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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week


This week, we’re sharing stories from Lauren Markham, Ariel Levy, Brooke Jarvis, Audrey Gray, and Chris Dennis.

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1. The Last Train Trip Before Everything Changed

Lauren Markham | LitHub | April 6, 2020 | 10 minutes (2,529 words)

On solitude, snow, and finding reasons to write.

2. A Missionary on Trial

Ariel Levy | The New Yorker | April 6, 2020 | 41 minutes (10,340 words)

“Renée Bach went to Uganda to save children — but many in her care died. Was she responsible?”

3. Why Old-Growth Trees Are Crucial to Fighting Climate Change

Brooke Jarvis | Wired | April 1, 2020 | 21 minutes (5,253 words)

Science has a lot to earn about the way ecosystems hold and process the Earth’s carbon, and how efforts like reforestation can help improve those systems’ effect on climate change. Two things are clear: Virgin forests sequester a lot of carbon, and humanity can’t keep clear-cutting forests and burning fossil fuels the way we have been.

4. The Baller

Audrey Gray | The Delacorte Review | April 1, 2020 | 21 minutes (5,492 words)

Weary and frightened by the scary science she encounters on the climate beat, journalist Audrey Gray finds hope in the form of octogenarian Ed Mazria, a former basketball player turned architect turned climate evangelist, who has an actionable plan.

5. Push Play

Chris Dennis | Guernica Magazine | April 6, 2020 | 7 minutes (1,969 words)

“It is now mostly unclear why I thought it was a good idea to bring Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits to school with me.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week


This week, we’re sharing stories from Maria Elena Fernandez, Jake Bittle, Eva Holland, Naz Riahi, and Terra Fondriest.

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1. If I Wrote a Coronavirus Episode

Maria Elena Fernandez | Vulture | April 2, 2020 | 27 minutes (6,812 words)

“Tina Fey, Mike Schur, and 35 more TV writers on what their characters would do in a pandemic.”

2. On a Wing and a Mayor

Jake Bittle | The Baffler | March 30, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,274 words)

Are mayors the heroes of 21st century politics, or is going from getting the snow shoveled and the sewer lines fixed to managing a global pandemic a leap too far?

3. The Frontier Couple Who Chose Death Over Life Apart

Eva Holland | Outside | March 30, 2020 | 19 minutes (4,945 words)

“Artist Eric Bealer was living the remote, rugged good life in coastal Alaska with his wife, Pam, an MS sufferer, when they made a dramatic decision: to exit this world together, leaving behind precise instructions for whoever entered their cabin first. Eva Holland investigates the mysteries and meaning of an adventurous couple who charted their own way out.”

4. All That Is Lost and All That Is Remembered

Naz Riahi | Catapult | April 1, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,409 words)

On the 30th anniversary of her Navy captain father’s political execution, Naz Riahi recalls her love for him, and reveals a persistent grief that is always with her.

5. Ozark Life

Terra Fondriest | The Bitter Southerner | March 24, 2020 | 13 minutes (3,305 words)

“A photo essay of the intimate beauty of daily life in rural Arkansas.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Pneumonia coronavirus

This week, we’re sharing stories from Jessica Lustig, Ed Yong, Leslie Jamison, Rosa Lyster, and Geoff Edgers.

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1. What I Learned When My Husband Got Sick with Coronavirus

Jessica Lustig | The New York Times Magazine | March 24, 2020 | 12 minutes (3,227 words)

“You shouldn’t stay here,” he says, but he gets more frightened as night comes, dreading the long hours of fever and soaking sweats and shivering and terrible aches. “This thing grinds you like a mortar,” he says.

2. How the Pandemic Will End

Ed Yong | The Atlantic | March 25, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,549 words)

“The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.”

3. Since I Became Symptomatic

Leslie Jamison | New York Review of Books | March 26, 2020 | 6 minutes (1500 words)

A month after filing for divorce, single mom Leslie Jamison contracted COVID-19. She wrote this meditation on single parenthood, loneliness, longing, and frustration while sheltering in place — and sweating out the virus — with her 2-year-old daughter.

4. Where Water Used to Be

Rosa Lyster | London Review of Books | March 25, 2020 | 11 minutes (2,810 words)

A look at another crisis the world is facing: water scarcity. Rosa Lyster examines the water-stressed cities of Cape Town and Mexico City — cities grappling with issues related to climate change, infrastructure, and inequality.

