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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

WASHINGTON, DC, JANUARY 9: Two National Guards are seen through the fence where roses are left and which now now surrounds the US Capitol building three days after it was stormed, invaded and vandalized by Trump rioters in Washington, D.C., January 9, 2021. (Photo by Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Timothy Snyder, Austin Carr, James Murdock, Myriam Lahouari, and Brian Hiatt

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1. The American Abyss

Timothy Snyder | The New York Times Magazine | January 9, 2021 | 18 minutes (4,500 words)

“A historian of fascism and political atrocity on Trump, the mob, and what comes next.”

2. The Cruise Ship Suicides

Austin Carr | Bloomberg Businessweek | December 30, 2020 | 18 minutes (4,587 words)

Cruise crew members experienced a “more extreme version of the household lockdowns that have sent people tumbling into depression.”

3. Orange is the New Peach

James Murdock | The Bitter Southerner | January 5, 2021 | 15 minutes (3,947 words)

“Southern winters have been getting warmer. Ten years ago, Joe Franklin started growing citrus on his farm in Statesboro, Georgia — a place where no one expected oranges to grow. Now, Franklin’s citrus groves teem with life and might actually help, in a very small way, to combat climate change.”

4. The Catch

Myriam Lahouari | BBC | January 7, 2021 | 9 minutes (2,427 words)

“The men call up to Sofiane, telling him that he and his brother have to jump. Guelord shouts that the younger boy needs to go first. Sofiane should throw him down.”

5. The Spirit of Neil Peart

Brian Hiatt | Rolling Stone | January 7, 2021 | 26 minutes (6,674 words)

“Rush’s virtuoso drum hero lived by his own rules, to the very end. For the first time since Peart’s passing, his bandmates and widow discuss his legacy and his final years.”

Ten Outstanding Short Stories to Read in 2021

Author Kelly Link (Photo by Awakening/Getty Images)

The #longreads hashtag on Twitter is filled with great story recommendations from people around the world. Pravesh Bhardwaj is a longtime contributor — throughout the year he posts his favorite short stories, and then in January we’re lucky enough to get a list of his favorites to enjoy in the year ahead.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Lizzie Presser, Greg Jaffe, Phillip Picardi, Amy Yee, and Paul Brown.

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1. Tethered to the Machine

Lizzie Presser | ProPublica | December 15, 2020 | 31 minutes (7,785 words)

“For years, JaMarcus Crews tried to get a new kidney, but corporate healthcare stood in the way. He needed dialysis to stay alive. He couldn’t miss a session, not even during a pandemic.”

2. ‘I Didn’t Make It’

Greg Jaffe | The Washington Post | December 11, 2020 | 16 minutes (4,206 words)

“Flaviana Decker, a waitress at Walt Disney World and single mother to two daughters, struggles to hold on to her middle-class life amid a pandemic and catastrophic layoff.”

3. An Oral History of Fashion’s Response to the AIDS Epidemic

Phillip Picardi | Vogue | December 16, 2020 | 62 minutes (15,500 words)

In the midst of a global pandemic, 25 fashion luminaries, including Marc Jacobs, Bethann Hardison, and Ralph Lauren, highlight a previously untold history of the AIDS crisis.

4. The Weight of the World

Amy Yee | Terrain.org | December 10, 2020 | 41 minutes (12,453 words)

“2021 kicks off the United Nations Decade on Ocean Science. Meanwhile, a local conservation group in Watamu, Kenya races to save endangered sea turtles—by enlisting human allies.”

5. The Obsessive Life and Mysterious Death of the Fisherman Who Discovered The Loch Ness Monster

Paul Brown | Narratively | December 10, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,504 words)

“A humble Scotsman saw something strange in the water — and daringly set out to catch it — only to have lecherous out-of-towners steal his fame and upend his quest.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

(Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Mosi Secret, David Farrier, Ferris Jabr, Blake Butler, and Eoghan Walsh.

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1. Visible Men: Black Fathers Talk About Losing Sons to Police Brutality

Mosi Secret | GQ | December 10, 2020 | 28 minutes (7,072 words)

“We asked the fathers and father figures of Michael Brown, Terence Crutcher, Daniel Prude, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, and Jacob Blake to reflect on the violence that forever altered their families’ lives—and what it means to raise a Black man in America.”

2. Hand in Glove

David Farrier | Orion Magazine | September 10, 2020 | 19 minutes (4,967 words)

“And, formed as they are from durable polymers and loaded with toxic plasticizers and other chemicals, plastic gloves can last for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Yet in discarding them (or any plastic object, come to that), we act as if none of this touches us.”

