EDITORS’ NOTE: Let us be the first to wish you Happy Independence Day!
We are thrilled to introduce the new curator of our popular feature, The Sunday Ampersand: Nick Aster loves to write about actionable solutions to the world's problems but appreciates a good joke too. He most recently served as founder of TriplePundit.com, a leading publication focused on sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Nick lives in San Francisco with his wife, Jo Piazza (also a SLR contributing editor!), and their son Charlie, who likes to chase pigeons.
We’ll be off next Sunday to celebrate the long holiday weekend (hopefully you’ll get a break too!). We’ll return on Sunday, July 15, with more of the very best longform journalism. We have some fantastic guest editors lined up to help you—and us—navigate the dog days of summer.
In the meantime, we've got an overstuffed list this week of over 40 recommendations to get you through the next two weeks, including our 10 most clicked stories from the first half of 2018. Plus, you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to the SLR Podcast for more. Finally, if you haven’t already done so, please share the SLR with your family and friends.
Enjoy the July 4th barbecue and all the long reads!
Don and Jacob
Taffy Brodesser-Akner is at the height of her powers in this phenomenal portrait of Jonathan Franzen. The acclaimed author and essayist, now 58, has carved out a seemingly cloistered existence in Santa Cruz, California, bird-watching, attempting to adapt his fifth novel, “Purity,” into a Showtime series and preparing to write his sixth—and, he insists, last—novel. Franzen is seen here as a persnickety creature of habit. He loathes Twitter. And he insists, despite a hard-won reputation, that he is not an angry man. The piece dazzles, in large part because of Brodesser-Akner’s uncanny ability to burrow inside, and decode, Franzen’s isolated—and inner—lives.
On January 28, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff above Cape Canaveral, stunning the nation that had tuned in to marvel at the maiden voyage of a school teacher named Christa McAuliffe. My ESPN colleague Tonya Malinowski lyrically tells the amazing story of the soccer ball that survived the disaster—and the family that sent it into space. Twice. You won’t forget this story.
The Tasmanian tiger was declared extinct 80 years ago. And yet Tasmanians keep seeing the animal in the wild, or they keep thinking they have, or have kept believing the tigers are out there, at least. Captured elegantly in Brooke Jarvis’s New Yorker debut, the ongoing quest for our natural past stands in as a metaphor for our attraction to mystery, our slow understanding of our impact on this world, and so much more.
In this thoughtful, thought-provoking essay, John Lanchester takes the measure of the 2008 worldwide economic crash—the unrequited anger, the lessons learned (and, mostly, ignored), the projections missed and the opportunities bungled–and concludes, rather grimly, that not much has really changed.
Meet Young Fred Rogers, who gained confidence in Toronto while testing his pioneering ideas on Canadian television, often hidden from the cameras as a puppeteer. With the help of the CBC archives, Soraya Roberts traces how and why Mr. Rogers became Mr. Rogers.
“The nebulousness of global warming works in the status quo’s favor,” writes Elisa Gabbert, in this provocative piece about how the world struggles to grapple with threats that are too gargantuan to see, especially when civilization itself is the cause of one of them.
After her hand was slashed in a violent knife attack, Petra Kvitova wondered if she’d ever play tennis again. Now, 18 months later, she’s aiming for her third Grand Slam title at Wimbledon. A marvelous feat of reporting and writing by one of America’s finest sportswriters (and my colleague), Bonnie D. Ford.
“While the UN is focused on peacekeeping, France and America are leading counter-terrorism operations intent on search and destroy. Foreign forces are fast militarising the Sahara desert.” And Firle Davies and Alastair Leithead were there to capture the fighting.
A look inside Ferrero’s vast, enormously profitable candy-and-Nutella empire, led by 53-year-old chairman Giovanni Ferrero, who sat down for his first American media interview with Forbes’ Noah Kirsch to discuss a recent acquisitions-binge, among other things.
