The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, our editors recommend stories by Ryan Devereaux, Tess McNulty, Alyssa Harad, Leland Cecco, and Caitlin Giddings

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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1. Rocky Mountain Massacre

Ryan Devereaux |The Intercept |July 20th, 2022 | 10,268 words

This story opens with a single gunshot, blood pooling on the snowy ground, and a missing body. The victim: a wolf. The shooter: a member of Montana’s backcountry law enforcement. Some people call what happened a ruthless kill; others say it was part of a sanctioned harvest. Therein lies the central tension of Ryan Devereaux’s deeply reported feature about the wolves of Yellowstone, and how their fate has become tangled with the politics of Montana’s ascendant right wing. This is the (exceedingly) rare environmental policy investigation that reads like a crime thriller. —SD

Tess McNulty | Harper’s Magazine | August 10th, 2022 | 5,086 words

As far as I was aware, my high school didn’t even have a debate team; if it had, I doubt I would have joined. But now, after reading this compelling and deeply disturbing essay from Tess McNulty, I’m glad that it never even entered the picture. McNulty was a self-possessed and fearsome competitor during her early teen years, but it didn’t take long for the debate circuit’s deeply ingrained toxicity — gendered expectations, sexually inappropriate coaches — to rob her of her confidence. “The circuit made us all complicit in sustaining its stratifications,” she tries, “if only by stoically accepting our place within them. This undermined its more lofty intellectual pretensions. Every rule could be bent in the pursuit of power. To protest was to show weakness. This made it difficult for teenage minds to recognize when lines were crossed.” The writing alone lets you know she would have absolutely mopped you if you were unlucky enough to go against her; now, with a clarity of both hindsight and purpose, she reclaims the very power she unknowingly relinquished. —PR

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3. To Live in the Ending

Alyssa Harad | Kenyon Review | July 29th, 2022 | 6,113 words

“I am not sure I know how to unbraid the language of the apocalypse from all this and still have a voice left to speak to you,” writes Alyssa Harad, early on in her Kenyon Review essay about climate change and the end of the world. But the deeper you get into this intense, sprawling piece, the clearer it becomes: Harad indeed has a voice, and as she flows from vignette to vignette, you realize she knows exactly what she’s doing. I love the way Harad threads her trans-apocalyptic observations about the world with personal musings that trace her own thinking since she was a child, and also describes how she’s come to make sense of the precarious times in which we live. Instead of relying on catastrophe narratives or thinking of the end as a singular event, she contemplates life as a series of “nested crises,” and explains that “worlds end all the time.” There’s some comfort in knowing that there are endings happening every day, everywhere, to everyone and everything. The piece covers bleak ground, but Harad’s gorgeous words and artful weaving make for a quietly uplifting, inspiring read. —CLR

4. How a Tourette’s Diagnosis Helped Me Understand Who I Am

Leland Cecco | The Walrus | July 5th, 2022 | 4,058 words

Leland Cecco was only diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of 31. Growing up, his parents put his tics down to nervous tremors that would pass. As an adult, he deliberately resisted looking inward: “not knowing their cause meant not pathologizing them into an incurable condition, not knowing what limits might exist with them.” Here, he grapples with what it means to have finally been diagnosed with this disorder — one still widely misunderstood. Does the label help? In considering this question, Cecco goes back to the very beginning, finding the first possible account of Tourette’s in “The Hammer of Witches, a fifteenth-century book that describes, among its anthology of witchcraft and demonic possessions, a priest whose abnormal tongue movements, vocal tics, and coprolalia, or calling out inappropriate words and sounds, were believed to be the work of the devil.” It’s a fascinating, but confusing, background. Even Gilles de la Tourette himself contributed little other than his name to the condition, writing only one paper on the subject, in which he “bore a grim warning: there was no cure for the syndrome … because ‘once a ticcer, always a ticcer.'” This essay may be light on science, but the interweaving of a personal story with the history of Tourette’s provides an enlightening cultural perspective. —CW

5. I Loved Bike Touring—Until I Got Paid to Do It

Caitlin Giddings| Outside | December 30th, 2019 | 2,997 words

Full disclosure, this is an older story, from the age before COVID, no less — that distant year of 2019. I came across it this month when Outside made it into a podcast, a wise decision: It’s a fun, witty tale that bounces along at pace. Grabbing you from the start, it places you in the middle of a bike chase with “a middle-aged psychopath in high-vis spandex.” The psychopath in question is a disgruntled client kicked off one of the bike tours led by the writer, Caitlin Giddings. Giddings relays her time as a tour guide with candor, and with just a few words manages to paint a visceral picture of dirty, sweaty trail life, and leave you giggling at the characters sharing it. It’s a snapshot of the broad spectrum of humanity, from how we deal with tragedy to how we allocate who washes the group spatula. Luckily Giddings stuck out this grueling profession long enough to gather these stories, although sadly left before discovering the identity of the mysterious tent urinator. —CW