3. The Social Life of Forests

Ferris Jabr | The New York Times Magazine | December 2, 2020 | 23 minutes (5,916 words)

“Trees appear to communicate and cooperate through subterranean networks of fungi. What are they sharing with one another?”

4. Molly

Blake Butler | The Volta | December 1, 2020 | 29 minutes (7,486 words)

“Love someone back,” she wrote in a poem that I read the first day I realized I already loved her and always would. “You just begin.” So I began.

5. If Proust Ate Pringles — On Memory, Loss, and the Persistence of Heineken

Eoghan Walsh | Good Beer Hunting | December 8, 2020 | 19 minutes (4,800 words)

“That was the definitive goodbye, but when a loved one dies of a terminal illness they don’t die just once. They are, instead, dying over and over again, as grim milestones accumulate with you powerless to arrest the dawning inevitability of the final, conclusive death.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

LANSING, MI - DECEMBER 02: U.S. President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, a member of the president's legal team, arrive for an appearance before the Michigan House Oversight Committee on December 2, 2020 in Lansing, Michigan. Giuliani and the president's legal team are claiming widespread voter fraud in Michigan and other closely contested states in the November 3 presidential election. The hearing will not change results of the vote in Michigan, which has already been certified. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Tim Alberta, Jane C. Hu, Katy Kelleher, Jimmy Thomson, and David Marchese.

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1. The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal

Tim Alberta | Politico | November 24, 2020 | 29 minutes (7,400 words)

“How a state that was never in doubt became a ‘national embarrassment’ and a symbol of the Republican Party’s fealty to Donald Trump.”

2. COVID’s Cassandra: The Swift, Complicated Rise of Eric Feigl-Ding

Jane C. Hu | Undark | November 25, 2020 | 28 minutes (7,200 words)

“The scientist has gained popularity as COVID’s excitable play-by-play announcer. But some experts want to pull his plug.”

3. Verdigris: The Color of Oxidation, Statues, and Impermanence

Katy Kelleher | The Paris Review | November 24, 2020 | 8 minutes (2,213 words)

“Verdigris is emblematic of that movement. It’s a blue-green, yes. But more importantly, it’s a quality. It is hard to give it a hex code because it’s not flat. It’s a color made from change.”

4. Grizzlies at the Table

Jimmy Thomson | Beside | November 23, 2020 | 12 minutes (3,149 words)

“The carcass is a reminder that bears remain a threat even today; accordingly, there are a few things I need to know before I step outside the Wuikinuxv lodge, according to the facility’s manager. ‘If you smell something, it’s a bear,’ Judy says. “If the dogs are going crazy, it’s a bear.'”

5. Yo-Yo Ma and the Meaning of Life

David Marchese | The New York Times | November 20, 2020 | 12 minutes (3,132 words)

David Marchese interviews cellist Yo-Yo Ma on music, politics, culture, the pandemic, stereotypes, and the meaning of life.

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

The Smithfield Foods pork processing plant in South Dakota, one of the countrys largest known Coronavirus clusters, is seen on April 20, 2020 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Nick Roberts and Rosa Amanda Tuirán, Carroll Bogert and Lynnell Hancock, Kiese Makeba Laymon, Alicia Kennedy, and Kitty Kelley.

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1. ‘It’s a national tragedy’: What a devastating Covid-19 outbreak at a California slaughterhouse reveals about the federal government’s failed pandemic response

Nick Roberts, Rosa Amanda Tuirán | The Counter | November 24, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,691 words)

“In the face of an unprecedented public health crisis, the federal agency responsible for workplace safety has essentially allowed meatpackers to regulate themselves—leading to chaos, confusion, and fear in facilities across the country.”

2. ‘Superpredator’

Carroll Bogert, Lynnell Hancock | The Marshall Project | November 20, 2020 | 10 minutes (2,500 words)

“The media myth that demonized a generation of Black youth.”

3. Now Here We Go Again, We See the Crystal Visions

Kiese Makeba Laymon | Vanity Fair | November 19, 2020 | 6 minutes 1,565 words)

“With the help of Fleetwood Mac, the mailman, and 68 high school students, the author of Heavy finds hope for the future.”

4. Eat Your Vegetables

Alicia Kennedy | The Baffler | November 24, 2020 | 6 minutes (1,530 words)

“On Deborah Madison and the taint of vegetarianism.”

5. Death and the All-American Boy

Kitty Kelley | Washingtonian | June 1, 1974 | 18 minutes (4,728 words)

“Joe Biden was a lot more careful around the press after this 1974 profile.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

A chromosome map at 500X magnification of a patient with Down's syndrome. An arrow indicates the 21st pair of chromosomes, which show the instance of trisomy 21, a third chromosome in that pair which causes Down syndrome.