When my youngest daughter Sofia was in 8th grade, I drove us to watch YouTube wunderkind Bo Burnham perform in Jacksonville—not exactly around the corner from our house in Miami. But Sofia’s delight in Burnham’s edgy, funny and, at times, awkward performance—and my surprise at how sharp he was about practically everything, especially the insidious nature of social media—made the round-trip more than worthwhile.
Now 27, Burnham has a written and directed his first feature film called “Eighth Grade.” Michael Schulman has captured Burnham’s unique brand of genius, fueled, it turns out, by his own anxiety that began years after he left 8th grade. And his film, by the way, looks like a sure thing.
Veteran Newark Star-Ledger sports columnist Steve Politi stumbled on New Jersey boxing legend Bobby Czyz working behind cash register No. 5 at the ShopRite in Somerville, N.J. That’s where this dazzling story of nostalgia and discovery begins.
Jill Abramson, my former boss and frequent NYT collaborator, is almost always right. And so we should pay attention to her (very) tough-love assessment of The Times, delivered on Twitter and in this follow-up interview with Lloyd Grove.
"For all its testosterone rage, Linkin Park violated the notion that to be male is to be steady, unstudied, and tough. Linkin Park’s form of nu metal—the rap-rock style in vogue around the turn of the millennium—was polished and, for the band’s first few albums, notably devoid of swearing.
"To publicly rebuke a black woman’s support for protest and not the powerful white patriarch’s thinly veiled call to violence against her is to play on the very same impulses that Trump himself plays on: racist and sexist anxiety about noncompliant women and nonwhites, and the drive to punish them."
There's so much information (and misinformation) floating around out there about food. What we should be eating. What we shouldn't be eating. It can be a little daunting and it should certainly not be so damn complicated. Thankfully, this piece is chock full of wisdom (and common sense) to help us all figure it out.
Who bought a winning Hot Lotto ticket in Des Moines, Iowa worth $16.5 million back in 2010? No one came forward to claim the jackpot until two hours before the one-year deadline. And then everything about the claimant raised all sorts of suspicions. Nearly everyone in the Iowa attorney general’s office was confounded by the mystery—except a young, baby-faced Iowan and white-collar crime specialist named Rod Sand. By releasing a video of the hoodie-wearing purchaser and by following his gut, Sand figured out the ticket was bought by the information-security director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs lotteries for 33 different states and is based in Iowa. It was an inside job by a man named Eddie Tipton, who rigged lotteries using a barely visible piece of computer code in part, he’d later say, because he viewed it as a challenge. He also saw himself as “a kind of coding Robin Hood, stealing from the lottery and helping people in need.” The authorities, however, saw him as a greedy, common thief.
This is the rare celebrity profile that excoriates its subject, using a film actor’s preposterous words, behavior and bloviating self-pity to puncture his blinding lack of self-awareness and current predicament, nearly broke, living in the “gilded prison” of a rented mansion in north London. At 55, Johnny Depp is very sad, even morbid, as he discusses his struggles with depression, his complicated relationships with his late mother and ex-wife and the fact there’s practically nothing left of the $650 million he was paid for films that grossed $3.6 billion.
He craves understanding for a wide array of perceived injustices by the long-time money managers and lawyers he’s suing (and who have counter-sued him), while ticking off oher perceived slights (“It’s insulting to say that I spent $30,000 [per month] on wine,” he says. “Because it was far more.”). But Depp will be pitied for reasons he and his lawyer likely never imagined when they recruited Stephen Rodrick to write this man-in-full, 72-hour marathon Rolling Stone profile. There are more than a few jaw-dropping revelations and cringe-worthy passages, but this one ranks among my favorites: | Depp is evangelical in the uses of narcotics and thinks they could have expedited the capture of Osama bin Laden. |“You get a bunch of fucking planes, big fucking planes that spray shit, and you drop LSD 25,” he says. “You saturate the fucking place. Every single thing will walk out of their cave smiling, happy.”
On Twitter, Julie Beck made us smile when she wrote on January 26, "Every time I read a book or see a movie, without fail, within weeks I will have completely forgotten almost everything about it. I was worried I just had a horrible memory, so I soothed myself through reporting." A fantastic piece of work.
