The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, our editors recommend longreads by Kelsey Vlamis, Brian Feldman, Skip Hollandsworth, Tessa Somberg, and Alison Espach.

Here are five standout pieces we read this week. You can always visit our editors’ picks or our Twitter feed to see what other recommendations you may have missed.

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Kelsey Vlamis | Insider | July 22nd, 2022 | 6,612 words

On an attempt to summit Alaska’s Denali, the tallest peak in North America, Adam Rawski fell 1,000 feet down the Autobahn, a dangerous slope that has claimed more lives than any other part of the mountain. Incredibly, he survived. But as Kelsey Vlamis recounts in this story, there’s much more to that day. How did Rawski end up climbing with three strangers? Why weren’t they roped for protection? The physical conditions alone on Denali — the high altitude, the extreme cold, the exhaustion — are a challenge for even the most seasoned mountaineers. But Rawski’s party also included a mix of inexperience and overconfidence, and was plagued by a lack of communication and odd team dynamics. Inevitably, their expedition was a total recipe for disaster. I’m not at all into mountain climbing, but Vlamis’ account of this adventure-gone-wrong gripped me ’til the end. —CLR

2. The Secret History Of The Internet’s Funniest Buzzer-Beater

Brian Feldman | Defector | July 19th, 2022 | 3,407 words

Back in 2015 — remember the innocence? — Vanity Fair ran a piece by Darryn King called  I don’t know for sure whether this was the first longform journalistic investigation into a meme, but I do know that it was a) the first I remember, and b) an absolute joy. That said, I have to say that Brian Feldman’s recent Defector feature surpasses it. The meme in question isn’t even a meme in the current sense; it’s neither photo nor GIF, but a video clip. And that video clip of an errant fullcourt basketball shot connecting with a small child’s head, which has been circulating online since the heyday of Limewire and eBaum’s World, is so ancient, so pixilated, that identifying the people within it feels like a futile endeavor. Not for Feldman. In opposition of “Erhmagerddon,” the journalist-turned-software-engineer starts not with the solution, but with the mystery. He solves it, of course, but he also delivers an evocative tour of the internet as it used to be. To describe is to spoil, so I’ll let him take you the rest of the way. You’re in good hands. —

Skip Hollandsworth | Texas Monthly | July 19th, 2022 | 9,164 words

Always read Skip Hollandsworth. It’s really that simple. He’s one of the best storytellers in the business. Exhibit A: his latest piece about a possible serial killer in Fort Worth. It’s the best kind of true crime yarn, with no frills, no fuss, and no salaciousness. Hollandsworth’s portrayal of death, grief, and justice is humane at every turn. It features a rich cast of characters, a couple of left-field surprises — a trip to CrimeCon, for instance — and a fascinating face-to-face encounter with the killer in question, now serving time for the 1974 murder of a teenager named Carla Walker. I read this piece eating popcorn (literally). And as a writer and editor, I was taking mental notes. —SD

4. The Surrogacy State

Tessa Somberg | The Cut | July 28th, 2022 | 3,760 words

New York legalized surrogacy in 2021. And what a time to do so: in the midst of a pandemic, on the precipice of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, during an upswing of anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry and panic over “family values” — in short, when so much about personal health and agency over one’s body feels more fraught than ever. Tessa Somberg profiles three women who chose to be some of the first surrogates in New York, and the result is as intimate and compassionate as you’d hope. “What’s more powerful to a woman,” asks Portia, one of the surrogates, “than the choice to do what she wants with her uterus?” What, indeed. —SD

Alison EspachOutside | July 12th, 2022 | 3,687 words

“Sure,” you think. “I’m allergic to cold, too.” But this isn’t the always-need-a-sweater type of thing. It’s not that you feel cold; it’s that your body rebels against it. Itching. Swelling. Hives. And that’s just the beginning. When Alison Espach began experiencing the symptoms of what she later learned was cold urticaria, she doubted it too. Yet, the more she confronted the rare autoimmune response, the more she was forced to confront the long-past familial tragedy that may have been at its root. “Some people thought they were cured and woke up one day to find that they weren’t,” she writes. “When they least expected it, when they were out walking and a cold wind blew, their throat closed. I think of these people when I am packing for a hike, when I am headed by myself to the ocean. I wonder if I will become one of them. I wonder when tragedy will strike again.” A searching, confidently paced chronicle of a situation that’s somehow both unbelievable and all too relatable. —PR