This week, we’re sharing stories from Sarah Zhang, Jameson Rich, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Tristan McConnell, and Merritt Mecham.

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1. The Last Children of Down Syndrome

Sarah Zhang | The Atlantic | November 18, 2020 | 31 minutes (7,888 words)

In 2019, only 18 babies in Denmark were born with Down syndrome. Prenatal testing is changing who gets born and who doesn’t.

2. I Live With a Digital Security Threat Inside My Body

Jameson Rich | OneZero | November 18, 2020 | 17 minutes (4,353 words)

“A device connected to my heart could save my life. It could also be hacked.”

3. Things Ain’t Always Gone Be This Way

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers | Kenyon Review | November 11, 2020 | 13 minutes (3,257 words)

Honorée Fanonne Jeffers recounts her mother’s efforts to overcome voter suppression in Georgia, and as a 9-year old, her own special role in helping elderly Black people to vote in the 1976 U.S. presidential election.

4. Illuminating Kirinyaga: Meaning and Knowing in Mount Kenya’s Forests

Tristan McConnell | Emergence Magazine | November 18, 2020 | 20 minutes (5,070 words)

“Anyone can walk in the woods, but who truly knows them?” Tristan McConnell writes about the shrinking mountain forests of Mount Kenya, and the people there with a deep understanding of the land and the trees.

5. The Muppets: Sex & Violence

Merritt Mecham | Bright Wall/Dark Room | November 9, 2020 | 15 minutes (3,953 words)

“I understand drawing the line at (Muppet) cannibalism and murder, but I also have to admit that the current zeitgeist has me flocking to these sketches more often than ever.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

The El Paso and Juarez customs and immigration entry and exits at the border.

This week, we’re sharing stories from Melissa del Bosque, Marta Martinez, Kiese Laymon, Jill Damatac, and Nehmat Kaur.

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1. The El Paso Experiment

Melissa del Bosque | The Intercept | November 1, 2020 | 27 minutes (6,900 words)

“A public defender’s lonely fight against family separation.”

2. The Social Media Managers Are Not Okay

Marta Martinez | OneZero | November 9, 2020 | 7 minutes (1,931 words)

“They’re on the front lines of a relentless and overwhelming news cycle that is pushing them to the edge.”

3. Why I Paid Tenfold to Buy Back the Rights for Two of My Books

Kiese Laymon | LitHub | November 10, 2020 | 6 minutes (1,728 words)

Kiese Laymon on revision, radical friendship, and community.

4. Dirty Kitchen

Jill Damatac | The Margins (Asian American Writers’ Workshop) | November 11, 2020 | 15 minutes (3,865 words)

“Far from our barrios, mountains, and islands, we cook, so that we may practice swallowing our undesirable truths, acidic and blood-heavy.”

5. The Dogs of Gurgaon

Nehmat Kaur | Fifty Two | November 11, 2020 | 17 minutes (4,400 words)

“Gurgaon’s relationship with its canine residents is both a symptom, and a result, of how this town, sometimes called India’s ‘Millennium City,’ incubates new ambitions, heinous old inequities, and ecological ruin.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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Along with the Top 5 Longreads of the week, we’re proud to bring you “Shades of Grey” by Ashley Stimpson.

In 2018, Floridians voted overwhelmingly to end greyhound racing, a sport they were told was archaic and inhumane. What if they were wrong? Ashley’s deeply reported feature starts with the story of Vesper, her retired racing greyhound, and explores the arguments for and against the controversial sport. This is her first piece for us here at Longreads. Be sure to check out more of her work.

It’s been nearly a decade since the numbers were tattooed in her ears, but they remain remarkably legible. In the right one, dots of green ink spell out 129B: Vesper was born in the twelfth month of the decade’s ninth year and was the second in her litter. The National Greyhound Association (NGA) gave that litter a unique registration number (52507), which was stamped into her moss-soft left ear. If I type these figures into the online database for retired racing greyhounds, I can learn about her life before she was ours, before she was even Vesper.

Smokin’ Josy was born to a breeder in Texas, trained in West Virginia, and raced in Florida. Over three years, she ran 70 races. She won four of them. In Naples on May 12, 2012, she “resisted late challenge inside,” to clinch victory, according to her stat sheet. In Daytona Beach on April 17, 2013, she “stumbled, fell early.” Five days later, after a fourth-place showing, she was retired.

Read Shades of Grey

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Jane Mayer, Nicholas Thompson, Gabriel Winant, Rachel Lord Elizondo, and Pamela Petro.