There are two reasons why this fascinating story about what Trump’s loyalists are doing deserves attention. First, as others have noted, the continuous cycles of breaking news have sidelined conversations about thoughtful pieces like this one, and we’re poorer for the absence. Second, Evan Osnos could write about the contents of his sock drawer and I would want to read it.
If you missed this brilliant and wonderfully consuming piece by Jessica Pressler about a young white woman who spectacularly grifted her way through New York, you must have enjoyed an extended Memorial Day weekend at a place with no internet. Nearly as enjoyable as the story and the writing was the experience of being caught up in a tale that had nothing whatsoever to do with our current administration. “Anna looked at the soul of New York and recognized that if you distract people with shiny objects, with large wads of cash, with the indicia of wealth, if you show them the money, they will be virtually unable to see anything else. And the thing was: It was so easy.” Early bets on the casting of the inevitable film version are here.
This article and the underlying study on which it is based is explicitly premised on married women in heterosexual couplings, so I do think the headline should have made that clear. (Come on, NYT! Non-hetero-married parents are not exactly new.) Otherwise, this is a great and useful piece from Claire Cain Miller underscoring what we knew (children require time; mothers tend to spend more of it) and pulling it backward to what we, well, also knew (dropping out of your career isn’t typically a clutch career move). But considering how reluctant corporate America is to acknowledge or remedy this, it’s helpful to spell it out (even under an overbroad headline).
It is almost certain someone has already sent you a link to this story (co-published in The New York Times Magazine), about a beloved high school principal who might—or might not—have killed his fourth-grade teacher wife, and told you to read it immediately. It’s good advice.
My favorite Americans have always been the ones who chose this place. Christopher Hitchens and Alexander Cockburn,
two Brits who began in the same lefty ideological space but diverged after they came to the United States, offer impressionistic, rambling meditations on the how and why they applied for and won citizenship. Hitchens comes to his American identity, it's safe to say, through his principled devotion to Thomas Jefferson. Cockburn's path is more practical. Officially a holder of an Irish passport, not a U.K. one, he writes that he's lived in all four quadrants of the U.S., driven across it 40 times. He knows the place well and loves it (without saying so), and that's made it his home, so why not make it official with the paperwork? Pour yourself a beer on the Fourth of July to mark their defection, light an M-80, and hum "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in their honor.
I had a couple long drives this week and got a chance to finish up this series from Roger Bennett (of Men In Blazers cult-fame) about the 1998 US World Cup team. Overall, it’s really strong, with great access and lots of drama, and I love that there are more ambitious sports podcasts popping up. Things were a bit rocky in terms of figuring out Rog’s role—at times enthusiast, at times straightforward narrator—but once the story started taking off around the 3rd episode, it really kept me hooked.
Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the new "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN.
THE SLR POD:
No new episode this week. We encourage you to catch up on these conversations that you might have missed:
Jonathan Franzen now lives in a humble, perfectly nice two-story house in Santa Cruz, Calif., on a street that looks exactly like a lot of other streets in America and that, save for a few cosmetic choices, looks exactly like every other house on the block. Santa Cruz, he says, is a “little pocket of the ’70s that persisted.” Inside his house, there is art of birds -- paintings and drawings and figurines. Outside, in the back, there are actual birds, and a small patio, with a four-person wrought-iron dining set, and beyond that, a shock: a vast, deep ravine, which you would never guess existed behind the homes on such a same-looking street, but there it is. There is so much depth and flora to it, so much nature, so many birds -- whose species Franzen names as they whiz by our faces-- that you almost don’t notice the ocean beyond.
"Among friends, Winters was known for her detailed Christmas letters. The letters — which she often delivered with a baked treat — would chronicle her previous year in a month-by-month breakdown of her family’s experiences. 'You would be completely updated about every aspect of her life,' Flynn said, and laughed. Friends said Winters came from a strong, pro-military family. She helped the Naval Academy class of 1940 organize and stay connected over recent years."