5. Sinéad O’Connor is Still in One Piece

Geoff Edgers | The Washington Post | March 18, 2020 | 15 minutes (3,857 words)

“She tore up a picture of the pope. Then her life came apart. These days, she just wants to make music.”

“The Leaky Vessel”: On Lewis Carroll and the Perils of Being Female

Rachel Vorona Cote (Author photo credit: Sylvie Rosokoff)

Rachel Vorona Cote | Longreads | March 2020 | 10 minutes (2,706 words)

We’re delighted to bring you a brief excerpt from “Chatterbox” — chapter 2 of Rachel Vorona Cote’s excellent book, Too Much: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today.


We’ve been fortunate to publish Rachel Vorona Cote in the past. Check out The Fraught Culture of Online Mourning, and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Exhilarating, Emotionally Intelligent Pop Music.

The strictures of twenty-first-century little girlhood might, at a glance, seem inconsequential when set alongside the demands laid before Victorian children—including the Brontës—and yet, present-day expectations are enduringly rigid. It is true that the last few years have yielded a modest offering of feminine fictional icons modeling less constrained behavior—both Brave’s Merida and Moana’s titular heroine are standout examples. The latter’s release was nothing short of sensational: here, finally, is a nonwhite female character who is reduced to neither racial nor gender stereotype. Accordingly, she’s positioned neither as a damsel in distress nor as an object of desire—Moana’s romantic life receives no narrative attention, and her chutzpah saves her island, however much it unsettles her father, the film’s benevolent patriarch. But our excitement over these young heroines belies their enduring paucity. And if we’re delighted over the representation of sassy, brave girls—if we’re still registering them as novelties and dazzling exceptions—it emphasizes the extent to which American popular culture continues to proffer an idealized version of young femininity as white, docile, and amiably stifled (Moana, after all, is one of the only nonwhite heroines Disney offers its viewers).
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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Getty Images

This week, we’re sharing stories from Amanda Hess, Robert Draper, Emily Gogolak, Mark O’Connell, and Gabrielle Bellot.

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1. The Wing Is a Women’s Utopia. Unless You Work There.

Amanda Hess | The New York Times Magazine | March 17, 2020 | 20 minutes (5,140 words)

Surprise: women’s empowerment harnessed to American-style capitalism delivers more inequality, and an Instagram wall can’t fix it.

2. The School Shooting That Austin Forgot

Robert Draper | Texas Monthly | March 19, 2020 | 41 minutes (10,305 words)

“The anguish that has plagued the Murchison students presages the kind of long-tail trauma that many of today’s witnesses to shootings will be burdened with for the rest of their lives.”

3. An Intersection at the End of America

Emily Gogolak | Oxford American | March 17, 2020 | 45 minutes (11,400 words)

“A portrait of Dilley, Texas, home of the largest immigration detention center in the United States.”

4. Real Estate for the Apocalypse: My Journey into a Survival Bunker

Mark O’Connell | The Guardian | March 17, 2020 | 19 minutes (4,844 words)

In the Black Hills of South Dakota, entrepreneurs are translating fears of societal collapse into post-apocalyptic gated communities.

5. The Curious Language of Grief

Gabrielle Bellot | Catapult | March 11, 2020 | 13 minutes (3,495 words)

“I wonder why I wonder, and then I remember why: I am still mourning him, in part because I am mourning all the relationships I never got to have with the people who never knew me as a woman.”

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

BERKELEY, CA - MAY 1979: Sonny Rollins is seen waiting to take the stage during the Berkeley Jazz Festival at the Greek Theatre in May 1979 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Rebecca Solnit, Aaron Gordon, Jason Daley, Maria T. Allocco, and David Marchese.

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1. The Storykiller and His Sentence: Rebecca Solnit on Harvey Weinstein

Rebecca Solnit | LitHub | March 12, 2020 | 11 minutes (2,765 words)

Rebecca Solnit considers Harvey Weinstein’s 23-year prison sentence through the lens of storytelling, and who gets to do it now that at least two men who were “in charge of stories” — Weinstein and Woody Allen — have in the past week lost so much of their power, and women are now finding their voices.

