Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

Brain in a Bucket by Jessica Pishko for D Magazine.


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



      Brighten Our Sunday!

   SUNDAY — June 17, 2018   

EDITORS’ NOTE: We'll keep this short for now, but The Sunday Long Read team is planning some exciting expansions for the second half of 2018. As we deliberate, we want to hear from all of you: What do you love about The Sunday Long Read, would you consider supporting us financially by becoming an SLR member, and if so, what kind of perks might you like to receive? Don't fret—we are planning to keep everything we currently provide (newsletter, podcast, social media offerings)—free and openly available. But we'd like to make this passion project sustainable despite growing costs while also finding new ways to promote great journalism and further connect with you all, our humblingly loyal penpals. Email us:



Don and Jacob

The Death of a Once Great City [$]
By Kevin Baker
 (~65 minutes)


Has New York City become… boring?

Kevin Baker advances a compelling argument that NYC is suffering from an urban crisis of affluence, the capital of an America where wealth has quashed diversity. He says the city has become the capital of “an America where we believe that we no longer have any ability to control the systems we live under.” New York is even… unremarkable, “approaching a state where it is no longer a significant cultural entity but the world’s largest gated community, with a few cupcake shops here and there.”

Baker continues, “New York has been—and should be—a city of ambition and contentment. Of the getting there and the got, with plenty of room carved out for those whose desires do not include that deluxe apartment in the sky but simply making a living and raising a family by doing something useful, or not doing anything especially useful at all but existing, living, appreciating the vast urban swirl around them.”

This is an argument that not everyone will concur with—I’m not entirely convinced—but it’s a lyrical lament well worth your time.

The Trouble with Hollywood’s Gender Flips
By Amanda Hess
 (~10 minutes)
The Crimes That Fueled a Fantastic Brazilian Museum
By Alex Cuadros
 (~20 minutes)


I’ve recently become fascinated by the mutual influences of business and art, so these stories hit my soft spot—but I’m betting you’ll find both engrossing in their own right, too. The first unpacks the inherent issues that come when Hollywood literally gives women the same roles men have inhabited. The second tackles “the Jurassic Park of contemporary art,” a massive, publicly accessible utopia of artists’ dream projects, but built with funds obtained in worse than unsatisfactory ways. (And if you’ve got any suggested reading on times business and art ended up complicatedly entangled, email me!)
My Father, the Stranger
By Bryan Smith
 (~25 minutes)


On this Father’s Day, Bryan Smith gives us a raw, moving essay about reconnecting with the father from whom he’d been estranged for most of his life just a few days before he died. As Chicago Magazine’s Terry Noland said on Twitter last week, “If this soul baring piece… doesn’t move you, nothing will.” 

Sidebar: What I Found At the Bottom of My Father’s Huge Collection of Baseball Stuff
A Company Built on a Bluff
By Reeves Wiedeman

 (~40 minutes)

For nearly 25 years, Shane Smith’s long-term plan for Vice was that, by the time the suckers caught on, he’d never be stuck owning the company he co-founded. 
The Strange Case of the Missing Joyce Scholar

By Jack Hitt

 (~30 minutes)

Eccentric Boston University professor John Kidd, America’s greatest James Joyce scholar, disappeared nearly two decades ago and was presumed dead by his former colleagues. There was just one problem, Jack Hitt discovered: There was no obituary.
The Lifespan of a Lie
By Ben Blum
 (~20 minutes)

A gripping deep-dive into the most famous psychology study of all time, the “Stanford Prison Experiment,” the staple of every introductory psych class. Ben Brum makes a compelling case that the study was a wildly influential sham, built on manipulations, dramatizations and lies.

Sidebar: Is America Ready for a Global Pandemic?
Brain in a Bucket
By Jessica Pishko
 (~20 minutes)

Reciting even the bare-bones outline of this wild story would drop spoiler-bombs that you’ll later blame us for and we’ll regret. So what can we tell you? This is the compulsively readable story of a brain that was removed from a cadaver at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, likely not under correct protocols (oh, maybe we’ve already said too much!) that allowed a Dallas doctor to strengthen his testimony in a New Zealand case of an alleged axe murderer. The end. Now go read it!

