Here are five stories to kickstart your weekend of reading: Seyward starts us off with story close to her heart, set in her hometown of Greenville, North Carolina; Krista shares a remembrance of the longest siege in modern history; Peter recommends a deeply reported piece on Andrew Luck; Cheri takes us behind the scenes of an art fraud; and Carolyn offers a light and fluffy take on “The Great Canadian Baking Show.”

1. Drugs Killed 8 Friends, One by One, in a Tragedy Seen Across the U.S.*

Lenny Bernstein and Jordan-Marie Smith | The Washington Post | December 2, 2022 | 3,289 words

This story is about my hometown. It could be about yours, too. Not because an outsize percentage of readers are from Greenville, North Carolina, a small, unremarkable city situated in the flat plains of what was once tobacco-growing country. It could be about where you’re from because stories like this are ubiquitous: stories of opioid overdoses depleting families and friend groups; of beloved mentors like Joe Hughes, my middle school history teacher, quoted in this piece, who has spoken at the funerals of three of his former students and attended five others; of natives like reporter Jordan-Marie Smith, who on trips home heard that a person she grew up, then another, then another had died. Smith is younger than I, as are many of the dead in this story. But just two weeks before it was published, over drinks, I asked a childhood friend if I was crazy in thinking that a lot of people who were in our year in school had died of suspected or confirmed overdoses. I could think of three off the top of my head; she added a fourth to the list. This is their story, too. —SD

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2. Toothache, Bleeding, Farewell

Miljenko Jergović (translated by Mirza Purić) | The Baffler | November 17, 2022 | 4,783 words

Thirty years after the Siege of Sarajevo, Miljenko Jergović, “one of the most prolific and widely read and translated ex-Yugoslav writers,” reflects on that first week of the war. In this essay first published on his blog and translated for publication at The Baffler by Mirza Purić, Jergović recounts being plagued by the misery of a toothache — a harbinger of the horrors to come — and the sickening realization that, as the bullets and shells whistle overhead and nearby, nothing will ever be the same. Jergović’s perception is irrevocably altered by the immediacy and proximity of violence over the coming 1,425 days, in what would become the longest siege in modern history: “What struck me then with clarity, however, while the Tramadol was still working, before the pain returned with all its vengeance, the thought that changed my life passing through my forehead like a lobotomy blade, was the realization that, after those first bursts and blasts, I was no longer me, nor was that house my house, nor was that city my city…The war had started with the first explosion. And the war, I felt, would last a long time, it would in fact never end.” —KS

3. Why Andrew Luck Walked Away

Seth Wickersham | ESPN | December 6, 2022 | 8,533 words

Sports journalism is one of those sub-disciplines that contains multitudes. If you’re not familiar with the sport or the team or the athlete being discussed, it can seem designed specifically to drive you away. (Case in point: the actual headline on this is “Andrew Luck Finally Reveals Why He Walked Away From the NFL.”) But when it’s done right, it transcends the field of play to become a universal human story. The minutiae of tactics and statistics fall away, revealing something anyone can connect with. That’s the case with Seth Wickersham’s deep profile of Andrew Luck, the Stanford architectural design major and quarterback who became the first pick in the 2012 draft. It’s a story about how the ways we protect ourselves can harm others, about how a lifetime of competitive sports can turn a shoulder injury into a gradual unraveling of the self. Wickersham and Luck clearly spent an inordinate amount of time together over the five months of reporting, and it shows in the piece’s emotional core: For every piece of scenework, there’s an interior reconstruction as well. Luck came into the league burdened by unimaginable expectations; he left it with a clear conscience. Now, after affording himself the time and space to find a path, he’s moving toward something that might just be his true purpose. This is the kind of piece that offers something for people who don’t follow athletes — but perhaps more importantly, it’s a reminder that athletes are people too, as plagued by doubt and fear as the rest of us. —PR

4. Unmasking “The Scholar”: The Colorado Woman Who Helped a Global Art Smuggling Operation Flourish for Decades

Sam Tabachnik | The Denver Post | December 1, 2022 | 7,593 words

Ever since reading this Bloomberg piece about disgraced art collector Douglas Latchford, I’ve been interested in learning more about how he spent decades trafficking priceless archaeological treasures out of Cambodia and into museums and private collections around the world. But Latchford didn’t do it alone. This piece by Sam Tabachnik is the first in a three-part series that investigates the role of a Colorado scholar in this illicit antiquities trade. In part one, Tabachnik introduces us to Emma C. Bunker, who was known as a prominent Asian art scholar and a consultant, board member, and volunteer at the Denver Art Museum for six decades. (Bunker died last year at age 90.) Tabachnik weaves a fascinating narrative that paints Bunker not as a well-respected scholar but a fraud and Latchford’s sidekick. She was integral to his smuggling operation, enabling the falsification of documents and legitimizing his stolen collection through her academic work and publications. Court documents and recreated emails are sprinkled throughout for readers who want to dig deeper. And you will. —CLR

5. The Great Canadian Baking Show Is a Pile of Wet Dough

Alex Tesar | The Walrus | September 29, 2022 | 2,238 words

While not the weightiest story in the world, this essay debating the merits of The Great British Bake Off compared to The Great Canadian Baking Show was the soul-soothing read I needed as we stumble toward the end of the year. Besides, Alex Tesar is right: The Great Canadian Baking Show just isn’t as good. As a British expat currently living in Canada, I consider myself in a lofty position to judge this issue, and I nodded along, self-importantly, as I read Tesar’s delicious arguments. While I have devoured all the offerings from the British side of the Atlantic, I limped through one season of the Canadian version and, with Dan Levy no longer presenting, could make it no further. Tesar explains that the “bucolic village fete,” which provides the setting for both shows, makes sense against the backdrop of English history (although dwelling on a tweeness that does not always exist), but not for Canada. He continues that trying to emulate British culture, rather than “showing us what Canada is and what it could become … reveals profound insecurities about what sticks us together besides maple syrup.” I also have something to say about (most) North American versions of British shows: No. Tesar offers a more nuanced perspective. It may be as light as whipped cream, but what a fun read. —CW

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