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1. Why Trump Can’t Afford to Lose

Jane Mayer | The New Yorker | November 1, 2020 | 24 minutes (6,220 words)

“The President has survived one impeachment, twenty-six accusations of sexual misconduct, and an estimated four thousand lawsuits. That run of good luck may well end, perhaps brutally, if Joe Biden wins.”

2. A Nameless Hiker and the Case the Internet Can’t Crack

Nicholas Thompson | Wired | November 2, 2020 | 13 minutes (3,323 words)

A friendly and charming hiker was known on the trail as “Mostly Harmless.” After his body was discovered in a tent in Florida, no one could figure out who he was.

3. “What’s Actually Going on in Our Nursing Homes”: An Interview with Shantonia Jackson

Gabriel Winant | Dissent | October 05, 2020 | 16 minutes (4,222 words)

Gabriel Winant, a professor at the University of Chicago interviews Shantonia Jackson, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) who works at City View Multicare Center, a nursing home that experienced a major COVID-19 outbreak.

4. The Wounds That Do Not Heal

Rachel Lord Elizondo | The Bitter Southerner | November 2, 2020 | 13 minutes (3,443 words)

“Rachel Lord Elizondo shares something terrible in common with celebrated poet, professor, and author Natasha Trethewey — both of their mothers were murdered in Georgia by their former partners. Elizondo talks with Trethewey about her new book Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir — and the journey toward healing, education, and advocacy to end partner violence in Georgia and in every home.”

5. Shedding Light

Pamela Petro | Guernica Magazine | November 2, 2020 | 10 minutes (2,748 words)

“Darkness obscures and sunlight reveals, but dusk—that liminal moment in between—murmurs suggestions.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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Illustration by Glenn Harvey

Along with the Top 5 Longreads of the week, we’re proud to bring you an “Atlas of the Cosmos” by Shannon Stirone.

If you love space and exploration and maps, you’re going to enjoy Shannon’s story. She travels to Kitt Peak observatory to meet DESI, the high-powered telescope that’s working on mapping the entirety of the cosmos, one galaxy at a time. Yes, the entire cosmos.

Shannon’s written previously for us on space. Be sure to read “The Hunt for Planet Nine.”

The quest might seem a bit nonsensical. Why does it matter when or how the universe began? Why does it matter when or how it ends? It matters for the same reason your locations throughout your life carry context for who you are. We exist on a timeline together — we pop into existence and then one day we stop. It matters for the same reason one of the first questions you learn to ask in another language is, “where are you from?” To know where you are at any given time is a frame of reference in which to measure your life in some way and in many ways those locations, those slices of time, hold a great deal of meaning.

Read An Atlas of the Cosmos

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Hannah Dreier, Doug Bock Clark, Samanth Subramanian, Michael Hobbes, Jonathan Cohn, Kate Sheppard, Alex Kaufman, Delphine D’Amora, Chris D’Angelo, and Emily Peck, and Kris Willcox and Michelle Ruiz.
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1. What to Do About Ahav?

Hannah Dreier | The Washington Post | October 24, 2020 | 18 minutes (4,600 words)

“A mother’s fight to save a Black, mentally ill 11-year-old boy in a time of a pandemic and rising racial unrest.”

2. Arrested, Tortured, Imprisoned: The U.S. Contractors Abandoned in Kuwait

Doug Bock Clark | The New York Times Magazine | October 28, 2020 | 34 minutes (8,500 words)

“Dozens of military contractors, most of them Black, have been jailed in the emirate—some on trumped-up drug charges. Why has the American government failed to help them?”

3. Data Disappeared

Samanth Subramanian, Michael Hobbes, Jonathan Cohn, Kate Sheppard, Alex Kaufman, Delphine D’Amora, Chris D’Angelo, Emily Peck | HuffPost Highline | October 29, 2020 | 46 minutes (11,700 words)

Over nearly four years, the Trump administration has “defunded, buried, and constrained dozens of federal research and data collection projects across multiple agencies and spheres of policy: environment, agriculture, labor, health, immigration, energy, the census.” This is an accounting of the damage.

4. The Alhambra

Kris Willcox | Kenyon Review | October 28, 2020 | 14 minutes (3,639 words)

“A long time ago, I took a vacation because I thought I was irreparably broken, when, in fact, I was simply normal. Lonely, and waiting for the future. In other words, alive.”

5. AOC’s Next Four Years

Michelle Ruiz | Vanity Fair | October 28, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,611 words)

“The history-making congresswoman addresses her biggest critics, the challenges that loom no matter who wins, and what she’s taking on next.”