Here are five standout pieces we read this week. You can visit our editors’ picks or our Twitter feed to see what other recommendations you may have missed.
Sign up to receive this list free every Friday in your inbox.
Naomi Gordon-Loebl | Esquire | October 10, 2022 | 3,875 words
Tuesday was National Coming Out Day, making this a fitting week for Naomi Gordon-Loebl’s essay about top surgery to make its debut. The piece operates in multiple registers, juxtaposing humor and gravity, hope and elegy, romance and pragmatism. The result is a brave, moving, and defiant piece of writing, one that quietly urges readers to set aside their assumptions about trans identity and much more. “I never hated my chest. It’s a perfectly fine chest; a good one, and I’m fond of it, even,” Gordon-Loebl writes. “It needs to go now, not because it is wrong, or something worth despising, but simply because it is standing in the way of a life I can no longer postpone.” —SD
Jean Guerrero | Los Angeles Times | October 10, 2022 | 1,764 words
I was drawn to three reads this week, all of which touch on the promise or peril of technology in different ways: a tour of Meta’s VR social network, a glimpse into a gentler alternative to space tourism, and a piece that explores, and ultimately rejects, the fantasy of uploading ourselves to the metaverse. This third read, by Guerrero, introduces the beliefs of longtermism, a view that prioritizes the lives of faraway future generations over the Earth’s existing ecosystems and the billions of people alive today. Guerrero had once fallen for the idea of digital immortality, which she recounts beautifully, but she now sees the techno-utopian visions of the Musks and Zuckerbergs of society as destructive and dangerous, rooted in eugenics, white supremacy, and capitalism. This is a short yet thought-provoking piece that has urged me to consider my own views in a fast-evolving world. —CLR
Ben Goldfarb | Nautilus | August 10, 2022 | 2,635 words
What’s the best thing about a dead whale? This isn’t the start of a bad joke, it’s the primary question Ben Goldfarb poses in his fascinating piece at Nautilus. When whales have washed up in the past, we’ve buried, incinerated, and even detonated them. “In 1970, the Oregon Highway Department infamously dynamited a gray whale, flattening an Oldsmobile beneath a chunk of flying blubber and leaving 75 bystanders flecked with putrescent meat.” Gory mishaps aside, Goldfarb suggests that while it’s not always practical, simply allowing a dead whale to decompose naturally allows legions of creatures to feed on the carcass and flourish. “Lately, some researchers have begun to pay closer heed to the value of stranded whales, and to encourage coastal managers to let carcasses lie. Granted, not every beach is an appropriate resting place for a reeking, 50,000-pound corpse. When circumstances allow, however, permitting dead whales to decompose in situ may be preferable to disposal.” For more on how the Longbranch whale found a home in Eaton Hall at Seattle Pacific University, read Peter Wayne Moe’s “Bones, Bones: How to Articulate a Whale.” —KS
Dan Kois | Slate | October 10, 2022 | 6,485 words
A few months ago, I recommended a Dan Kois piece about OXO, both because of the writing and reporting but also because it was just straight-up enjoyable. (And believe it or not, I got an angry email about that.) Well, Kois is back at it again with
the white Vans another Very Pleasant Reading Experience. This time, it’s a deep excavation of a person virtually nobody younger than Generation Jones has any real memory of: pop poet and seemingly pathological liar Rod McKuen. Once upon a time, McKuen was one of the most famous and prolific creatives in the world. Sixty million books sold. One hundred million albums sold. He pumped out multiple volumes of text and sound each year, all of them utterly, irredeemably anodyne. What happened? Why doesn’t his legacy endure beyond the bargain bin at used record stores? “McKuen’s whole deal does not exactly fit into my sense of the tumultuous late ’60s and early ’70s,” Kois readily admits.” But, driven by curiosity — that most endangered of journalistic impulses — he dives into McKuen’s life and catalog, and surfaces with both empathy and an arched eyebrow. Are you not entertained? —PR
Reeves Wiedeman | The Cut | November 12, 2018 | 9,365 words
Netflix loves a true crime miniseries and yesterday released yet another one: The Watcher. Yet to see it, I am hopeful it will be more nuanced than the endless parade of horrific murders dominating this genre. After all, the story it is based on is more spooky than gory. First detailed in 2018 by Reeves Wiedeman in his essay for The Cut, it is classic “idyllic suburbia turns creepy,” with the Broaddus family buying their dream home, only to begin receiving alarming letters to “The New Owner.” With a strong horror vibe, these letters explain the writer has “been put in charge of watching” the house and asking questions about “the young blood” living there. Wiedeman deftly builds up the suspense but also focuses on something more mundane: neighborhood politics. Fearing for their children, the Broadduses never move into the house, but this does not stop them from investigating their neighbors to find out who “The Watcher” may be. Suspicions run high, with tensions overspilling in lawsuits and town council meetings. Managing to combine mystery with paperwork, Wiedeman creates a compelling story that you won’t be able to stop reading. I hope Netflix does it justice. —CW
Help us fund our next story
We’ve published hundreds of original stories, all funded by you — including personal essays, reported features, and reading lists.