This is the start of our sixth full year curating the week’s finest longform journalism. And we want to begin by welcoming and thanking all our new subscribers who have recently joined us, as well as our newly minted members (who keep the SLR funded while getting our newsletter early every week and bonus editions throughout the year). We had a big surge of both over the holidays.
We started this project to celebrate writing worth reading, and we’ve kept going because of people like you. We especially appreciate those who nominate stories they love—you can tweet them with the hashtag #SundayLR—and those who help us spread the SLR. We’re proud of the community you’ve helped build solely through word of mouth plus some forwarded emails and retweets.
So, thank you for reading, thank you for writing, and thank you for sharing. Here’s to a year of meaningful work!
Brenda was sure she and Ricky would be together forever, but then he left her. Kendra was sure she and Ricky would be together forever, too. Then Brenda did something about it. Skip Hollandsworth has the story of jealous rage, spying and murder in Uptown Dallas. (And for more outstanding work by Skip Hollandsworth, read this inspiring piece.)
Twelve students agreed to give up their cell phones for nine days. “What they wrote was remarkable, and remarkably consistent,” Ron Srigley writes. “These university students, given the chance to say what they felt, didn’t gracefully submit to the tech industry and its devices.”
No American sports commissioner has done more to rescue/transform/monetize his league than David Stern. Many fine obits and tributes followed Stern’s death at age 77 on New Year’s Day, but this perceptive, beautifully written essay by Henry Abbott is our favorite.
For the fifth time tonight, Ricky Gervais will host the Golden Globes. Why do it again? “Because it’s fun, it’s fun!” Gervais’ tried-and-tested strategy (besides the cold lager he’ll have perched on the podium): “I’ve got to be the bloke sitting at home who shouldn’t have been invited. That’s who I’ve got to be.”
AZIZABAD, Afghanistan — Once the Americans left, the survivors started digging.
There were too many dead and not enough shovels, so a local politician brought in heavy machinery from a nearby construction site. He dug graves deep enough to fit mothers with children, or children with children. Some were still in their pajamas, their hands inked with henna tattoos from the party preparations the night before.
Villagers picked through the rubble of what had been an entire neighborhood, looking for remains to wrap in white linens for burial. A boy clutching a torn rug walked in a daze on top of the ruins. A young man collapsed in grief by a pile of mud bricks where his home once stood—where his wife and four children had been sleeping inside.
“Have you seen the movie ‘Caddyshack’? There’s a gopher, and he pops up every so often… I’m the gopher. So I’ll continue to pop up periodically and be the bane of their existence, because I don’t want them to feel comfortable. They are participating in a social and economic process that is destroying actual human lives. And I’m just not going to go along with it. Especially not with my name attached.”
If you had read this piece by Dexter Filkins in 2013, you wouldn't be so goddamn stupid this morning about Qassem Suleimani, Iran, and the Middle East. Filkins frequently gets tapped by the editors at The Sunday Long Read. I picked this 2008 report from grunt-level of the assault on Fallujah last January for the Classic Read slot.Filkins is one of those rare specimens of the breed who can run through the shrapnel, navigate history, and sketch the profile, leaving you smarter than you have any right to be.
Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.
This is sort of a stream of consciousness audio journal, which kind of makes it feel more like YouTube than a traditional reported podcast. I dig it. It had me hooked with an intriguing plotline (crashing a secret society) and winning delivery from comedian Jamie Loftus. I also like that it’s just four episodes. I know it’s not always economically viable but it’s nice to know that I don’t have to make a huge commitment.
Sunday Pod curator Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN, which just launched Season Six.
As apocalyptic wildfires rage across Australia, at least 18 people have been killed, more than 1,000 homes destroyed and a staggering half a billion animals reportedly wiped out. Shooting for The New York Times, Sydney-based photographer Matthew Abbott expertly captured the peril and sense of place on Dec. 31 in New South Wales. Along with mastering the mechanics of shooting in bright, hot light, which requires adjusting for exposure, Abbott had to constantly plot a quick exit plan from the unpredictable flames and protect his face, hands and camera. “Your face is burning,” he explained in a weekly newsletter from the Times’ Australia bureau. “Your camera is scorching hot, it’s almost melting.” As a solo image, Abbott’s photo speaks 1,000 words, answering the Who, What, When, Where, Why of the story without even needing a caption.