2. Why the US Sucks at Building Public Transit

Aaron Gordon | Motherboard | March 9, 2020 | 27 minutes (6,779 words)

“Whether it’s traditional subway and commuter rail systems, modern streetcars and light rails, high-speed intercity rail, or even the humble bus with dedicated lanes and train-like stops, the U.S. lags perilously behind. It is a national embarrassment and a major reason our cities are less pleasant, more expensive places to live.”

3. Dogs of War

Jason Daley | Truly*Adventurous | March 9, 2020 | 25 minutes (6,321 words)

“At the outbreak of WWII, a private poodle breeder and her dog show pals launch an outlandish scheme to recruit and train thousands of pets for war duty. In the face of military skepticism and the carnage of war, a new kind of hero emerged.”

4. Seaweed Soup (Miyuk Gook 미역국)

Maria T. Allocco | The Rumpus | March 10, 2020 | 18 minutes (4,639 words)

My mother told me seaweed has twenty-one different minerals. She sent me two kinds in a box. I put one in a teacup and added hot water. Sipped the wisdom of her. Used her to make broth. Broth is one step in the recipe.

5. The Jazz Icon Sonny Rollins Knows Life Is A Solo Trip.

David Marchese | The New York Times Magazine | February 24, 2020 | 12 minutes (3,531 words)

David Marchese talks to jazz genius Sonny Rollins about why he decided not to publish his ideas on saxophone technique and harmony and his distinct lack of nostalgia for jazz days gone by.

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander DemianchukTASS via Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Malcolm Harris, Tom Lamont, Melissa Jeltsen, Moe Tkacik, and Lavinia Spalding.

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Help us keep Longreads free

First, some great news! Your support has helped us to publish moving, incisive personal essays. Our essays editor Sari Botton learned this week that two of our pieces, “Vacation Memories Marred by the Indelible Stain of Racism,” by Shanna B. Tiayon and “Revisiting My Grandfather’s Garden,” by Mojgan Ghazirad have been selected to appear in Best American Travel Writing 2020. We’re thrilled! We couldn’t have published these essays without your support and we’re grateful for it!  

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1. Shell Is Looking Forward

Malcolm Harris | New York Magazine | March 3, 2020 | 21 minutes (5,271 words)

The fossil-fuel companies expect to profit from climate change. I went to a private planning meeting and took notes.

2. The Invisible City: How a Homeless Man Built a Life Underground

Tom Lamont | The Guardian | March 5, 2020 | 24 minutes (6,244 words)

“After decades among the hidden homeless, Dominic Van Allen dug himself a bunker beneath a public park. But his life would get even more precarious.”

3. The Traveling Salesman Bringing Abortion Bans to a Texas Town Near You

Melissa Jeltsen | HuffPost | March 2, 2020 | 12 minutes (3,228 words)

Mark Lee Dickson came up with a plan. If cities could ban plastic straws, he asked, why not abortion?

4. Rebekah Neumann’s Search For Enlightenment Fueled WeWork’s Collapse

Moe Tkacik | Bustle | March 3, 2020 | 19 minutes (4,940 words)

Moe Tkacik takes a close look at the ways in which wealthy, new-agey Rebekah Paltrow Neumann — Gwyneth Paltrow’s cousin, Adam Neumann’s wife — helped fuel WeWork’s rise and spectacular fall.

5. Meet the Revolutionary Women Strumming Their Way Into the World of Flamenco Guitar

Lavinia Spalding | AFAR| June 4, 2019 | 13 minutes (3,284 words)

“A former child prodigy travels to Spain to revisit the instrument of her youth—and to learn flamenco guitar from the tocaoras playing to the top of the male-dominated world.”

A Survey of My Right Arm

Greenspe Huang/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

Ge Gao The Threepenny Review | Fall 2019 | 15 minutes (3,057 words)


Last summer, I woke up one morning to find my right hand couldn’t grab the doorknob to turn it open. The next thing I knew was that no matter how many times I shook it, it remained numb. Soon, on a hot June night, a furtive pain traveled from my right elbow to my palm, back and forth, through and through, like a fractious child jumping between hopscotch courts with his full body gravity, determined and ferocious.

