Photo: Khalid Almasoud/Flickr

In this week’s Top 5, we’re sharing stories by Mark MacKinnon, Rachel Cusk, Carmen Maria Machado, Suketu Mehta, and an excerpt from Bill Hayes.

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1. The Graffiti Kids Who Sparked the Syrian War

Mark MacKinnon | The Globe and Mail | Dec 2, 2016 | 63 minutes (15,996 words)

Mark MacKinnon tells the story of Naief Abazid — who, at the urging of some older boys, graffitied a school wall on a lark in Daraa, Syria, at age 14. The “writing on the wall” enraged Syria’s Baathist dictatorship, and became the source of ignition in the Syrian war — a conflict now nearly six years old — which has claimed over 400,000 lives, displaced nearly 5 million refugees, and has had lasting repercussions the world over.

2. The Age of Rudeness

Rachel Cusk | The New York Times Magazine | Feb 15, 2017 | 25 minutes (6,388 words)

When society is as polarized and stratified as it is today, what does it take to imagine a definition of politeness and civility that transcends our differences?

3. The Trash Heap Has Spoken

Carmen Maria Machado | Guernica Magazine | Feb 13, 2017 | 14 minutes (3,731 words)

The power and danger of women who take up space.

4. Queens of the Stoned Age

Suketu Mehta | GQ | Feb 14, 2017 | 23 minutes (5,839 words)

The Green Angels—a collective of weed-dealing models—runs a high-end, multimillion-dollar pot operation based in New York City.

5. What it Was Like to Love Oliver Sacks

Bill Hayes | BuzzFeed | Feb 14, 2017 | 6 minutes (1,742 words)

A moving excerpt of Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me, author Bill Hayes’s new memoir of his intimate relationship with late neuroscientist and author Dr. Oliver Sacks.