Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

The Malaysian Job by Andrew Cockburn for Harper's 



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

Sunday, April 26, 2020 — Issue #254

Don and Jacob's Favorites

   An innocent man spent 46 years in prison. And made a plan to kill the man who framed him.
By Thomas Lake for CNN
 (~40 minutes)

Thomas Lake has gotten us used to gripping human tales. His latest about a Detroit prisoner turned artist and poet is delicate and tragic, weaving dark truths about lies and death between odes to beauty and hope.

Toronto Life: They Called Me Prisoner 183645


   The Coronavirus Cruise: On Board the Diamond Princess
By Joshua Hunt for 1843
 (~10 minutes)

A superb investigation of the ill-fated Diamond Princess, the cruise ship at the front edge of the Coronavirus crisis. Through dozens of interviews with the people on board, Joshua Hunt delivers a portrait of what life was like, including an early blissful ignorance about the virus that shifted rapidly into fear and helplessness after the passengers discovered the ship captain had stopped telling them about new infections.

Reuters: Beneath the Sickened City

Become a Sunday Long Read Member!

SLR Syllabus: The Coronavirus Crisis


   The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead
By Donald G. McNeil Jr. for The New York Times
 (~25 minutes)

No journalist has written more smart, sober and prescient words about the global pandemic than Donald G. McNeil Jr. for the Times. Hand McNeil the Pulitzer now.


   We Are Living in a Failed State
By George Packer for The Atlantic
 (~15 minutes)

The Coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken. 

   My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore?
By Gabrielle Hamilton for The New York Times Magazine
 (~25 minutes)

Prune, a fantastic bistro in Manhattan’s East Village, has been Gabrielle Hamilton’s life since 1999. At 53, Hamilton has four James Beard Awards on the wall, an Emmy on the shelf and a bestselling book. Despite all that, beloved restaurants like Prune, and a talented, ambitious restauranteur’s shot to make it big in the big city, have suddenly become endangered.

Science: How does coronavirus kill?
The New York Times: Home Alone at the White House: A Sour President, With TV His Constant Companion
➢ The New Yorker: Fifty Thousand Americans Dead From the Coronavirus, And a President Who Refuses to Mourn Them
➢ New York: The Nurse Who Came by Sea
➢ Businessweek: Inside the Dystopian, Post-Lockdown World of Wuhan
➢ The Atlantic: Calling Me a Hero Only Makes You Feel Better
Slate: America’s Heroism Trap
➢ Popular Mechanics: How Deep Cleaners Kill the Coronavirus
➢ WIRED: An Oral History of the Day Everything Changed
➢ The Guardian: ‘If one of us gets sick, we all get sick’: the food workers on the coronavirus front line
➢ The Undefeated: Under the coronavirus lockdown, a father and son rediscover their love for baseball
➢ Granta: War and Virus
➢ Well+Good: How banana bread became the unofficial baked good of COVID-19
➢ National Geographic: ‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain. Here's why that happens.

   The Malaysian Job
By Andrew Cockburn for Harper's
 (~25 minutes)

How does one of the largest frauds in financial history lead back to Goldman Sachs’ Manhattan offices?

The Boston Globe Magazine: Jubilee Jim Fisk and the great Civil War score


   The True Story of the White Island Eruption
By Alex Perry for Outside
 (~40 minutes)

On New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, home to an active volcano that has lured vacationers since the early 1990s, a six-hour tour last December turned tragic when the volcano exploded. In a story with eerie parallels to the global pandemic, Alex Perry explores the risks we're willing to take when lives hang in the balance.

(This story was one of several sent in a members' special edition earlier this week. Members can find that newsletter and our past member specials here.)

Outside: Army Ranger School Is a Laboratory of Human Endurance


   The Forgotten Tiger King of Harlem
By Zaron Burnett III for MEL
 (~10 minutes)

Long before “Tiger King” on Netflix, there was the Tiger King of Harlem. Antoine Yates spent three years living in a New York City apartment with his best friend and “roommate”—a 450-pound Siberian tiger named Ming. We won’t give away the unhappy ending.

The Bitter Southerner: E.O. Wilson's Big Ideas for Saving Nature—and Humanity Along With It


   Murder at Sutton Place
By Christopher Bollen for Vanity Fair
 (~45 minutes)

A splashy tabloid murder, co-starring high-life socialites, is dissected by Christopher Bollen.


   To Run My Best Marathon at Age 44, I Had to Outrun My Past
By Nicholas Thompson for WIRED
 (~30 minutes)

One year after his father’s death, Nicholas Thompson set out to run a marathon—well, actually two marathons, back-to-back. “You go up, you go down,” Thompson writes in this lovely essay about more than just one or two big themes. “At some point you reach your peak, but there are still vistas as you descend.”

You should also check out WIRED's From the Editors letter on how we can beat Covid-19.

Notre Dame Magazine: A Changed America


   Life of Zai
By Jay Cridlin for the Tampa Bay Times
 (~20 minutes)

Meet singer-with-a-dream Vonabell Hurst, a.k.a. Zai. You won’t forget her.

The Week: The all-girl Muslim metal band smashing through Indonesia
Esquire: What Brought Beyoncé, U2, and BTS to Amish Country?


   In search of Inigo Philbrick, the disappearing art dealer
By Oliver Franklin-Wallis for GQ UK
 (~35 minutes)

On view, a dramatic story from the world of art speculation and the transatlantic Ponzi scheme that shook it up. 

 Narratively: The Pirates of the Highways
 The New York Times: Celebrating Literature’s Slacker Heroes, Idlers and Liers-In


   How the Game-Changing George Foreman Grill Made History
By Kevin Pang for Men's Health
 (~10 minutes)

Back in the ’90s, this quirky indoor grill didn’t just remake the way people cooked for themselves at home. It also gave a complete makeover to an aging heavyweight champion.

 Pitchfork: How a New Age Hustler Sold the Sound of the World
 The Washington Post: The Animal Crossing soundtrack is an unlikely lullaby for a nervous world


   Is Michael Jordan Playing Defense in “The Last Dance?”
By Sopan Deb for The New York Times
(~5 minutes)

ESPN’s must-watch, record-shattering 10-part docuseries, “The Last Dance,” is Michael Jordan’s compelling, big-canvas argument, in the LeBron James era, that he was—and still is—the GOAT.

➢ ESPN‘The Last Dance’: Dennis Rodman embodied the pop culture phenomenon of the ’90s Bulls
➢ ESPNInside the 2008 Celtics’ group text that is still active today


   The brilliance and backstory of @OldHossRadbourn [$]
By Alex Coffey for The Athletic
 (~20 minutes)

In this delightful piece, Alex Coffey pulls back the curtain (somewhat—the guy behind the guy isn’t unmasked) on one of our favorite Twitter follows: @OldHossRadbourn.

   Takeru Kobayashi vs. a Kodiak bear: Remembering TV’s greatest hot dog eating contest [$]
By Ryan S. Clark for The Athletic
 (~15 minutes)

Our second piece this week from The Athletic (we urge you to subscribe!) is pure, ridiculous fun. It features some of the most quotable quotes of any story we’ve read this year, like, “The bear had no idea he was on a TV show. He’s a bear.”

➢ Thrillist: How IHOP Became a Ramadan Favorite 

   The Secret of Scooby-Doo’s Enduring Appeal
By Christopher Orr for The Atlantic
 (~10 minutes)

Why has “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!”—the formulaic Hanna-Barbera cartoon series that debuted in 1969—managed to outlast practically everything on television?

➢ The Atlantic: One Thing Space Agencies Must Watch Out for Now: Cats 

Last Week's Most Read

   The Lawyer Whose Clients Didn't Exist
By Francesca Mari for The Atlantic

   The incredible and (mostly) true story of Bruce and Michael Buffer
By Devin Gordon for ESPN

   The Woman on the Bridge
By Sarah Weinman for The Cut


Lede of the Week

   The Forgotten Tiger King of Harlem, by Zaron Burnett III

The first anonymous call to 911 — that a man in a Harlem apartment had just been attacked by a pit bull — was an elaborate lie. So was the second, which emphasized that the man needed urgent medical assistance.

That last part was at least correct. Because when NYPD officers arrived at the Drew-Hamilton public housing complex, they found 37-year-old Antoine Yates on the floor, close to the fifth-floor elevators, “lying face-up” and “screaming and crying in pain.” His right forearm had clearly been torn open by fangs and what appeared to be claw marks. There was also a long gash on his right leg; it was deep enough that it exposed the whiteness of his bone. Despite the reasonable doubts raised by the cops and EMTs, in between cries of pain, Yates continued to offer the same lie as the anonymous 911 callers: He’d been bitten by a brown-and-white pit bull.

The truth, of course, was far wilder. Yates was lying to protect his best friend, his roommate and the one who nearly killed him — a 450-pound Siberian tiger named Ming.


Kicker of the Week

   Zoom’s Biggest Rivals Are Coming for It, by Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel

Late last month, Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, held a videoconference with thousands of the search giant’s employees using Google Meet, three people who attended the call said. During the session, one employee asked why Zoom was reaping the biggest benefits even though Google had long offered Meet.

Mr. Schindler tried placating the engineer’s concerns, the people said. Then his young son stumbled into view of the camera and asked if his father was talking to his co-workers on Zoom. Mr. Schindler tried correcting him, but the boy went on to say how much he and his friends loved using Zoom.

A Google spokesman declined to comment on the episode.

The Classic Read
from Jack Shafer

   Finding Marlowe (2014)
By Daniel Miller for the Los Angeles Times Magazine
 (~20 minutes)

Coincidence or provenance? Daniel Miller sleuths out the connections between Samuel Marlowe, possibly the first licensed black private detective West of the Mississippi and the fictional detectives created by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler—Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. What a mystery. (Terrific art by Morgan Schweitzer, too.) 


Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

The Sunday Long Pod
from Jody Avirgan

   5-4 Podcast (Apple | Spotify)

“A progressive and occasionally profane” podcast about the highest court in the land. It goes case by case and looks at how landmark cases don’t just shape the law but are shaped by our politics at large. Like most talk-y podcasts, it only works because there’s great chemistry. And while the hosts don’t hide where they land on the political spectrum, it’s still a clear-eyed look at some fascinating rulings. The most recent episode on eminent domain is particularly worth checking out.

Jody Avirgan is a podcast host and producer. His newest show, is This Day in Esoteric Political History.

The Sunday Surreal
from The Editors

   Investigation of an anti-quarantine protestor's hair growth
By @rebabeba

"My math could be off because I actually used the average bass player’s pointer finger."

   76-Year-Old Woman Clapped So Hard for Health Care Workers Her Wedding Ring Fell 13 Stories Down
By West Side Rag

"She got so excited, her wedding ring fell off."

Chan Chan | Playing For Change | Song Around The World

Listen to this and smile.

The Sunday Still
from Patrick Farrell

Class of COVID-19

Canceled proms, graduations and senior traditions are the solemn end-of-childhood markers for the homebound Class of ’20. Their sad predicament has sparked a social media trend of people posting their old high school yearbook photos, among other acts of questionable solidarity. Former UPI and USA Today photographer Matt Mendelsohn, now a Virginia-based portrait photographer, decided that wasn’t enough. Armed with a mask, gloves and his long lens, Mendelsohn is crouching in driveways, porches and yards on a self-imposed deadline: To photograph every teenager in the 500-student senior class at suburban Yorktown High School in Arlington, Va. “Not Forgotten: The Yorktown Seniors of 2020” captures all that was lost in a series of sweet, softly-lit environmental portraits. Mendelsohn’s ongoing campaign was published April 23 in The Washington Post. But for full empathetic impact, check out his website. While celebrating each student’s individuality, the series of photos is visually linked by the same black-and-white format, canvas backdrop—and a resilient spirit that will forever connect the Class of 2020. 

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.

The Kix Picks
from Paul Kix

Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple

I'm a huge fan of Fiona Apple and, man, she does not disappoint here. Her new album is as good as anything she's done in the last 25 years. This one's more percussive, the verses come at you faster, Fiona as a spoken-word majordomo. The songwriting is clever and profound and sometimes snort-out-loud funny. I understand why she takes up to eight years between albums. That she wants to get everything just right is not the same as getting it perfect. "Fetch the Bolt Cutters" is messy and experimental in ways that enrich the experience. Like all of her albums, I'll be listening to this one for a long time.

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.

The Sunday Cover
from Étienne Lajoie

   Steady stream of visitors in Portapique pays respects to shooting victims
By Harry Sullivan for The Chronicle Herald
Cover illustration by Bruce MacKinnon 

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

The Su♬day Sou♬dtrack
from The Editors

By Good Lovelies

The Sunday Comix
from Alex Segura

   My favourite book as a kid: Spider-Man – Kraven's Last Hunt
By Nikesh Shukla for The Guardian
 (~5 minutes)

Challenging times don’t always call for soothing, feel-good reading, as this piece points out. We ride along with Shukla’s memories about the seminal Spider-Man story by writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Zeck—which saw our webbed hero buried alive by fading foe Kraven, the Hunter—and learn to view the tale in a different way: as a somewhat optimistic take on life and how to overcome the challenges it presents. Pretty useful info for these days.

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

The Sund&y Ampers&nd
from The Editors
The Last Laugh
from The Editors

   Living Through a Pandemic or Potty-Training a Toddler?
By Sue D. Gelber & Julie Vick for McSweeney's
 (~5 minutes)

“You find yourself muttering, ‘I’m sick of this shit.’ ”

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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
Junior Producers: Joe Levin and Emma Peaslee


Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Jonathan Bernstein, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Maria Bustillos, Steve Caruso, Kyle Chayka, Chris Cillizza, Doug Bock ClarkAnna Katherine Clemmons, Stephanie Clifford, Rich Cohen, Jessica Contrera, Jonathan Coleman, Pam Colloff, Bryan Curtis, Seyward Darby, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Jodi Mailander Farrell, Hadley Freeman, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Megan Greenwell, Bill Grueskin, Justine Gubar, Maggie Haberman, Reyhan Harmanci, Virginia Heffernan, Matthew Hiltzik, Jena Janovy, Bomani Jones, Chris Jones, Peter Kafka, Jordan Kisner, Paul Kix, Mina Kimes, Peter King, Michael Kruse, Tom Lamont, Edmund Lee, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Steven Levy, Jon Mackenzie, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Erik Malinowski, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Jeff Maysh, Jack McCallum, Susan McPherson, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Katherine Miller, Heidi N. Moore, Kim Morgan, Eric Neel, Kevin Nguyen, Joe Nocera, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Jo Piazza, Elaina Plott, 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: Jialun Deng

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.

Our mailing address is:

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