July reading list: Because the second half of 2020 pretty much has to be better than the first half, right? Right!?! Hello?

We’re more than halfway through our project of reading 366 feature stories in 366 days in 2020. It’s been a helluva ride so far — through a pandemic, protests, Mike Gundy. But, here’s to better days ahead.

If you’ve missed anything, here’s January’s reads, February’s reads, March reads, April reads, May reads and June reads along with a best of the first half of 2020 list and a best of all time list.

Now, on to our July stories… Best reads get a .

190.) You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body Is a Confederate Monument by Caroline Randall Williams in The New York Times

“I have rape-colored skin.”

That’s the opening sentence of this powerful essay, and it might be one of the most important works of the current societal moment. An amazing read.

191.) Why We Need ‘Hamilton’ Now More Than Ever by Alan Sepinwall for Rolling Stone

Watched “Hamilton” for the first time over the weekend and it belongs in that pantheon of things that were so hyped in advance that there seemed no way for them to live up to the billing, and yet somehow they managed to exceed expectations. Everything in this piece is true — but there’ve been about a million “Hamilton” think pieces in the past week and there could be a million more. There’s just so much to unpack.

192.) The Republican Choice by Clare Malone for FiveThirtyEight

Solid accounting of how the Republican party evolved over generations to what it is now.

193.) The Mysterious Deaths of 6 Historical Figures by Bess Lovejoy for Mental Floss

194.) How Dollar Stores Became Magnets for Crime and Killing by Alec MacGillis for ProPublica

195.) The Cursed Platoon by Greg Jaffe in The Washington Post

Horrifying. This is terrifically reported, and like another of Jaffe’s recent pieces I highlighted, it’s impossible not to be caught up emotionally in the story. Jaffe is this year’s journalism MVP frontrunner at the moment.

Best of 2020 at the halfway mark: My 10 favorite stories I read during the first 6 months of this awful, awful year

In January, I decided to read 366 feature stories this year — averaging out to one per day. It’s been a nice experience, though far too many of the stories have been entirely depressing, which comes with the territory in this depressing era we’re all trying to survive. It’s also been an interesting calendar of sorts. Looking back over the past six months, it’s almost amazing to see how much the tone, subject matter, urgency of stories has shifted. There’s probably something more to be said about all that, but I don’t have the energy at the moment, so let’s just get to the 10 best stories I’ve read so far this year…

10.) How This Con Man’s Wild Testimony Sent Dozens to Jail, and 4 to Death Row by Pamela Colloff in New York Times Magazine

9.) Hitchhiker, hero, celebrity, killer: The strange journey of the man called Kai by Jana Pruden in The Globe and Mail

8.) The Sting by Michael Lista in Toronto Life

7.) The Weirdly Enduring Appeal of Weird Al Yankovic by Sam Anderson in The New York Times

6.) A stubborn stain, a selfless act, a wrenching discovery: cleaning up after Chris Beaty’s death in Indianapolis by Mary Claire Molloy in The Indianapolis Star

5.) The Accusations Were Lies. But Could We Prove It?by Sarah Viren in The New York Times

4.) Miranda’s Rebellion by Stephanie McCrummen in The Washington Post

3.) Boss of the Beach by David Gauvey Herbert in New York Magazine

2.) What Happened to Val Kilmer? He’s Just Starting to Figure It Out. by Taffy Brodesser-Akner in The New York Times

1.) The pandemic hit and this car became home for a family of four. by Greg Jaffe in The Washington Post

 

 

 

 

Understanding the humans in a human interest story

I initially posted this as a thread of tweets, but the thing about Twitter is that, after just a few hours (or minutes or seconds) online, ideas can easily disappear into the ether, never to be seen again. I didn’t want that to happen here, if for no other reason than I want to be reminded of this every so often, like stepping on the scale to refresh your goal to eat healthier (which I also need to do, but that’s a different story).

Still, the starting point comes from Twitter, from @PrimeDiscussion, a Florida State fan I’ve followed for years, who continuously offers insight that requires me to think deeper about my own opinions and choices on things like race and politics and, occasionally, FSU football.

(Note: There’s more to Adam’s thread that’s also worth reading, but this was the jumping off point for my thread.)

(Second note: This is lightly edited from the original Twitter thread to add context and account for the lack of a character limit here.)