Sidebar: Lobotomies were once used to treat this gut disease, part of a shameful medical history
The Quest of Laurene Powell Jobs

By David Montgomery

 (~35 minutes)


Laurene Powell Jobs is thinking big, very big, with deep, savvy investments in media, education, sports and more. What does she want?  
Inside the Binge Factory
By Josef Adalian
 (~45 minutes)


A fascinating look inside Netflix’s hyper-prolific content-making machine, turbo-charged by two maxims: “Growth begets more growth begets more growth” and “Say ‘yes’ in a town that’s built to say ‘no.’ ”
Neko Case is Telling the Truth
By Anne Helen Petersen
 (~25 minutes)


“I feel like, right now, I’m where I thought I should be at 28,” Neko Case says. “I finally have confidence.” That new-found confidence is audible in the tracks of a new album entitled “Hell-On.” And as Anne Helen Petersen explains, “Neko Case has stories, true and wounding, for all of us.”
Why Do We Care So Much About Privacy?
By Louis Menand
 (~25 minutes)

“The question about national security and personal convenience is always: At what price?” Louis Menand writes in this thoughtful piece. “What do we have to give up?”

Sidebar: The Wounds of the Drone Warrior
What Makes a Country Good at Football?
By The Economist Staff
 (~15 minutes)


The 2018 World Cup kicked off last Thursday in Russia. And to help with your handicapping, The Economist has dropped a smart explainer about the main influences that determine a country’s success playing The Beautiful Game in the world’s biggest sporting event. Wealth, size and interest in football are all important, but just as crucial is good old fashioned training.

Sidebar: Throws of Despair: Are hipster bars ruining darts? 
Meet German Garmendia, the Aggressively Normal YouTube Superstar Who Wants It All
By Lexi Pandell
 (~15 minutes)


Latin American phenom German Garmendia’s YouTube channel has 33.8 million subscribers, just below that Bieber fellow. Garmendia is Chilean, grew up in Mexico City and his videos are about normal tasks, like trying to make new friends, working out in the gym, applying for jobs, “all goofily delivered in breathless Spanish.” Now Garmendia is headed to Hollywood and no, thanks anyway, MSM, he doesn’t want or need your help.

Sidebar: Another winner from WiredInside Palmer Luckey’s Bid to Build a Border Wall

ICE Came for a Tennessee Town’s Immigrants. The Town Fought Back.
By Miriam Jordan
 (~20 minutes)


In Morristown, Tennessee, the boyhood home of Davy Crockett, ICE swept up 97 workers in one of the biggest illegal immigration crackdowns of the Trump administration. But, in a state where President Trump won 61 percent of the 2016 vote and enjoys widespread popularity, something surprising happened: the town’s residents fought back because the rounded-up people were their friends and neighbors.

Sidebar: How an FBI Informant Risked Death to Bring America’s Most Brutal Gang to Justice
Wrestling with My Father

By Brian Gresko

 (~15 minutes)


“It’s just his way.” This is how Brian Gresko described the physical and mental abuse inflicted on him by his father. In this poignant essay for Longreads, Gresko considers the lingering consequences of a paternal relationship whose only physical contact caused physical and psychological pain.
My Suicide Week
By Ashley Feinberg
 (~5 minutes)


When the chase for suicide-news clicks becomes a private hellscape of memories.

Sidebar: It’s All Too Much, and We Still Have to Care
Hiding My Depression Almost Destroyed My Job
By Joe Nocera
 (~5 minutes)


Joe Nocera, the esteemed Bloomberg columnist (and an SLR contributing editor), asks: “Why are we so afraid to admit we’re depressed? Why was I?”
Awakening the Grizzly
By Jeremy Miller
 (~35 minutes)


The epic past and possible future of grizzly bears in California.
A Look Inside A Corruption Investigation Involving Soccer's Biggest Players
By Ken Bensinger

 (~25 minutes)


An excerpt from Ken Bensinger's new book Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World's Biggest Sports Scandal.

The History Of The United States According To The Women's Steeplechase



     Men's Journal
What I Learned From My Father, the Grifter (2009)
By Pat Jordan
 (~20 minutes)

Scrubbed of the usual pieties uttered on this day, Pat Jordan’s piece about growing up under a gambler, card-shark, pool-playing, dice-throwing hustler will bruise even the toughest tough guy.

Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

Bubble (iTunes)

Is this the first real high-production-value podcast sitcom? I feel like it is, and I’m glad it’s here. Maximum Fun was the best shop to do it, too. It’s only one episode in, but so far the sound design is on point, the writing is sharp… I may wait for a few weeks and then binge on a road trip or beach day, but give it a shot and let me know what you think.

Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the new "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN.


A reporter's reporter, Sy Hersh characterizes his work this way: "I'm constantly walking into editors’ offices and throwing a dead
rat full of lice on their desk. Maybe he’s still alive and moving.” Hear his unfiltered thoughts on his career and journalism, and check out Hersh's memoir, Reporter. Subscribe to the podcast here if you haven't already. 

This week's episode contains explicit language.


