Radhika Jones is executive editor of Time.
I got to work on a number of great longreads at Time this year, among them Lev Grossman on fan fiction, Kate Pickert on the perils of cancer screening, and Kurt Andersen on the Year of the Protester. But these are a few of the pieces from other venues that have stuck with me.
I didn’t follow the great Charlie Sheen meltdown of spring 2011. But I read every word of Roseanne Barr’s Sheen-inspired treatise on sitcom fame, in which she opens a window onto the warped and warping world of celebrity. It was a brilliant assignment, sharply executed and highly entertaining.
This is about the most exhilarating piece of business writing I have ever read, mostly thanks to Lewis’s summary of the trope of shit in German culture and its relation to the European financial crisis, which I found both hilarious and totally plausible. It was like stumbling into a graduate seminar on formalist readings of macroeconomics textbooks. I mean that in a really good way.
There’s nothing flashy or attention-seeking about Ken Auletta’s profile of Jill Abramson; it makes my top five because I found it fascinating to watch a picture of her emerge from the figure she cuts in the workplace. It emerges slowly—you have to wade through a lot of meetings—but Auletta was smart to go for inspirational at the outset: as a woman in publishing, I felt invested in Abramson’s rise and in the way she’s cultivated authority, intelligence and ambition.
We all read a ton about Steve Jobs in the days after his death. Then Mona Simpson’s eulogy came along, reinvented the Jobs memoriam and blew the competition away. It was elegant, personal and lovingly attentive to detail—a tribute perfectly fitted to the man it honored. He was very lucky to have a writer for a sister.
I grew up in Cincinnati, back when WKRP was on the air and Jerry Springer was the mayor. It’s a city of in-betweens, and James Pogue’s rambling, evocative essay in n+1 captures its contradictions perfectly. I love the idea of a piece whose main goal is to take you somewhere else—in geography, in history and in memory.
Share your own Top 5 Longreads of 2011, all through December. Just tag it #longreads on Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook.