Enjoy the best longform journalism. Every Sunday.

The Disappearance of John M. Ford by Isaac Butler for Slate



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

Sunday, November 17, 2019

EDITORS' NOTE: Happy Sunday! We've got some good news and some bad news to share before we hit this week's list. We're psyched that longtime SLR contributor Justine Gubar has been named the new executive director of the Sports Emmys. However, in the name of impartiality, her new role prevents her from carrying on as our Long View editor. So while she'll remain a treasured part of the SLR team as a contributing editor, we are looking for someone new to keep tabs on the world of short-form documentaries and online video. If you have any nominations (or questions), we'd love to hear them!

Don and Jacob

Don and Jacob's Favorite

   He told a kid to slide. Then he got sued.
By Steve Politi for 
 (~20 minutes)

Leave it to one of the best veteran sports columnists in the game to know exactly how to crank up the tension while telling the story of the courtroom battle that threatened to upend youth sports forever.

Become a Sunday Long Read Member!

   The Strange Life and Mysterious Death of a Virtuoso Coder
By Brendan I. Koerner for Wired 
 (~35 minutes)

A rock-star, pioneering coder was on the brink of blockchain riches. Then his body was found in the southern Ohio woods.


   In Marshall Islands, radiation threatens tradition of handing down stories by song
By Ali Raj for The Los Angeles Times 
 (~15 minutes)

An upsetting look at how a cumulative radioactive yield equivalent to 7,000 Hiroshima bombs has partially silenced a vibrant society’s oral traditions.


   “I Will Never Let Boeing Forget Her”
By Alec MacGillis for ProPublica and The New Yorker 
 (~35 minutes)

In this powerful piece by Alec MacGillis, a grieving family is determined to hold Boeing accountable for the 737 MAX, the still-grounded fleet of aircraft in which the corporation “put profits first and hundreds died.” (This piece was co-published by ProPublica and The New Yorker.)


   When Carrie Fisher Hung With the SNL Crowd
By Sheila Weller for Vulture 
 (~20 minutes)

You’ll love this story about how 21-year-old Carrie Fisher naturally fell in with the cool “Saturday Night Live crowd”—and how profoundly her quick friendship with John Belushi impacted her. An excerpt from Sheila Weller’s just-published bio, Carrie Fisher: A Life on the Edge.

The Wild Story of How Mary Steenburgen Wrote the Best Original Movie Song of the Year


   How to Make a Website
By Kaitlyn Tiffany for The Atlantic
 (~20 minutes)

Online, you either die young or live long enough to become a TikTok meme. Kaitlyn Tiffany’s profile of wikiHow is a cute one (except for the stuff about surviving nuclear war). 

The Zombie Storefronts of America


   The Final Frontier
By Michael Chabon for The New Yorker 
 (~20 minutes)

My father and Mr. Spock. (Novelist Michael Chabon writes of writing “Star Trek” next to his father’s death bed.)


   Meet the Immigrants Who Took On Amazon
By Jessica Bruder for Wired
 (~35 minutes)

A David vs. Goliath story for the modern age. 


   The Disappearance of John M. Ford
By Isaac Butler for Slate
 (~15 minutes)

Isaac Butler tried to figure out why a beloved, influential science fiction writer’s books had quickly gone out of print and were so hard to find after his death. What Butler didn’t expect was that he’d help bring John M. Ford’s books back to life.


   Even Nobodies Have Fans Now. (For Better or Worse.)
By Jamie Lauren Keiles for The New York Times Magazine
 (~10 minutes)

This look at life on the internet is for people who will be entertained rather than enraged when Jamie Lauren Keiles smartly backs up to ask, “What exactly is a podcast at all?”

The Education of Natalie Jean


   The Sunday Q&A: The Places Where the Recession Never Ended
By Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic 
 (~10 minutes)

Tara Westover, the author of the bestselling memoir, Educated, talks with The Atlantic’s editor Jeffrey Goldberg about America’s ever-widening urban/rural divide, including how the “experience gap” has morphed into the “empathy gap.”


   Go for It: The Story Behind the NFL’s Fourth-Down Conversion
By Kevin Clark for The Ringer 
 (~15 minutes)

Facing a pivotal fourth down 10 years ago this week, Bill Belichick failed to convert, but he still pushed the NFL forward.

Patriots RB Jonas Gray’s brush with fantasy vs. reality, five years ago


   This Tom Hanks Story Will Help You Feel Less Bad
By Taffy Brodesser-Akner for The New York Times
 (~25 minutes)

Tom Hanks’ simple description of every parent’s hopes and ambitions is the highlight of this profile in which Taffy Brodesser-Akner plays a pivotal co-starring role. And yes, this Tom Hanks story will do for you precisely what the headline promises.

Listen to Taffy Brodesser-Akner on The Sunday Long Read Podcast!