The Lifespan of a Lie

It was late in the evening of August 16th, 1971, and twenty-two-year-old Douglas Korpi, a slim, short-statured Berkeley graduate with a mop of pale, shayy hair, was locked in a dark closet in the basement of the Stanford psychology department, naked beneath a thin white smock bearing the number 8612, screaming his head off.


The Wounds of the Drone Warrior

“I’d literally just walked out on dropping bombs on the enemy, and 20 minutes later I’d get a text — can you pick up some milk on your way home?”

—Retired pilot Jeff Bright


Zach Woods in the Woods
By Lauren Larson


When the Punishment Feels Like a Crime
By  Julia Ioffe

When ‘The Real World’ Gave Up on Reality

By Rebecca Schuman

That Time Obama Consoled Dave McKenna
By Dave McKenna
 (~5 minutes)


Technically from last week, this is too good not to share. The power of kindness. Grief. Obama. Deadspin. Animation. Just watch. 

The Long View is curated by Justine Gubar, 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.


By Amy Wright

 (~25 minutes)

Tipped by our eagle-eyed friends at Longreads, the acclaimed author of Bastard Out of Carolina offers provocative thoughts on working-class anger and the glories of great literature.

By Hester Lacey

 (~10 minutes)

“I would like to have greater courage,” veteran actor Mandy Patinkin says. “I struggle with fear every day.”

‘Drink a Cold Beer and Let Someone Else Figure It Out’: 22 of Anthony Bourdain’s Wisest Quotes About Travel

By Annabel Fenwick Elliott

 (~5 minutes)

There are many wise and wonderful pieces of travel advice here from the late Anthony Bourdain. This is one of the best: “Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.”
What to Read When You’ve Made It Halfway Through 2018

By The Rumpus Editors

 (~25 minutes)

As we approach the halfway point of 2018, editors of The Rumpus have put together a smart list of book recommendations.

Being a Male Jerk in the Sex and the City Pilot: An Oral History

By Kelly Conaboy

 (~10 minutes)

Who remembers that there were four male jerks in the Sex and the City pilot? In this fun oral history, all four actors describe what it’s like to be one of the inaugural male jerks in the much-loved series that’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this month. One thing the male jerks can agree on? The pilot’s director, Susan Seidelman, was fantastic.


Happy Father’s Day?

Getty Images photographer John Moore has traveled the length of the U.S. border with Mexico, photographing undocumented immigration and militarization of the 1,989-mile stretch for the past decade. On June 12, his image of a 2-year-old Honduran asylum seeker, crying as her mother was searched by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in McAllen, Tex., conveyed the impact of a newly-enforced “zero tolerance” immigration policy. With children now forcibly separated from their parents at the southern border, the photo emphasizes the child’s experience, focusing on the little girl’s fearful face and posture while leaving enough of the adults to provide context. "As a father myself, it was very difficult for me to see these families detained, knowing that they would soon be split up," said Moore, a Pulitzer Prize winner who published a book on his riveting border work earlier this year. "I could see on their faces that they had no idea what was about to happen."

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.

Cover story: What Happened in Vegas
By Amanda Fortini
Photo by Joshua Dudley Greer

 (~35 minutes)


There is an apparent paradox going on in Major League Baseball.  Comprehensive testing for performance-enhancing drugs is now in place, but home run totals have increased the past three years.  Why?  MLB brass opted to hire a team of ten researchers to dig around for an answer.  And what did they find?  In a newly-released 84 page study, the researchers cite "evidence that the aerodynamic properties of the baseballs have changed" and a host of other factors that may be contributing to the uptick in homers.    

The full research paper—an excellent case study at the intersection of baseball and applied physics—can be found here 

Ryan 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



From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
"Rob Rogers, an editorial cartoonist at the Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Press for more than 30 years, announced on Twitter Thursday that he had been fired after weeks of conflict over cartoons and ideas he'd submitted that were never published. Rogers told multiple outlets he'd disagreed with the paper's new editorial director, Keith Burris, over criticism of President Trump in his cartoons." 

From Tim:
There once was an artist named Rob
Whose cartoons did cost him his job.
His Trump illustrations
Were called aberrations
By a redacting lynch mob.

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

We’re Sorry

By Ellis Weiner

 (~5 minutes)

“We want to make things right. And that starts with admitting to what we did—owning it—even when it wasn’t entirely our fault, because nothing really happened.”
Gossiping Is Good

By Ben Healy

 (~5 minutes)

That’s what I heard, anyway.”


The Sunday Ampersand is chosen by Erik Malinowski. Erik is a freelance features writer based in the Bay Area and the author of Betaball.


Carol Brown (Choir of Ex Girlfriends)
By Flight of the Conchords

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 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, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Chris Cillizza, 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: Taylor Callery

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:

The Sunday Long Read
807 Chester Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27104