Adam’s tweet got me thinking a lot about how we tell the human stories of college athletes, and that’s required me to take a hard look at the process. Adam’s larger issue is 100% right but I want to address the “tragic stories overcome” trope, which runs deep.

First, since he’s mentioned in Adam’s tweet, let me say that there’s no nicer human in this business than Tom Rinaldi, so none of this is a critique of him. Rather, it’s a critique of me and (hopefully) a point to consider for all of us who tell stories for a living.

I like to fancy myself a feature writer. Maybe not a good one, but it’s the part of the job that gives me the most satisfaction. The best advice I’ve ever gotten is that all stories are stories about people, and features let me tell the best people stories.

When telling a feature story — or any story, I guess — you’re really giving your perception of someone else’s story. I hope my reporting is thorough enough that my perception matches experienced reality, but that’s especially hard when writing about black athletes as a white reporter.

Let me give you an example. I wrote this piece about former FSU star Devonta Freeman and his pal, former Syracuse DB Durrell Eskridge a few years ago. I liked it. I thought I did a good job showcasing why they were so close. Continue reading Understanding the humans in a human interest story

June Reading List:We’re not even halfway through 2020 and I’m exhausted from reading all of this stuff, please send help.

My goal to read 366 feature stories in 366 days is proceeding on schedule, but given the percentage of those stories that have just kicked me in the stomach, it’s been a more arduous journey than I’d imagined when we began in January. But part of the reason for this adventure was to see what impact consuming so much in-depth journalism would have on my outlook, and I must say, it’s been exhausting and, at the same time, inspiring. Hope it’s been the same for those of you reading along with me.

Here’s January, February, March, April and May reading lists, along with a greatest hits package.

On to this month’s picks. Best reads get a .

154.) How Pandemics End by Gina Kolata in The New York Times

155.) How the fake Beatles conned South America by Ed Prideaux for the BBC

156.) History Will Judge the Complicit by Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic

This piece is not for the faint of heart. It’s long, and it’s deep, but it offers some genuine historical perspective on why so few Republicans are willing to step out from behind Trump’s coat tails to speak truth to power — and why a few of them do. It’s fascinating.

157.) Cops Are Always the Main Characters by Kathryn VanArendonk in Vulture

158.) A stubborn stain, a selfless act, a wrenching discovery: cleaning up after Chris Beaty’s death in Indianapolis by Mary Claire Molloy in The Indianapolis Star

The woman who wrote this is a freshman in college. A freshman. My god. I might as well quit the profession because if an 18-year-old is already this much better than me… well, what hope do I have? But seriously, this is an absolute tour-de-force of journalism. If I were teaching a course in feature writing, I’d pass out this story and just tell the students, “do this.” (Note: I wouldn’t be a very good teacher.)

159.) What’s a journalist supposed to be now — an activist? A stenographer? You’re asking the wrong question.by Margaret Sullivan in The Washington Post

160.) Inside the Revolts Erupting in America’s Big Newsrooms by Ben Smith in The New York Times

The inherent question in the two stories above are the same: How do journalists balance their personal beliefs with their role as objective observers. I think a big part has to start with this: Objectivity is not about giving equal footing to all arguments, many of which are made in bad faith or not supported by evidence. It is our job to discern reality from narrative and present the most accurate version to our audience. Too much of our industry, on shaky ground as it is, has been bullied into “both sides-ing” everything, when in fact, one side is just eager to muddy the waters. On the flip side, it’s essential that un-muddying those waters is done with facts and reporting, not our own personal ethos. In fact, good reporting answers a lot of the problems we’re facing.

Continue reading June Reading List:We’re not even halfway through 2020 and I’m exhausted from reading all of this stuff, please send help.

May reading material: The lockdown is ending. Bring on that fog that turns people inside-out!

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It’s May. We’ve been holed up for two months. The country is demanding we march back toward normalcy, even if nothing has really changed in the fight against Covid-19. Fun times. How about some reading material to distract you?

Here’s January, February, March, and April reading lists, along with a greatest hits package.

On to this month’s picks. Best reads get a .

117.) The harmless practical joke that changed baseball by Will Leitch for MLB.com

Boston ruins everything in sports.