   Gimme Shelter
By Wes Enzinna for Harper’s Magazine
 (~35 minutes)

The astronomical cost of living in the San Francisco Bay area.


   How the Man Behind ‘The Crown’ Made the Monarchy Relevant Again
By Giles Harvey for The New York Times
 (~25 minutes)

The long-awaited third season of Netflix’s compulsively watchable, ridiculously outstanding “The Crown” debuts today (as all fans know). This is a terrific profile of British dramatist and screenwriter Peter Morgan, the show’s creator who has “shown viewers why it isn’t easy being queen.” 

Edward Norton’s Slow Fade From Greatness


   Would 19 Hours and 16 Minutes in the Air Make Me Crazy?
By Sarah Lyall for The New York Times 
 (~10 minutes)

Soon, Qantas will begin offering the longest commercial flight ever, nonstop from New York To Sydney. Sarah Lyall took a test flight and before take-off, thanks to an intake of decongestants, “felt like a junky in a gritty TV show about Times Square in the 1980s, nervous and sweaty and incoherent even as I was beset by an achy, leaden inertia.”

Last Week's Most Read

   “He’s F--king Destroyed This Town”: How Mark Zuckerberg Became the Most Reviled Man in Tech
By Nick Bilton for Vanity Fair

   Editing Donald Trump
By Peter Osnos for The New Yorker

   What I Learned When I Lost 50 Pounds
By Rohan Nadkarni for GQ


Lede of the Week

   He told a kid to slide. Then he got sued., by Steve Politi

John Suk sits with shoulders slouched and his head down at the defendant’s table in Courtroom 301, a stuffy wood-paneled space inside the Somerset County judicial complex. The 31-year-old middle school teacher scribbles in a notebook as his reputation is shredded.

The plaintiff’s attorneys in Civil Docket No. L-000629-15 have spent two full days portraying the co-defendant as an inattentive and unqualified lout. He is, they argue, a villain who destroyed the future of a teenager he was supposed to protect.

“He must be held accountable for what he did,” one of the plaintiff’s two attorneys tells jurors during opening arguments.

The attacks intensify when Suk takes the witness stand to defend himself on a split-second decision he made seven years earlier. He is accused of taking a reckless course of action that showed a callous disregard for another person’s safety.

He sounds like an awful person. Then you remember what Suk did to end up here.

Quotation of the Week

   How to Make a Website, by Kaitlyn Tiffany

“When [the memes] started, I was probably a little bit sad. We work so hard to do a good job for people, and here they are making fun of us, but now I love it. I’m just so happy some of the most clever, funny, creative people on the internet are talking about wikiHow.” 

—50-year-old wikiHow cofounder Jack Herrick

The SLR Podcast

No new pod this week, but you can listen to Don talk about some of his own work on Paul Kix's show, Now That's a Great Story. And don't forget to rate, review and share The SLR podcast! We sincerely appreciate all of your support.

The Classic Read
from Jack Shafer

   Dick Butkus: One Season And One Injury With The Meanest Man Alive (1971)
By Arthur Kretchmer for Playboy 
 (~45 minutes)

Who among us has not wanted to wrestle the helmet off his foe and bean him with it? On Thursday night, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett de-helmeted Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and did just that, causing a nation of fans to erupt in protest: We want players to inflict injury-causing violence on one another but please, please, please, do it inside the rules! My favorite football thug of all time was Chicago Bears middle linebacker Dick Butkus. In this classic 1971 profile, Arthur Kretchmer, who was about to ascend to the job of Playboy editorial director and hold that position for 30 years, took the measure of Butkus and pronounced him "the meanest, angriest, toughest, dirtiest son of a bitch in football. An animal, a savage, subhuman. But as good at his game as Ty Cobb was at his, or Don Budge at his, or Joe Louis at his." If it was the hurt that drew you to the game, Butkus was happy to serve you. Kretchmer writes, "Butkus once told a television sports announcer, 'I sometimes have a dream where I hit a man so hard his head pops off and rolls downfield.' " This is a perfect Sunday half-time read.

Classic Read curator Jack Shafer writes about media for Politico.

The Sunday Long Pod
from Jody Avirgan

   BBC Intrigue: Tunnel 29 (Apple Podcasts | Spotify)

This series about a man who dug a tunnel under the Berlin Wall (into the East!) is pretty far from what I normally like in terms of podcast production. I’m not much one for sound effects; I like primary voices, not narration. But, The Tunnel is so stylized that I’m finding myself listening. And the episodes are short, so it’s pretty easy to dip in and out and binge as you see fit.


Sunday Pod curator Jody Avirgan is the host of FiveThirtyEight's politics podcast and is heading up the "30 for 30" podcast documentary series from ESPN, which just launched Season Six.