"Her boss, Capital Gazette advertising director Marty Padden, said she made sure the sales office ran smoothly. 'She was a very thoughtful person,' Padden said. 'She was kind and considerate, and willing to help when needed. She seemed to really enjoy to be working in the media business.' Smith described herself on her Facebook page as an 'Endo Warrior' — a survivor of endometriosis — and a 'Dog Mom. Softball Fiance. Bonus Mom to the best kid ever.'"
"McNamara, who went by 'Mac,' was remembered by his colleagues for his flexibility, concise writing and extensive knowledge of regional sports. He had a razor wit that came in bursts like a social media post, one fellow reporter said. 'At a small paper like that, you have to be versatile,' said former Capital Gazette sports editor Gerry Jackson, who hired him back all those years ago. 'He could write. He could edit. He could design pages. He was just a jack of all trades and a fantastic person.'"
"Rob Hiaasen once wrote a description of his ideal job: 'I would like to be paid for the occasional amusing remark or for simply showing up promptly to work and bringing in cookies from time to time,' he wrote a colleague. 'Alas, there's no market for those outstanding qualities.' But he was wrong. His wryly observant writing style and his generous mentoring of young journalists assured him of roles in several newsrooms, from The Baltimore Sun to, most recently, the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, where he was one of five staff members shot to death Thursday."
"For more than 25 years, Fischman was the conscience and voice of the Annapolis news organization, writing scathing, insightful and always exacting editorials about the community. He was the guardian against libel, the arbiter of taste and a peculiar and endearing figure in a newsroom full of characters. 'He had ability that, I thought, deserved a higher calling than The Capital,' longtime editor and publisher Tom Marquardt said."
Even in print, Dan Ingram’s name makes you hear the joyful 77 WABC radio jingle, “DAAAANN INGGG-RAM!” That—and Dan’s booming, echo-enhanced voice on “the Ingram mess”—were the highlights of the soundtrack of my years growing up in northern New Jersey. All I’ve ever wanted to be was a writer, but for a year or two in my early teens, I had a detour dream of becoming a disc jockey, mainly because Dan Ingram’s witty wordplay captivated me. Oh to be as cool and irreverent and fun as Big Dan Ingram, the master of the talk-up.
From SI Films on Amazon ( $ but free trial available), the sad and all too familiar story of a football player’s life derailed told in a moving documentary. Paired with this equally compelling text story by Greg Bishop.
In this fascinating conversation, Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow explains how his team won the 2017 World Series with the help of analytics, only four years after a 51-win season. Luhnow uses anecdotes and insight—such as revealing that the team hired an extra minor league coach at each level “able to hit a fungo, throw batting practice, and program in SQL”—to make sense of the transformation.
As a few of you know all too well, I’ve been a fear-and-loathing Minnesota Vikings fan since 1972 so, no, I didn’t read this damn thing. Not one damn word.
THE SUNDAY STILL
At a candlelight vigil held on July 29, the day after five Capital Gazette employees were gunned down in their newsroom in Annapolis, Md., Getty photographer Mark Wilson captured sorrow and resiliency in one photograph. As mourners grieve, one clutches an edition of the community newspaper, which covered its own tragedy while the newsroom was still a crime scene. Reporter Chase Cook defiantly tweeted the same evening as the shooting, “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”
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 Distinguished Executive-in-Residence in Emerson College’s Department of Journalism.
Does the government need a search warrant to check cell phone tower records suggestive of where a criminal suspect might have been at a certain time? By a razor-thin 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court said "yes" in an important ruling issued on June 22. Writing for the five-justice majority, Chief Justice John Roberts concluded that authorities "must generally obtain a warrant supported by probable cause before acquiring such records."
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 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 Campus Editor: Peter Warren
Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Chris Cillizza, Anna Katherine Clemmons, Rich Cohen, Pam Colloff, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, 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, 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
Header Image: Fred Ramos
You can read more about our staff, and contact us (we'd love to hear from you!) on our website: SundayLongRead.com. Help pick next week's selections by tweeting us your favorite stories with #SundayLR.