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The Computers Are Listening by Dan Froomkin for The Intercept. (Richard Mia)

The very best long reads of the week
Chosen by Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) and Jacob Feldman (@JacobFeldman4)


Relentless: The Georgia Sheriff Who Always Gets His ManWell, Almost Always
Atlanta Magazine
Joe Kovac Jr.

In Putnam County, Georgia, everybody knows Sheriff Howard Sills, and he knows everybody. And everybody knows the very quotable sheriff owns the stubborn smarts to crack every kind of case, even one involving a “nuisance beaver.”

Joe Kovac Jr. rides shotgun with the sheriff as it dawns on him that a double-homicide on Lake Oconee may be the one case he cannot solve. Right away, the sheriff knows in his gut that the perpetrator(s) were “not local talent.” Then, dead-ends and dumb questions from the “TV buzzards.” With echoes of Tommy Lee Jones’ no-nonsense but overmatched sheriff in “No Country for Old Men,” Kovac writes a stylish, irresistible profile/whodunit that will have you laughing and wishing your county had a Sheriff Sills just a phone call away.

No. 2'Our Demand is Simple: Stop Killing Us'
The New York Times Magazine
Jay Caspian Kang

In this post-Ferguson world, the roots of the 21st century’s first civil rights movement, fueled by social media, are traced by Jay Caspian Kang. And don’t miss Jamilah King’s terrific California Sunday piece, “Meet the Women who Created #BlackLivesMatter.”

No. 3: Mayor Bill de Blasio's Crusade
Rolling Stone

Mark Binelli

Mark Binelli has written a big, brawny profile that feels like the definitive portrait not only of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio but also his hopes and aspirations for the five boroughs and beyond. 

No. 4: The Computers Are Listening
The Intercept

Dan Froomkin

Dan Froomkin delivers an unsettling, hyperlink-rich report explaining how the NSA converts our spoken words into searchable text.

No. 5: Mass Incarceration: The Silence of the Judges
The New York Review of Books

Jed S. Rakoff

America’s overcrowded prison population is likely to be a front-and-center campaign issue in 2016. This article, by Jed S. Rakoff, about whether mass incarceration is responsible for the reduction in crime is the smartest piece I’ve read on the subject.

No. 6: From Passion to Profit: How to Make Money Doing What You Love
Fast Company

Elizabeth Segran

Getting paid for doing what you love. That’s living the dream, right? Elizabeth Segran is here to help you make it happen.

No. 7: The (Very) Big Fight for the Small Screen

Fortune Magazine

Erin Griffith

Video web content has gone mainstream and everyone – even the old New York Times – is hustling to grab a slice of the advertising pie.

No. 8: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived On
ESPN the Magazine

Wright Thompson

The heartbreaking story of how Ted Williams’ last surviving daughter is trying to piece together the legendary slugger’s shattered family and legacy. Outstanding work by my colleague and good friend, Wright Thompson.

SB Nation

Brin-Jonathan Butler

We promise this is the last Mayweather-Pacquiao story we'll share (until the rematch at least), but it's a must-read. Brin-Jonathan Butler writes with a flair reserved for Las Vegas and multi-millionaires in trying to assess what exactly we watched last Saturday night.

No. 10: Fire Raged, They Played On, and the Photo Still Beguiles
The New York Times

Sarah Lyall

My ex-colleague and friend Sarah Lyall has a lovely feature about the 50-year-old photograph that seems unreal: a raging fire is fought in a building behind a small stadium where fans sit transfixed, their backs to the blaze, by a football game.

No. 11: Gut Feelings

The Monthly

Jo Chandler

Hard to resist a story about the “mysteries of the microbiome” that begins, “The tapas was a mistake. Or maybe the wine that washed it down?”

No. 12: Split Image


Kate Fagan

On Instagram, University of Pennsylvania runner Madison Holleran appeared to be living the nearly perfect life. But the photos hid Holleran’s struggle to go on. Phenomenal piece by my colleague and pal, Kate Fagan.

No. 13: The Boy Who Was "Too Good" to Play Youth Baseball Never Got to Grow Up

Craig Fehrman

A sad, beautifully written story by Craig Fehrman about the death of the nine-year-old boy who went viral in 2008 after the New Haven, Conn., Little League banned him for being “too good.”

No. 14: Barry Bonds is Shifting Gears
ESPN the Magazine

Bonnie D. Ford

What's in a 'Where are they now?' story on baseball's home run king*? A little reflection, a little love, and a lot of cycling, it turns out.

No. 15: The Price of Nice Nails and Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers
The New York Times

Sarah Maslin Nir

I'll admit: the first few times a story on nail salons was suggested to me, I thought "pass." But after the barrage of good reviews convinced me to give it a read, I was so glad I did. With over 100 interviews and powerfully straightforward writing, Sarah Nir's story is really just about people, and the great costs they've paid to work in America.

No. 16: Death to the Maxi Dress: A Manifesto

Sarah Miller

Maxi dresses look really ugly on everyone, writes Sarah Miller, so they deserve to die. Now.

No. 17: America's Epidemic of Unnecessary Care
The New Yorker

Atul Gawande

Surgeon Atul Gawande is required reading for anyone who wants to understand today's medical system in America. This story reminds us why, as Gawande mixes powerful narrative, personal reflection, and serious research to explain how "an avalanche of unnecessary medical care is harming patients" and to ask "What can we do about it?"

No. 18: The Human Body is a Miracle, The Human Body is a Curse
HuffPost Highline

Duncan Murrell

The first story from Huffington Post's new longform outfit is a great one. Running has helped a high school girl deal with Tourette's Syndrome, and now she is one of the top runners her age. But nobody knows what will happen next.



Secrets of the Little Blue Box (1971)
Ron Rosenbaum

When the time-line of great hacker stories is finally drawn, its point of origin will be Ron Rosenbaum's "Secrets of the Little Blue Box." For what was the telephone system in 1971 but a world-wide web of computers connected by wires to little dumb terminals called telephones? And what were the "phone-phreaks" who reverse-engineered the audio tones that went over the lines to open and shut long-distance connections but the earliest cyberpirates? Rosenbaum's piece not only inspired journalists to explore the emerging electronic scene, it also persuaded the very young Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to build a blue electronic box of their own, after which they founded Apple.

Claudia Williams found comfort wearing her dad's favorite red flannel shirt. It smelled like him. Time frayed the threads, pulled apart seams, and years ago the shirt went into a safe. She keeps many things locked away. In a closet next to her garage, her father's Orvis 8.3-foot, 7-weight graphite fly rod leans on a wall. His flies are safe too, and she can see his hands in the bend of the knots. She feels closest to him fishing but has been only once or twice since he died. Nearby, pocketknives rust at their hinges. His old leather suitcase is there too, in its final resting place after years of trains, ballparks and hotel rooms.

-The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived On by Wright Thompson.


 “Get the evidence. Make the case . . . The why can be a significant, if not the most significant factor in determining the who, so you don’t ignore it. But let’s not dwell on the esoteric. Let’s dwell on putting this bastard on the chain gang. Or better, put his ass in the electric chair. If God and the law give me the opportunity, I’m gonna send the son of bitch to hell in my hand. I’ve gotten up every day of my life and asked God Almighty to give me the opportunity to hurl a hoodlum into hell. This son of a bitch or sons of bitches or bitches need it, and they need it in the worst sort of way. And I hope the hell I can deliver it. Nothing would please me more.”

-Sheriff Howard Sills, in Relentless by Joe Kovac Jr.


Sylvan Esso
The top Sunday long reads are selected with care by ESPN Senior Writer and NYT bestselling author Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) and Jacob Feldman (@JacobFeldman4), a senior at Harvard College.

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