The Sunday Still
from Patrick Farrell

Last Play

Freeing up more time to focus on his poetry, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ended his season in suspension Nov. 14, when he yanked the helmet off Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and hit him in the head with it, sparking an angry brawl in the final seconds of the game. TV cameras followed the chaos in motion from many different, imperfect angles. But it was Getty photographer Jason Miller’s still image that satisfied our desire to freeze the moment as pundits weighed in on the career-threatening cheap shot. Following his instinct to keep shooting after the play and positioned on the right side of the field to capture the QB’s face, Miller dominated a series of still images that recorded in sharp detail what is being called one of the ugliest on-field incidents in NFL history.

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 Sunday Cover
from Étienne Lajoie

   The New European

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

The Sunday Esoterica
from Ryan Rodenberg

   Do Ridesharing Services Increase Alcohol Consumption?

In a recent academic paper, Jacob Burgdorf and two co-authors probe whether "ridesharing may...have negative health effects by increasing alcohol consumption."  While acknowledging that "[r]ecent studies show ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, reduce intoxicated driving," the authors "estimate that UberX is associated with a 3.1% increase in the average number of drinks consumed per day."

Sunday Esoterica curator Ryan Rodenberg 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.

The Su♬day Sou♬dtrack
from The Editors

By The Rolling Stones (from “Some Girls, Live in Texas,” 1978)

The Sunday Comix
from Alex Segura

   All Of These Things That Have Made Us
By Tom Spurgeon for The Comics Reporter 
 (~20 minutes)

The comics community lost an important member earlier this week, as noted journalist, critic, comic strip writer, and convention organizer Tom Spurgeon died at 50. This is not an impartial obituary, nor will it attempt to be comprehensive. I’m just sad because I lost a friend, and it felt fitting to spotlight him here today, in lieu of something more fleeting.

Tom - whether it was through his must-read blog/website The Comics Reporter, as executive director of the Cartoon Crossroads Columbus convention, or as an editor for seminal comic book magazine The Comics Journal - was a singular voice in comics and comic book criticism. He had a passion for the medium that was unrivaled, and - underneath his sharp, incisive writing style, he was a warm, kind, and welcoming person. He just loved comics and he wanted more people to love them, too.

I don’t claim to have been particularly close to Tom - I dealt with him many times in a professional capacity while working in the DC Comics publicity department, often having off the record conversations to contextualize what was going on, or what wasn’t being said. I had been familiar with his work before, having read his superb Stan Lee biography, co-written with Jordan Raphael, and as a reader of The Comics Journal.

Over time, we became something close to friends - chatting about whatever The Big Story was in comics at any given time, talking about what we were reading, how our respective writing was going. Again, we’d chat maybe once every six months, but I looked forward to those conversations. The last time we chatted, over Twitter DM, it was to compare notes on where we were on our respective Amazing Spider-Man rereads.

Take a minute and read this essay - by  Tom, after a major health scare a few years back - that sums up not only Tom’s skill and strength as a writer, but his warm heart, self-awareness, and unending admiration and love for comics and the people who made them possible.

Rest in peace, Tom.


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 Amprs&nd
from The Editors
The Last Laugh
from The Editors

   Emily Dickinson, Freelancer
By Emma Brewer for The New Yorker
 (~5 minutes)

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you—Unverified—too?

   On the First-World Campaign Trail
By Larry David for The New Yorker
 (~5 minutes)

A President needs to also look out for the interests of Rob, a hedge-fund manager from Scarsdale who was sunblock-deprived on the first tee during a golf vacation in Miami Beach. Right?

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Founder, Editor: Don Van Natta Jr.
Producer, Editor: Jacob Feldman
Producer, Curator: Étienne Lajoie
Senior Recycling Editor: Jack Shafer
Senior Long View Editor: Justine Gubar
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


Contributing Editors: Bruce Arthur, Shaun Assael, Nick Aster, Alex Belth, Sara J. Benincasa, Jonathan Bernstein, Sara Blask, Greg Bishop, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Maria Bustillos, Chris Cillizza, Doug Bock ClarkAnna Katherine Clemmons, Stephanie Clifford, Rich Cohen, Jessica Contrera, Jonathan Coleman, Pam Colloff, Bryan Curtis, Maureen Dowd, Charles Duhigg, Brett Michael Dykes, Geoff Edgers, Jodi Mailander Farrell, Hadley Freeman, Lea Goldman, Michael N. Graff, Megan Greenwell, 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, Edmund Lee, Chris Lehmann, Will Leitch, Jon Mackenzie, Glynnis MacNicol, Drew Magary, Erik Malinowski, Jonathan Martin, Betsy Fischer Martin, Jeff Maysh, Jack McCallum, Susan McPherson, Ana Menendez, Kevin Merida, Heidi N. Moore, Kim Morgan, Eric Neel, Joe Nocera, Ashley R. Parker, Anne Helen Petersen, Jo Piazza, 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: Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by David Dyer-Bennet.

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.

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