Patrick Farrell, the curator of The Sunday Still, is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winner for Breaking News Photography for The Miami Herald, where he worked from 1987 to 2019. He is currently a Lecturer in the Department of Journalism and Media Management at the University of Miami School of Communication.
Man, I loved this book. I started the novel over the holiday break in large part because I'd torn through one of Patchett's earlier works, Bel Canto, a literary take on a hostage crisis at a South American opera house. Commonwealth's premise is more pedestrian but is probably the better book. The story begins with an extramarital affair in the 1960s that fractures two Los Angeles families. The genius of the novel is how Patchett structures it: It jumps around chronologically, the chapters self-contained episodes of various characters' lives. These episodes are highly enjoyable; Patchett is a funny and humane storyteller who also happens to be great with a sentence. For half the book I thought the episodes were random. Then I realized they were not.
That's when the book really got good. I liked the novel so much I'm hoping I can get Patchett on for Season 2 of the podcast.
Paul Kix is a best-selling author, an editor, and the host of the podcast, Now That's a Great Story, where novelists, journalists, screenwriters and songwriters talk about their favorite work, the one that reveals their artistic worldview. For insights from writers that go beyond what's covered in the podcast, like the entry above, please sign up for Paul's newsletter.
In school, is it 'better' to take notes by hand or via a laptop computer? That is the question Colleen Murphy and two co-authors tackled in a new academic paper. The authors' findings "indicated a substantial positive association at a statistically significant level between handwriting and academic performance."
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.
With the ever-changing landscape of corporately owned comics, often driven by mass media and other iterations, it’s hard for fans to see their versions of characters continue - but writer/artist Michael Fiffe came up with a unique and endearing - not to mention compelling and addictive - way of dealing with it. He created his own versions of his beloved heroes, and blended them with his love for 80s DC Comics and the like to create COPRA, part love letter to the genre but also a thoughtful and engaging work all its own. At The A.V. Club, comics reporter Sava spotlights the long-running series - which recently relaunched via indie stalwart Image Comics. The story serves as a great springboard into the comic, which anyone worth their salt should be reading.
Alex Segura is an acclaimed author, a comic book writer written various comic books, including The Archies, Archie Meets Ramones, and Archie Meets KISS. He is also the co-creator and co-writer of the Lethal Lit podcast from iHeart Radio, which was named one of the Five Best Podcasts of 2018 by The New York Times. By day, Alex is Co-President of Archie Comics. You can find him at www.alexsegura.com.
Founder, Editor: Don Van Natta Jr. Producer, Editor: Jacob Feldman Producer, Junior Editor: Étienne Lajoie Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer Senior Photo Editor: Patrick Farrell Senior Music Editor: Kelly Dearmore Senior Podcast Editor: Jody Avirgan Senior Editor of Esoterica: Ryan M. Rodenberg Senior Originals Editor: Peter Bailey-Wells Sunday Comics Editor: Alex Segura
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, Doug Bock Clark, Anna Katherine Clemmons, Stephanie Clifford,Rich Cohen, Jessica Contrera, Jonathan Coleman, Pam Colloff, Bryan Curtis, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Jodi Mailander Farrell, Hadley Freeman, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Megan Greenwell, 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, Edmund Lee, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Jon Mackenzie, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Erik Malinowski, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Jeff Maysh, Jack McCallum, Susan McPherson, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Heidi N. Moore, Kim Morgan, 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, Ramona Shelburne, Jacqui Shine, Alexandra Sifferlin, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Adam Sternbergh,Matt Sullivan, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, Nikki Waller, John A. Walsh, Seth Wickersham, Karen Wickre and Dave Zirin.
Contributor in memoriam: Lyra McKee 1990-2019
Header Image: Carolyn Drake
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.