Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

Paul Singer, Doomsday Investor by Sheelah Kolhatkar for The New Yorker.



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

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Don's Favorites

   Dear Mr President
By Jeanne Marie Laskas 
 (~20 minutes)


During his eight years living in the White House, Barack Obama famously read 10 letters from American citizens every day. And Jeanne Marie Laskas, one of our very best longform writers, introduces us to those voices—and, in a rare interview with Obama, shows how important the evening ritual became for him. The letter writers wanted their voices to be heard—and their lives seen—by their President. Obama says he felt it was part of his duty to respond to as many letter-writers as he could: "my presence there signified to those families that they were important. Their loved ones were important. The grief they were feeling was important. That it had been seen and acknowledged."

This piece includes audio clips of citizens reading their letters to the President and is an excerpt of Laskas’ forthcoming book, To Obama: With Love, Joy, Anger and Hope, to be published on Sept. 18. 


   The Untold Story of NotPetya, the Most Devastating Cyberattack in History
By Andy Greenberg
 (~30 minutes)


An attack launched by the Russian military, as part of its cyber warfare unit, crippled the global supply chain and cost more than $10 billion in damages—no matter how desperately the victims tried to restore their corporate systems online. 

In a matter of hours on June 27, 2017, the attack, triggered by a piece of malware called NotPetya, decimated global companies’ computer systems, from pharmaceutical giant Merck to delivery giant FedEx. The attack also paralyzed 17 of global shipping giant Maersk’s terminals in ports around the world, from New Jersey to Mumbai. “It was clear this problem was of a magnitude never seen before in global transport,” one Maersk customer recalls. “In the history of shipping IT, no one has ever gone through such a monumental crisis.” One of the things I admire most about this piece is that despite Maersk executives’ refusal to talk, Andy Greenberg collected many revealing details about the company’s handling, step by step, of a crisis that took weeks to contain. 

By the way, this article is an excerpt of Greenberg’s forthcoming book, Sandworm.

How an International Hacker Network Turned Stolen Press Releases Into $100 Million

Jacob's Favorite

   What Makes Someone Native American?
By Lisa Rab 
 (~25 minutes)


What does it mean to be white, to be black, to be Native American—in your peers’ eyes, in the government’s eyes, in your own eyes? Few understand the power of those questions better than members of the Lumbee tribe, which has had its racial qualifications examined and debated for decades. Prepare for this forensic investigation of identity, paired with minimalist portraits, to change the way you think.

By Robert D. McFadden 
 (~30 minutes)


John McCain, the war hero, five-term U.S. senator from Arizona and Republican presidential nominee in 2008, died Saturday at the age of 81.

"A son and grandson of four-star admirals who were his larger-than-life heroes, Mr. McCain carried his renowned name into battle and into political fights for more than a half-century,” Robert D. McFadden writes in McCain’s obit. “It was an odyssey driven by raw ambition, the conservative instincts of a shrewd military man, a rebelliousness evident since childhood and a temper that sometimes bordered on explosiveness."

 John McCain spent his life serving the dignity of his fellow man
➢ John McCain and the Lost Art of Decency
➢ What I learned about John McCain during 20 years covering him


   Paul Singer, Doomsday Investor
By Sheelah Kolhatkar 
 (~50 minutes)


A compulsively readable portrait of Paul Singer, the 74-year-old head of Elliott Management who has pioneered a savagely adversarial, profoundly profitable way of doing business.

➢ Gospels of Giving for the New Gilded Age


   I’m Coping With Cancer by Reporting On It
By Alexandra Glorioso 

 (~10 minutes)

The subhed on this compelling, poignant piece—“This is what it’s like to go from journalist to patient”—isn’t quite right. A journalist who covers health care and politics in Florida, Alexandra Glorioso is continuing, after her breast cancer diagnosis, to do the reporting that she’s always done. Only this time, she is the subject, checking this piece’s facts with her doctor. “I always fear misquoting or mischaracterizing someone,” she writes, “but now, the person I fear misquoting will soon cut me open on an operating table.”

