MINA KIMES is a senior writer at ESPN the Magazine, where she writes features and columns about the business and culture of sports. Before joining ESPN, she worked as an investigative reporter for Bloomberg News and a features writer for Fortune. Make sure you read what Mina has written about the greatest League of Legends player in the world, the controversial Bennett Brothers, and the art of the South Korean bat flip.
PABLO: We owe magazine journalism for our friendship, don’t we? MINA: Friendship? PABLO: … MINA: JK, pal. Yes—so unlike most people starting out in journalism these days, we both came up at a super traditional publishing company, working super traditional jobs...I was a reporter at Fortune, and you were a reporter at Sports Illustrated. I think we both started writing longform magazine stories at a pretty young age. Probably too young. PABLO: We started writing as fact-checkers—that’s what “reporter” really means inside Time Inc.—and when we weren’t correcting our superiors, we tried, desperately, to emulate them. Reading the writers better than us was absolutely how I got better. MINA: Which brings us to this list...
I have to admit that I initially dreaded reading this piece. As someone who suffers from migraines (albeit on a significantly lesser scale than the author), I generally hate talking about headaches—or reading about them, or thinking about them. But when I finally opened this story, I was mesmerized. Altman writes beautifully about how she and her mother have bonded through their shared physical pain—and how it’s transformed her own life in unpredictable ways. Her stunning, penetrating essay is at times difficult to read, but I’m so glad I did.
Some people may say that it’s bad form to start this by citing the work of a fellow ESPN employee, but I DO NOT CARE ABOUT THOSE PEOPLE. Kevin Arnovitz is the perfect person to deliver this profile of NBA referee Bill Kennedy—not only because of his singular perspective on homosexuality in sports, but because of his general empathy, intelligence and cosmopolitanism. We seldom think about the interior lives of officials. Kennedy’s is one we should all consider, not least because of what Gregg Poppovich is quoted saying in the piece.
An expansive, sensitive look at the gaokao, an exam that millions of Chinese high school students take before entering college. Ash weaves his thorough reportage on the financial and psychological toll of the test with a close look at the life of a boy immersed in the process; through this personal story, he makes readers care deeply about an unfamiliar subject. -MK
I once wondered how it is, exactly, that Twitter can be so pointlessly whimsical while simultaneously serving as a horrifying locus of power for ISIS. This exhaustively reported feature is my answer, and it stretches all the way back to the invention of the telegraph.
Much like the work of Reichardt, the director of Night Moves and Meek’s Cutoff, this piece by Alice Gregory is a quiet gem, full of telling moments and subtly gorgeous sentences. It made me want to go watch all of her movies. -MK
The Sunday Long Read mentioned this story last week, but I wanted to give it a little extra shine because I enjoyed it so much. The article opens with a deceptively simple question: Where in China are Donald Trump’s ties manufactured? After Woodman is stonewalled by Trump’s outsourcers in America, he takes us on a journey to Shengzhou, painting a stark picture of the tie-factory capital of China while laying out the complicated human rights and economic issues that underlie Trump’s rhetoric. -MK
You, like me, have probably spent way too much time consuming the words of Donald Trump. But I recommend this story from The Washington Post precisely for that reason. Co-authored by the indefatigable David Farenthold, it uses a 2007 deposition to present something increasingly rare: a Trump who is forced to reckon with his lies. -PST
I made the mistake of reading this essay on a train, where I freaked out my fellow passengers by weeping like a baby. What a beautifully rendered, honest account of a lifelong friendship. It’s a story that’s both joyful and tragic, with a genuinely surprising ending—which I won’t ruin for you here. -MK
You’d think it would be impossible to think more highly of David Remnick. But every time the editor of The New Yorker writes—and he never overwrites—it happens. Here, Leonard Cohen joins Aretha Franklin and Mike Tyson on the list of iconic celebrities whose art I appreciate so much more thanks to Remnick’s precise and definitive reporting. -PST
A lot of ink has been spilled on Colin Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem—and the wave of activism it’s inspired across the country—but this story takes a different tack by exploring the quarterback’s roots. Our pal Tim Keown went to the small, mostly white town in California where Kaepernick was raised and turned up a number of revealing nuggets.