118.) ‘Space Jam’ Forever: The Website That Wouldn’t Die by Erik Malinowski for Rolling Stone

This is from 2015, but came up in my Pocket feed recently, and it’s definitely worth reading again now.

119.) Inside the Strip Clubs of Instagram by Taylor Lorenz in The New York Times

120.) Revisiting Hours: How ‘Walk Hard’ Almost Destroyed the Musical Biopicby Alan Scherstuhl in Rolling Stone

Man, I love this movie. Everything about it is pitch perfect. Which leads me to my ranking of the best parody movies ever:

1.) Naked Gun
2.) Spaceballs
3.) Dewey Cox
4.) Airplane!
5.) Hot Shots!

Note: There’s a subtle difference between spoof and parody. They’re both aimed at undercutting tropes of traditional fare, but a spoof tends to aim more broadly — what it has to say is mostly about the actual thing it’s spoofing — whereas parody (say, Shaun of the Dead or Spinal Tap), have slightly loftier goals. Continue reading May reading material: The lockdown is ending. Bring on that fog that turns people inside-out!

April reading material because we’ll never leave our homes again.

If you’re late to the party, this is a running list of stories I’ve read in 2020 — part of a New Year’s resolution to consume 366 feature(ish) stories in 366 days this year. As of April 1, we’re all caught up after a late start. The pieces I’ve particularly liked get a next to them, so feel free to just read those. Or anything. Reading is good. It’s like listening, but with your eyes.

ICYMI, here’s January, February and March lists, along with my unofficial list of favorite stories ever.

On to April…

92.) ‘He didn’t even pretend to let us win’… Growing up with the world’s biggest stars, by their children collected by Joshua David Stein in The Guardian

This was a fun piece with some middling insight from children of John Lennon, John Wayne, Miles Davis, Caitlyn Jenner and Samuel L. Jackson, but the star of the show here is Jeff Bridges, who sounds like he’s every bit as wonderful as you might hope.

93.) Favorite Players: Dan Quisenberry by Joe Posnanski in The Athletic

Because we’re all trying to fill some space without sports, The Athletic is doing some creative essay work, and Posnanski’s picture of the former Royals closer is just beautiful. I’d read Joe on anything, but aside from Springsteen and Buck O’Neil, Quiz might be his most soul-filling topic.

94.)A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now … The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music by William Weir in Slate

This piece is from 2014 (btw, Pocket is a great spot to find some fun older features) and asks a question I’ve been contemplating for 20 years… why don’t songs fade out anymore? The story has a soft spot for the fade outs. I, however, do not. They are the laugh track of pop music.

95.) Touting Virus Cure, ‘Simple Country Doctor’ Becomes a Right-Wing Star by Kevin Roose and Matthew Rosenberg in The New York Times

This story feels like it symbolizes the absolute worst of every part of our modern culture. A potentially critical medicine is politicized because of course it is. A guy gets on YouTube to promote something that hasn’t been proven. People who actually need the drug aren’t able to get it, a community is up in arms, and in the end, we’re all suffering for it.

96.) The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged by Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller in The Washington Post

This is the best synopsis of the failings of the federal government during the pandemic I’ve read. And it’d be easy enough to say this is a political issue. It’s not. It’s a Trump issue. Many Republicans have been exceptional during this crisis, including the governors in Maryland, Ohio and Kentucky, to name a few. But when Trump has created a culture in which experts are derided, every issue is a referendum on him, cronies and kiss-ups hold high office, the State Department has been ravaged, and hundreds of federal jobs remain unfilled — well, none of this should be a surprise. Continue reading April reading material because we’ll never leave our homes again.

Great reads for a long quarantine

What are the best features stories I’ve ever read? No clue. The list is too long. But a few do immediately spring to mind, and since we all have some extra time on our hands, I figured I’d put together a quick list here for your reading pleasure.

Looking for more reading? My New Year’s Resolution was to read 366 features in 366 days in 2020, and I’ve been keeping tabs on my progress. See January, February and March‘s lists.

Got favorites you’ve read over the years? Please share in the comments.

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The Squid Hunter by David Grann in The New Yorker

This is my default answer for the best thing I’ve ever read. It’s just perfect in every way, a small story that is a big one, a true-life Moby Dick. It’s brilliant. Of course, everything by David Grann is brilliant, and if you’re looking for something longer, The Lost City of Z and Killers of the Flower Moon are both book-length tours de force.