➢ The Freelance Writer of Sing Sing


   The Un-Celebrity President
By Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan 

 (~15 minutes)

Since Gerald Ford, every American President has left the White House to quickly cash in on a multitude of pathways to vast wealth. Everyone, that is, except Jimmy Carter, now nearly 94 years old. “I don’t see anything wrong with it; I don’t blame other people for doing it,” Carter says in this lovely profile of him and his beloved wife of 72 years, Rosalynn, as they savor their golden years in Plains, Ga. “It just had never been my ambition to be rich.”


   The Impossible Job: Inside Facebook’s Struggle to Moderate Two Billion People
By Jason Koebler and Joseph Cox
 (~45 minutes)

How do you police all of human interaction? What if you can’t? Motherboard’s three-month investigation raises more questions than it answers.


   How Tourists Are Destroying the Places They Love
By Der Spiegel Staff 
 (~30 minutes)

What a Shakespearean tragedy: Humans can finally see the world, and we are destroying it in the process.

➢ Amsterdam Seeks To Rein in Tourists


   The Fearless Bailey Foley
By Tim Keown
 (~30 minutes)


The incredible true story of a high school football star’s recovery from a brain injury and how it changed the way he, his family and his coaches see the sport. By my supremely talented ESPN colleague and friend, Tim Keown.

➢ The Courageous Fight to Fix the NBA’s Mental Health Problem


   Sy Hersh is Calling!
By James Rosen 
 (~10 minutes)


Has anyone ever SyHershed the legendary Sy Hersh? James Rosen lands many body blows to Hersh and his outside-the-lines methods, in this sharply drawn smackdown of the 81-year-old, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter.

Listen to Seymour Hersh on The Sunday Long Read Podcast


   Kate’s New Face
By Joanna Connors 
 (~45 minutes)


At 21, Kate Stubblefield became the youngest person in the United States to undergo a face transplant.


   Beto O’Rourke vs Ted Cruz and the Fight for America
By Christopher Hooks  
 (~15 minutes)

Beto O’Rourke’s thoughtful, rousing and nuanced answer to a question about the ongoing Trump vs. NFL players’ protests controversy went viral late last week, introducing even more people to the Texas Democrat’s fresh-faced candidacy. O’Rourke is trying to unseat Senator Ted Cruz in deep-red Texas, a state where no Democrat has won a statewide election since 1994. This piece by Christopher Hooks explains why so many Democrats nationwide have pinned their giddy hopes on O’Rourke—this November and beyond—while also outlining the challenges facing the incumbent, who says, despite being on the national stage for years, that he’s misunderstood by his fellow Texans.


   A New Citizen Decides to Leave the Tumult of Trump’s America
By Rebecca Mead 
 (~30 minutes)


After three decades living in New York and becoming a naturalized American citizen, Rebecca Mead has made the difficult choice to return to Britain, where she was born and raised. But England isn’t home.


   The Water Crises Aren’t Coming—They’re Here
By Alec Wilkinson 
 (~30 minutes)


With 7 billion people now living on Earth, experts worry that we are quickly running out of our fresh water supply. Alec Wilkinson asks, How can we keep the H20 flowing?


   Who’s Afraid of Tom Arnold?
By Brian Hiatt 
 (~20 minutes)


A look inside Tom Arnold’s manic, sometimes dishonest quest to locate tapes of Trump uttering slurs on the set of “The Apprentice.”


   The Lazy Trope of the Unethical Female Journalist
By Sophie Gilbert 
 (~5 minutes)


Hollywood’s depictions of female reporters have never been further from reality. Exhibit A: Camille Preaker, the reporter played in the HBO miniseries “Sharp Objects” by Amy Adams.


   What Made P.D. East the Fearless Wit of Forrest County
By William Browning
 (~20 minutes)


In the 1950s segregationist south, a newspaper man’s brave crusade for racial equality infuriated the racist establishment—and signaled a new era of political satire.


   THE SUNDAY ORAL HISTORY: How the ’90s Kinda World of ‘Living Single’ Lives on Today
By Hannah Giorgis 
 (~55 minutes)


A super-fun oral history of the ’90s hit show, “Living Single,” 25 years after its premiere, that draws all sorts of interesting parallels to today’s culture.