I am a Chinese woman. Two things I am good at are self-diagnosing and self-preservation. I went to a Chinese massage place the next morning. The lady there told me it was “tennis elbow.” Which seemed funny and unfair to me: I had never played tennis in my life. When I was eighteen and dreamed about my future self wearing a short white tennis skirt, running in a blue court, I signed up for a tennis class—and quit after the first session. My skinny right arm was not capable of holding a 9.4-ounce tennis racquet against a spinning ball. The lady at the massage place first used her arm, then her feet to dissolve the knots on my forearm. A day later, small black and blue bruises on my right arm left a message—there was pain; there was suffering. I consciously wore long sleeves to cover it up, afraid of being misunderstood as a domestic violence victim. But I would roll my sleeve up when I met my friends for coffee. It was show and tell: my pain needed to be noticeable to others as well.

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses, including the novel coronavirus identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019, 2020. Courtesy CDC/Alissa Eckert, MS. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from James Hamblin, Josina Guess, Edward Carey, Paraic O’Donnell, and Ruth Graham.

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Help us reach our fundraising goal of $50k

* Bundyville. (Deeply reported and up for a National Magazine Award.)
* Queens of Infamy. (Delightfully nerdy historical satire.)
* Fine Lines. (Thoughtful personal essays on aging.)
* Shelved. (Deep dives into ditched deep cuts.)
* Hive. (Women on the music that moves them.)

In 2009, Longreads started as a hashtag for sharing great reading on Twitter and we remain passionate about and committed to selecting and sharing the best writing on the web. 

We’re proud of our deeply reported stories and thoughtful personal essays, as well as excerpts of and commentary on the books we love. Read this note from our founder Mark Armstrong for more details on what we have planned this year.

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1. You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus

James Hamblin | The Atlantic | February 24, 2020 | 12 minutes (3,045 words)

You might not know you have it, though.

2. The Wind Delivered the Story

Josina Guess | The Bitter Southerner | February 27, 2020 | 8 minutes (2,143 words)

In this haunting essay, Josina Guess confronts South Carolina’s violent racist past when she discovers, over time, newspapers in her yard telling the story of Willie Earle’s 1947 mass lynching and the subsequent acquittal of all 31 accused.

3. On Getting Lost

Edward Carey | Texas Highways | February 1, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,457 words)

A journey through the Big Thicket of Texas.

4. MS Is Meticulously Destroying Me. I Am Being Unmade.

Paraic O’Donnell | The Irish Times | February 11, 2020 | 23 minutes (5,757 words)

“It’s not that you surrender, in the end. Even surrender takes effort, and you just don’t have the energy.”

5. The Bible That Oozed Oil

Ruth Graham | Slate | February 27, 2020 | 19 minutes (4,852 words)

A small Georgia town, a prophecy about Donald Trump, and the story of how a miracle fell apart.

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Mary Ann Mobley of Mississippi is crowned Miss America 1959 in Atlantic City. (Slim Aarons / Getty Images)

This week, we’re sharing stories from Lyz Lenz, Molly Young, Hannah Dreier, Maddie Stone, and Richard Cooke.

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1. The End of Miss America

Lyz Lenz | Jezebel | February 20, 2020 | 15 minutes (3,814 words)

If only the actual Miss America were as gorgeous and erudite as this essay about the decrepitude of a stagnant pageant in a changing world.

2. Garbage Language: Why Do Corporations Speak the Way They Do?

Molly Young | New York magazine | February 20, 2020 | 16 minutes (4,188 words)

Let’s drop a pin in this and take it off-line so we can futureproof the intiative with these key learnings and co-create innovative win-wins that require an omni-channel push but no critical ask. Actually, let’s not.

3. Trust and Consequences

Hannah Dreier | The Washington Post | February 20, 2020 | 22 minutes (5,600 words)

The government required him to see a therapist. He thought his words would be confidential. Now, the traumatized migrant may be deported.

4. The High-Stakes Fight Over Bolivia’s Lithium

Maddie Stone | Protocol | February 16, 2020 | 9 minutes (2,296 words)

“Bolivia has the largest known resources of lithium. Can it build an industry to supply the world’s growing demand?”

5. Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet

Richard Cooke | Wired | February 17, 2020 | 17 minutes (4,445 words)

What happens when you give thousands of pedants a place online to let loose the full force of their passions? Something flawed, but beautiful.