-shifting are things us Texans love to hear from our favorite native musicians.

Country artist Charlie Robison is a part of that grand legacy. And his Life of the Party album from 1998 stands up, even 20 years later, as a how-to document for aspiring singer-songwriters looking for clever narratives tucked into traditional country-rock backgrounds. Robison recently announced he is retiring from recording and performing due to complications suffered from a recent throat surgery. 

To quote one of the Bobs from Office Space, "I celebrate the man's entire catalog," but for this occasion, it'd almost be criminal to not reach for the album that put him on the Texas dancehall map and helped usher in an era of independent, regionally driven Texas flavored country many now refer to as "Texas country.” Life of the Party is a must listen for any who seek understanding of the soul, grit and whimsy of a Lone Star storyteller. 

Long Play curator Kelly Dearmore is the Music Critic for the Dallas Morning News. Yes, he's heard your son's demo tape, and he thinks it's fantastic. 

The Su♬day Sou♬dtrack
from The Editors

Such Great Heights
By The Postal Service

The Sunday LimeRick
from Tim Torkildson

We ought to place a tariff on our Congress members, too.
They flood our lives with nonsense and they stick around like glue.
Make them pay a hundred ev'ry time they give a speech,
and double down that duty if they want to shout "impeach!"
Consorting with a lobbyist should generate a fine
that puts them in the poor house or at least a deep salt mine.
Whenever they appear on TV or the world wide web
they need to be deported to Croatia, Zagreb.
And when they're still and humble they can carry on at last
with minding their own bizness as each honest vote they cast.

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

The Sund&y Ampers&nd
from Nick Aster

The Sunday Ampersand is chosen by Nick Aster. Nick most recently served as founder of, a leading publication focused on sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

The Last Laugh
from The Editors

   The Best Band Names Clipped From This Week’s New Yorker

By Edward Steed for The New Yorker

 (~5 minutes)

Our favorite is that recent banger from Antonin Scalia’s Severed Head. 

Read Later

Founder, Curator: Don Van Natta Jr.
Producer, Curator: Jacob Feldman
Producer, Curator: Étienne Lajoie
Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer
Senior Long View Editor: Justine Gubar
Senior Photo Editor: Patrick Farrell
Senior Music Editor: Kelly Dearmore
Senior Limerick Editor: Tim Torkildson
Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan
Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg

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

Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Jonathan Bernstein, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Maria Bustillos, Chris Cillizza, Anna Katherine Clemmons, Rich Cohen, Pam Colloff, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Hadley Freeman, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, 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, Jo Piazza, Joe Posnanski, S.L. Price, Jennifer Romolini, Julia Rubin, Albert Samaha, Bob Sassone, Bruce Schoenfeld, Michael Schur, Joe Sexton, Jacqui Shine, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Adam Sternbergh, Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, John A. Walsh, Seth Wickersham and Karen Wickre.

Header Image: Max Guther

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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807 Chester Road
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