➢  Sex, Steroids and Arnold: The Story of the Gym that Shaped America


   How TripAdvisor Changed Travel
By Linda Kinstler 
 (~30 minutes)


The world’s biggest travel website revolutionized the industry, but it’s now grappling with the same problems confronting Facebook, Google and Twitter.

➢  Virgin Galactic’s Rocket Man


   How Peddlers of ‘Food-Grade’ Hydrogen Peroxide Exploit the Sick and the Desperate
By Karen Savage
 (~35 minutes)


Conmen claim that drinking a few drops of hydrogen peroxide diluted in a glass of water will cure almost anything. And they get away with it.


   Children of the Cube
By John Branch 
 (~15 minutes)


Don’t miss John Branch’s beautiful story about his son, Joe, and his cube.

Last Week's Most Read

   Meet The Scammers Who Abused The Shit Out Of The Brilliant Dumb Idea That Was MoviePass
By Katie Notopoulos

   How a Notorious Gangster Was Exposed By His Own Sister
By Patrick Radden Keefe

   How Kate Upton Saved Justin Verlander’s Career
By Brandon Sneed 


Lede of the Week

This is the story of a budding romance, but not the kind that starts with a chance encounter and ends with a happily-ever-after.

This one involves backbiting and an FBI undercover sting.


Quotation of the Week

   The Impossible Job: Inside Facebook’s Struggle to Moderate Two Billion People

“Everyone I’ve talked to who comes out of it said ‘I don’t really think he [Mark Zuckerberg] was listening. It feels like by inviting all these people in, they’re trying to drive the problem away from them.”

-A person familiar with dinners organized at Mark Zuckerberg’s house to talk about content moderation

The SLR Podcast

   Maria Bustillos

Maria Bustillos is the current editor in chief of Popula, an alternative news and culture magazine that recently launched on the blockchain-based Civil platform. In this week's episode, Don and Maria walk through one of Popula's first pieces published, her 20,000-word interview with the late Anthony Bourdain—“he spent two and a half hours with me in the comfy Irish bar, blabbing about everything under the sun ... And nobody bothered us in all that time, it was like there was a force field around him.”—as well as blockchain-based journalism—“it’s obvious why [blockchain] recordkeeping is valuable for journalism: it allows us to maintain archives that can’t be censored or altered after the fact. We can amend previous records only through addenda, in other words: not through erasure. This is the first benefit of blockchain technology to the free press, and this benefit alone makes it worth moving our news media into blockchain-based publishing systems.” Maria's work has previously appeared in The New Yorker, The Awl, The New York Times, Harper’s and The Guardian.


This week’s episode includes explicit language.


Subscribe to The Sunday Long Read Podcast today!

The Classic Read
from Jack Shafer

   The Jones Nobody Keeps Up With (1966)

By Carol J. Loomis  

 (~20 minutes)

In this forward-looking piece, business-journo pro Carol J. Loomis profiles Alfred Jones, the Columbia University sociologist and lapsed Fortune journalist who started one of the first hedge funds. There's something Michael Lewis-ish about this piece, which was published when Lewis was six: It's written for the layman without the unnecessary jargon that mars much financial journalism. And its finds are applicable to life outside the balance sheet. 

Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

The Sunday Pod
from Jody Avirgan

   Soul Music: Swan Lake (iTunes | Overcast)

Someone this week happened to mention this unnarrated doc about Swan Lake from 2008, so I went and checked it out. It’s full of great voices, fantastic hidden history, and elegant production. More importantly, it’s part of the BBC’s “Soul Music” series, which I admit I didn’t know existed. But I am now completely binging on the archives: God Only Knows, Sukiyaki (this one is particularly moving), and many more. Just check out the list, find a song you love, and dive in. Happy crate digging.

Sunday Pod curator 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 Long View
from Justine Gubar

   Brenda Tracy shares powerful story of survival
By Paula Lavigne (reporter) and Dave Lubbers (producer)


Gang rape survivor Brenda Tracy shares her powerful story with the University of Arkansas football team.  My friends at ESPN’s Outside the Lines were there to document Tracy’s talk and its impact.

