This past Sunday, Longreads celebrated its 13th anniversary, and we couldn’t be prouder. What originated in 2009 as a Twitter hashtag has grown into a space for readers and writers around the world. In the beginning, Longreads focused on curating the best longform storytelling on the internet — a tradition that today’s team has kept going strong with Weekly Top 5 lists and the annual Best Of series. In 2014, Longreads started to commission and publish its own original stories, which were originally called Longreads Exclusives. (Remember Meaghan O’Connell’s “A Birth Story“?)
With ongoing support from Longreads Members and readers, over the years we’ve been able to fund and publish award-winning essays and features, book excerpts and columns, and more in-depth investigative projects, including two notable podcasts. In this special reading list and Weekly Top 5 edition, we’ve selected our 10 favorite original stories published on Longreads over the past eight years. Whether you’re a relatively new reader or have been a longtime member, we guarantee that you’ll find something you love — or will want to revisit again.
After our calls for essays and reading lists at the start of the year, we’ve enjoyed diving into your submissions and working with more writers, especially our newest reading list contributors. We’re excited about the stories we’re publishing over the coming months, and look forward to working with more of you in 2022, and beyond.
Anne Thériault | May 2018 | 5,949 words (23 minutes)
Anne Thériault’s entire collection on the badass women of centuries past is brilliant: sharp, informative, and like nothing you’ve ever read, mixing history, humor, and Anne’s undeniably unique voice. Each installment is worth a read — and you can read them in any order — but here I’ll recommend the second in the series, on “king-seducing homewrecker extraordinaire” Anne Boleyn. —CLR
Leah Sottile | May 2018–July 2019 | 69,699 words
Over the course of two podcast seasons, nine connected features, and nearly 70,000 words, Leah Sottile delves into Oregon’s infamous Bundy family — and more largely into the growing contingent of Americans who refuse to acknowledge the federal government. No easy answers here, just a nuanced exploration of how we arrived at what increasingly feels like a pivotal moment for the future of democracy. —PR
Tim Requarth | October 2019 | 6,723 words (27 minutes)
After his brother is hit by a drunk driver while riding a motorcycle, neuroscientist and writer Tim Requarth confronts how traumatic brain injury has irrevocably altered his family. —KS
Annie Hylton | February 2020 | 8,310 words (20 minutes)
In this harrowing reported story, Annie Hylton spends time with the Basil family, who are haunted by the disappearance of their sister, Immaculate “Mackie” Basil. Peering deep beneath the surface, Hylton sympathetically explores the darkness behind this tragedy and the intergenerational trauma of Canadian residential schools. —CW
Irina Dumitrescu | August 2020 | 5,406 words (21 minutes)
Ever harbored a desire to write, learn to cook or to act? MasterClass could, theoretically, teach you all these things and more. With wit, grace, and humor, Irina Dumitrescu took MasterClass sessions for six months and reported back, so you don’t have to. —KS
Devin Kelly | December 2019 | 3,955 words (15 minutes)
Poet, writer, and competitive runner Devin Kelly contemplates his battle with body dysmorphia and searches for the permission he needs to extend grace to himself. —KS
Rachel Nuwer | March 2020 | 7,033 words (28 minutes)
When COVID-19 was still just a murmur and Netflix’s Tiger King had yet to become mandatory escapism, you could already learn about Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin on Longreads. In a four-part podcast and 7,000-word piece, Rachel Nuwer examines the bizarre fact that in some American states it is easier to buy a lion than a dog. Meticulously researched, her work remains laser-focused on the welfare of the animals — rather than the people — and portrays a complete picture of big cat ownership in the U.S. —CW
Candace Rose Rardon | July 2017 | 2,882 words (10 minutes)
Candace Rose Rardon’s travel writing stands out: She combines lovely musings on place with gorgeous watercolor sketches. In “Home Is a Cup of Tea,” she explores the world and searches for the meaning of home through the different teas she discovers while traveling. It’s a breezy read, and one of my favorite illustrated essays on the site. —CLR
Olivia Potts | July 2020 | 4,161 words (15 minutes)
This jolly exploration into the surprisingly complicated world of marmalade is a ray of sunshine, with Olivia Potts’ wonderful writing resonating with the joy that exploring this realm brings her. It is an entrancing essay, and I defy you not to enjoy imagining the “50 sheep dyed orange in readiness for this year’s (marmalade) festival.” —CW
Kristin Collier | December 2021 | 6,596 words (21 minutes)
When Kristin Collier was 18, her mother began taking out private student loans in her name; over time, the debt compounded and compounded again, until it had soared to nearly $400,000. Why? Because it was designed to be unpayable. A wrenching personal story, overlaid on a historical arc that might just leave you quaking with rage. —PR
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