Help pick next week's reads by tweeting suggestions with the hashtag #SundayLR.
The goal of The Sunday Long Read newsletter is simple: To put the past week’s best journalism in your hands every Sunday morning—or, as a friend said, “to screw up my Sundays with far too much great stuff to read.” Obviously, compiling these lists is a wildly subjective exercise. How do I choose what’s “best?” If I finish a long-read article and immediately want to recommend it to a friend, you’ll find it linked here. These stories brought me pleasure, made me laugh and think and, most of all, told me something I didn’t know. No “hot takes” here.
After 24 years at The Miami Herald and The New York Times, I now write long-form sports stories for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. Naturally, these lists will tilt a bit toward sports (one week I chose 7 out of 10 pieces about sports). But you’ll find every kind of story here. And each week, I’ll choose my favorite read. The standard for that choice will be based as much on raw emotion as anything: If I desperately wished I had written it, you’ll find it at the top the list.
Why another curated long read list? Well, I started this on a whim in early 2014, tweeting out my favorite stories each Sunday. I was motivated by finding a more orderly way to meet my compulsion to share. One of my favorite things about my Twitter is it’s a generous platform that helps you discover great writing and great writers. If you follow the right crowd, Twitter becomes a kind of Pandora or Spotify for great journalism, and The Sunday long read began as a way to try to give back as much as I take. I was surprised and touched at how many people responded favorably. Before long, many of those same people urged me to start a newsletter like this one, to make it easier on them (hopefully) and (perhaps) on me.
This project is co-curated by Jacob Feldman, a Harvard senior whose enthusiasm and expertise were vital to getting this project launched.
During the week, on Twitter, Jacob and I hope you’ll use the #SundayLR hashtag for a piece you’d like us to consider for that Sunday’s list. You can also email your nominations or questions and/or suggestions for how this list can improve to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s impossible to choose the 14 “best pieces” of 2014 or any year. We have picked our favorites – the articles that were the easiest to recall with great enthusiasm. Seven non-fiction stories, seven sports stories (Jacob and I read A LOT of sports stories). By necessity, we have had to omit dozens or even hundreds of pieces of great journalism that we both admired this year.
I asked Jacob to choose his favorite seven sports stories, with minimal input from me. I was the final decision-maker on the non-sports entries, with helpful input from Jacob.
If these 14 phenomenal pieces aren’t enough, you can find many more standout pieces at @Longform and @Longreads, the pioneers of curating the best journalism in the world. Their sharp eyes and enormous appetites for quality journalism inspire awe. If you read every word of all their stories, you might not finish by the time all the 2015 lists drop.
As for the stories not listed here that you believe should be – or stories you want to see in upcoming weekly newsletters – you can email us at email@example.com or tweet the links using #SundayLR.
We did one other thing, which I hope you’ll find as fun as we did putting it together. I asked Jacob to send me his favorite few stories that he wrote this past year, and I’d choose my favorite. And he did the same from my body of work. Our choice of each other’s best piece of 2014 is also listed below (no points off for skipping either one!).
We both hope you find a few pieces here that you might have missed and that they bring you joy.
Who knew a hermit’s story would attract nearly 300,000 Facebook likes? Michael Finkel’s tale about Christopher Knight is told with such intimate immediacy. As usual, the details got me. I read it once, re-read it into the wee hours of the morning, and then read it again the next morning.
I probably read a dozen cancer stories this year that moved me to my core, but none more than this piece by Dr. Peter B. Bach about the final winter with his beloved wife, Ruth. Read it armed with a box of tissues.
Never miss a story by Patrick Radden Keefe. Everything he writes is so damn good. This story detailing the capture of the most wanted fugitive on the planet, “El Chapo,” will mesmerize you. No surprise: the piece was optioned in November to be a major motion picture.
Billy Joel has become, like Sinatra, “the hood ornament for the greatest city on earth.” I’m not afraid to admit I love Billy Joel; I’ve seen him in concert five times. Or is it six? And I’m also not ashamed to admit Nick Paumgarten has delivered one of my favorite profiles of this year or any year.
I remember envying at least a half-dozen Texas Monthly stories in 2014. This was the one that lodged closest to my heart: the wondrous Pamela Colloff’s unforgettable portrait of a woman who witnessed 278 executions.
Riveting reporting, beautifully told. Journalists covering the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, and their aftermath, have produced so much heroic, unforgettable journalism. Susan Zalkind’s piece just may be the best of them all.
You will come to care for these characters as Ballard sends them hurtling towards Earth. I still remember the sweat I felt after reading this story that will make your heart race and then make it melt.
Kruse does not write about sports often, but when he does, it's usually special. His lyricism in detailing the death of Devaughn Darling during a practice and the toll it took on Darling's family is hard to forget.
This story feels straight out of an earlier time, in the best of ways--the kind of extensive, illuminating profile of one of sports' most powerful men that is unfortunately rare in today's age of restricted access. The only reason this story isn't listed above is because it is here. --JDHF
Last summer, Jacob was an intern for The Miami Herald, where I interned twice and started my career. This piece, like much of Jacob’s work, pops off the page (in this case, the Herald’s prep school page): Scott Olsen, the former Marlins pitcher who had a few troubles as a pro, is attempting to rebuild his own reputation and a high school baseball program at the same time. --DVNJr
With the historic news about the Obama administration’s easing of US sanctions against Cuba, it’s a fine time to begin trying to remember, soon enough, what it will no longer be like on the island 90 miles from Miami. In 2012, in The New York Times Magazine, John Jeremiah Sullivan, asked: Where is Cuba going? The answer is the usual JJ Sullivan: smart and personal, wonderfully told, extremely funny and, sure enough, dead-on prescient.
LEDE OF THE YEAR:
"The hermit set out of camp at midnight, carrying his backpack and his bag of break-in tools, and threaded through the forest, rock to root to rock, every step memorized. Not a boot print left behind. It was cold and nearly moonless, a fine night for a raid, so he hiked about an hour to the Pine Tree summer camp, a few dozen cabins spread along the shoreline of North Pond in central Maine. With an expert twist of a screwdriver, he popped open a door of the dining hall and slipped inside, scanning the pantry shelves with his penlight."
“I don’t know if you could call it a kidnapping, because we had gone there voluntarily, but we also weren’t free to leave.... If they didn’t receive the money, they were saying that at any moment they might give him a machetazo”—a whack with a machete—“chop off an arm, a finger, whatever, and he would never play baseball again, not for anyone.”