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 Still
from Patrick Farrell

Breaking news in a blue dress

My faith in the value of daily journalism was reinforced in this photograph by Jacquelyn Martin of the Associated Press. Veteran photojournalist Martin was at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., for the financial fraud trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, on August 21, 2018. She captured NBC News intern Cassie Semyon, 21, in mid-stride as the Temple University journalism student bolted from the courthouse to deliver news of the verdict, guilty on eight of 18 charges (cell phones and cameras were not allowed inside). A statue of Lady Justice and the courthouse facade looms in the background. Martin’s quick judgment and Semyon’s fleet feet came together in a single photo that reassures us that the future of journalism is as strong as the next generation of truth-driven rookies and the experienced veterans who mentor them – and never miss an important moment. The image also drives home the fact that a photograph doesn’t have to be literal to convey the news and catch readers’ eyes. You don’t have to see lawyers in front of microphones – the typical courthouse scene – to understand the importance and history of the news happening here. 


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 Cover
from Étienne Lajoie

   The Role of Struggle In Aretha Franklin's Path to Greatness
By Evelyn McDonnell 

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

The Sunday Esoterica
from Ryan Rodenberg

   Artificial Intelligence Policy: A Primer and Roadmap


"Talk of artificial intelligence is everywhere" reads the first sentence of a recent academic paper by University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo. Indeed, it is hard to go more than a week without hearing some reference to "AI" or "machine learning." In his new paper, Calo "explains why AI is suddenly on everyone's mind and provides a roadmap to the major policy questions AI raises." ​

The full 28-page paper can be freely downloaded via this landing page

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

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

The Studio
I've Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You (1967) (iTunes | Spotify)

The Stage 
Live at the Fillmore West (1971) (iTunes | Spotify)

In Praise 
Amazing Grace (1972) (iTunes | Spotify)


When an iconic artist passes, it's reflexive to mourn the loss of their physical presence. But we, and every generation hereafter, will enjoy the product of what made that artist such an incredibly forceful presence. And in these divisive times where frequent battles are drawn up along racial, political, religious and social lines, celebrating the life and art of a transcendent soul such as Aretha Franklin brings warring factions together for a thoughtful respite, at least for a short while. 

The Queen of Soul's impact on the past century of music is far too grand for us to offer up only one album to drop the needle on today, so let's take a listen to some stellar examples of her recorded work in three key areas in which she excelled as much, or more than, anyone else whose ever breathed into a microphone: the studio, especially that famed spot in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, as well as the Stage, and in praise of her Lord. 

Also, please take a moment to read this thoughtful appreciation written by my Dallas Morning News colleague Thor Christensen.

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

Me Ki Sa Oule
By Kali 

The Sunday LimeRick
from Tim Torkildson

@realDonaldTrump: Where’s the Collusion? They made up a phony crime called Collusion, and when there was no Collusion they say there was Obstruction (of a phony crime that never existed). If you FIGHT BACK or say anything bad about the Rigged Witch Hunt, they scream Obstruction!


I never will stoop to collude
with anyone anywhere, dude.
And I've always bucked
the urge to obstruct;
Integrity I do exude.

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

   Summer 2018 Is the Summer of Sleaze

By Jonathan Evans 

 (~5 minutes)

Boy-men celebs, like Justin Bieber and Jonah Hill, have embraced a kind of sleazoid fashion, looking “like the kind of guys who spend their time perfecting shoplifting techniques or creeping everyone out at the bowling alley bar.” 

   Do Men Enter Bathtubs on Their Hands and Knees?

By Kelly Conaboy 

 (~10 minutes)

“An investigation.”

   I’ve Decided to Parent the Way Jack Dorsey Runs Twitter

By Kimberly Harrington 

 (~5 minutes)

It all starts with the family shout-down. “One person speaks, and then we all yell at him until he shuts the hell up, cries, or leaves.”

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
Campus Editor: Peter Warren

Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, 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, 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, Seth Wickersham and Karen Wickre.

Header Image: Christian Northeast

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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