Rick Steves Wants to Set You Free

Ever wonder what Rick Steves is like stoned? Me neither, and that was a mistake. Sam Anderson goes deep with the man who launched a thousand backpackers.

Published: Mar 21, 2019
Length: 31 minutes (7,885 words)

The Mind of John McPhee

After publishing thirty books over the last fifty years, one of America’s most revered and private nonfiction writers finally wrote a book about himself, or at least, about his writing process. And for this article, McPhee agreed, for the first time, to let someone profile him.

Published: Sep 28, 2017
Length: 21 minutes (5,330 words)

The Misunderstood Genius of Russell Westbrook

Sam Anderson of the New York Times Magazine reports on Russell Westbrook, the Oklahoma City Thunder guard and the best player in the NBA. What’s extraordinary about this piece isn’t just Anderson’s insight (he wrote about the Thunder for the NYTM in 2012), or how his vivid descriptions of the utter ferocity and skill with which Westbrook plays—it’s that Anderson was likely allowed 10 or so minutes to spend actually interviewing Westbrook, a famously taciturn subject. The piece is a marvel of observational reporting.

Published: Feb 1, 2017
Length: 30 minutes (7,664 words)

The Surreal Fine-Art Spectacle in Laguna Beach

A visit to the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, Calif., an annual spectacle where performers reenact classic works of art.

Published: Sep 12, 2014
Length: 20 minutes (5,227 words)

LeBron James Is a Sack of Melons

Now that LeBron James has his first championship ring, his narrative is complete. A brief history:

“Finally, after several drama-clogged months, LeBron James announced his intentions. He called a public meeting in the Roman Forum, at the very spot from which Marc Antony had addressed his countrymen after the death of Julius Caesar. (Some found this choice of venue distasteful.) ‘I have decided,’ James declared, ‘to take my tridents to Sicily.’

“This came as a surprise to many: the gladiatorial scene in Sicily was rather provincial, its arena small and poorly attended. There were, however, other dominant fighters in Sicily with whom James was eager to team — a lion named Jade and a dancing bear named Squash. From then on, they fought exclusively as a trio, doing well sometimes and not so well at other times. Spectators around the empire found this all to be rather anticlimactic. Interest in gladiator fighting dwindled, and many scholars believe it is no coincidence that the sport was officially banned, without public outcry, just a few decades later.”

Published: Jul 5, 2012
Length: 7 minutes (1,914 words)

The Fierce Imagination of Haruki Murakami

Murakami has always considered himself an outsider in his own country. He was born into one of the strangest sociopolitical environments in history: Kyoto in 1949 — the former imperial capital of Japan in the middle of America’s postwar occupation. “It would be difficult to find another cross-cultural moment,” the historian John W. Dower has written of late-1940s Japan, “more intense, unpredictable, ambiguous, confusing, and electric than this one.” Substitute “fiction” for “moment” in that sentence and you have a perfect description of Murakami’s work. The basic structure of his stories — ordinary life lodged between incompatible worlds — is also the basic structure of his first life experience.

Published: Oct 21, 2011
Length: 23 minutes (5,912 words)

Eat, Pray, Love, Rinse, Repeat

I’ll never forget the moment I heard about Luca Spaghetti’s memoir. It was a late afternoon in early spring. The sunlight pouring into my cubicle, I remember, was the color of artisanal ginger ale. I was about to take the last bite of a carrot-cake doughnut I’d been savoring — a decadent life-gift to myself for a recent spiritual breakthrough — when my editor strode over, holding out a book. “What’s that?” I asked. “A new memoir,” he said.

Published: May 14, 2011
Length: 7 minutes (1,865 words)

Straight Outta Comp 101

I have never, to my knowledge, heard a song by 2Pac, Nas, Lil’ Kim, Lil Wayne, KRS-One, DMX, Kanye West, Cam’ron, 50 Cent, or the Wu-Tang Clan. This is why I’m so evangelically excited about The Anthology of Rap, Yale University Press’s monumental new collection of rap lyrics. It feels like it was published, exclusively for me, by the vanity press of my own subconscious.

Published: Oct 31, 2010
Length: 6 minutes (1,651 words)

The James Franco Project

Movie star, conceptual artist, fiction writer, grad student, cipher—he’s turned a Hollywood career into an elaborate piece of performance art. But does it mean anything? A critical investigation, with bathroom break.

Published: Jul 25, 2010
Length: 22 minutes (5,706 words)