Christgau is one of our finest music writers; in this piece, he turns his critical eye inward, examining his own history as a voter, and analyzing how it’s led him to this election. Unsurprisingly, it’s wonderfully written and brutally honest. -MK
Any list of the best sportswriters in America without Scott Price is a failure, and this piece about Jose Fernandez is just the latest reason. Price manages to both eulogize and complicate the pitcher and, through reporting, articulate why Fernandez’s passing was especially tragic. You will read the quote from Marlins player Chris Johnson and resolve to improve your life. -PST
It’s often stated, O’Connor writes, that just 2 percent of Haiti is covered with trees, a terrifying figure that bolsters a widely accepted theory linking poverty with deforestation. But when scientists dug deeper, they discovered that this number—and many of the assumptions that underlie it—was a lie. -MK
I’ll read pretty much anything about J.R. Smith, so I gobbled this up. It’s not a terribly long profile, but I still felt like I came away with a deeper understanding of Smith’s psyche. It’s always nice to be reminded that he’s one of the NBA’s most entertaining stars (and also that the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the finals.) -MK
Growing up, The Simpsons molded my worldview as much as any other television show. No cartoon was as quotable, or as smart, or as populated by consistently incredible minor characters—one of whom eerily presaged a particular type of modern billionaire. Alan Siegel’s investigation into the Hank Scorpio origin story is a lovely tribute and reminder.
In 1966, Bob Dylan left New York City for Memphis to brew the stew that would become Blonde on Blonde. To call the double album a landmark wrongly reduces it to just another sightseeing site. The album solidified the rock 'n' roll gains Dylan had made with its amphetamine-fueled predecessors Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, borrowing as it does, in Wilentz's words "from several musical styles, including ’40s Memphis and Chicago blues, turn-of-the-century vintage New Orleans processionals, contemporary pop, and blast-furnace rock & roll." With the meticulousness of an academic (which he is) and the soul of an enthusiast, Wilentz's study stitches together the greatest episode of Behind the Music ever created. Serving suggestion: Play Blonde on Blonde while reading.
It seems odd to choose a story from 2015 as a classic, but this award-winner by Kathryn Schulz lodged itself in my brain more than any other magazine story I can currently recall. It is some of the most educational journalism I’ve ever read. And it is some of the most terrifying journalism I’ve ever read. Every month, it feels like, I tell at least one person that there is a one-in-three chance of an earthquake wiping out much of the Pacific Northwest in the next 50 years. (This is a delightful line at parties.)
My friend Jessi Hempel interviewed Cyan Banister, a successful VC who’s invested in companies like Uber and SpaceX, about coming out as genderqueer. Don’t miss this thoughtful, instructive Q&A. -MK
TIM TORKILDSON'S SUNDAYLIMERICK
From The Washington Post: So, as of this year, any foreign-born person wanting to get married in Louisiana must produce both an unexpired visa (even though a federal court has ruled that marriage licenses cannot be denied based on immigration status), as well as, somewhat inexplicably, a birth certificate.
From Tim: In Rayville the immigrant swain
a license to marry can't gain.
And ain't it a shame Erath is the same; while living in sin is no strain.
Tim Torkildson is a retired circus clown. His work has appeared in The New York Times and The Huffington Post. He is currently re-inventing the limerick, one anapest at a time.
Founder, Curator: Don Van Natta Jr. Producer, Curator: Jacob Feldman Senior Editor of Recycling: Jack Shafer Senior Limerick Editor: Tim Torkildson
Header Image: Edel Rodriguez
Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Sara Blask, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Chris Cillizza, Rich Cohen, Pam Colloff, Maureen Dowd, Brett Michael Dykes, Lea Goldman, Maggie Haberman, Reyhan Harmanci, Virginia Heffernan, Jena Janovy, Bomani Jones, Peter Kafka, Mina Kimes, Tom Lamont, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Eric Neel, Anne Helen Petersen, S.L. Price, Albert Samaha, Bruce Schoenfeld, Joe Sexton, Rachel Sklar, Dan Shanoff, Ben Smith, Wright Thompson, Pablo Torre, Kevin Van Valkenburg, John A. Walsh, and Seth Wickersham
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.