As Time Runs Out by Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated

This is the story that made me want to become a sports writer, the moment I realized that the job wasn’t just writing about games. The story of Jim Valvano’s final days is told with such compassion and honestly and emotion. It’s a work of art. Gary Smith was my idol growing up, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to know him a little, and his work at SI is just tremendous always. But this one will always stand out to me.

The Promise by Joe Posnanski on JoeBlogs

Springsteen and dads. It doesn’t get much more white American sports writer than this. But Joe Posnanski, one of the most compassionate writers out there, does something utterly gorgeous with this piece that will make you want to listen to Nebraska on Spotify and call your old man.

Frank Sinatra has a Cold by Gay Tales in Esquire

Arguably the single most famous piece of profile writing ever done, and it deserves all the hype.

Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime? and Why Not the Worst? both by Gene Weingarten in The Washington Post

Everything Gene Weingarten has ever written is genius, but these two — absolute polar opposites in terms of subject matter — are probably my favorites. (Note: He won the Pulitzer for a different story, Pearls Before Breakfast.) The former, a deep look into the aftermath of the worst mistake a parent can make — leaving their child in a hot car — is perhaps the most emotional story I’ve ever read. In fact, since I’ve had my own kids, I can’t read it. No one has ever added empathy to such dark subject matter better, though. It’s amazing. The latter, on Weingarten’s quest to find America’s worst city, is so insightfully hilarious that it’s a perfect pick-me-up in an otherwise very dark time.

Final Salute by Jim Sheeler in the Rocky Mountain News

The photos and reporting for this piece are so vivid that the piece in its entirety is just a complete gut punch. When I think of the Bush years, the unending wars, of 9/11 and the aftermath, of the first decade of this century — this will be the story that defines it for me. But as if this story needed more tragedy, the RMN folded just a couple years after this piece won the Pulitzer.

The Falling Man by Tom Junod in Esquire

Tom Junod has gotten a lot of publicity lately for his profile of Mr. Rogers, which of course, is excellent, but for me, The Falling Man is a quintessentially perfect piece of journalism, a piece that will stand on its own in the history of writing as something unique and special and perfect. In the aftermath of 9/11, I’m not sure anything so perfectly captures the true emotion of that day as honestly as this does.

You Can’t Quit Cold Turkey by Tommy Tomlinson at ESPN.com

My friend Tommy Tomlinson is a brilliant writer, but he’s also a man who’s carried the burden of his weight with him for nearly his entire life. In fact, he wrote a book about it, and you should definitely read that book. But the book probably wouldn’t have happened if not for this story, a brilliant bit of writing — including arguably my favorite lede to any story ever — about Jared Lorenzen, the Hefty Lefty, who was making the rounds on the Internet as a point-and-laugh fat QB in the Arena League before Tommy wrote a beautiful story that captured the utter torment for people whose passion and weight often pull them in different directions. That Lorenzen died last year only adds to the emotion of reading this piece now.

Right Here Waiting by Edward McClellan in The Morning News

Richard Marx got some Twitter buzz last week for talking shit on social media. For anyone who read this wonderful piece, that wasn’t news. This is a hilarious story of the feud between the writer and the 80s pop star, but it’s also something more, about finding your place in a world that isn’t always looking to make room for you. It’s just terrific.

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace in Gourmet

I mean, knock yourself out on Infinite Jest if you’re really looking to do some DFW during your quarantine, but if you’re looking for something a bit more manageable, here ya go.

Thanksgiving in Mongolia by Ariel Levy in The New Yorker

First-person essays are dangerous. The upside is an ability to really tell a story because, of course, the writer lived it. The downside is that it’s way too easy to get into the weeds, to veer off course, to gloss over the less comfortable moments. None of that happens here. This story of the writer’s miscarriage is utterly heartbreaking and unflinchingly honest.

After Newtown shooting, mourning parents enter into the lonely quiet by Eli Saslow in The Washington Post

There are many great writers who came out of Syracuse, so my chances of reaching the top of the totem pole were already pretty low. But the bottom line is, nothing I write will ever be as good as this, so Eli Saslow has permanent bragging rights.

Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building by Wright Thompson at ESPN.com

The GOAT of modern sports writing at his absolute apex.

The Innocent Manby Pamela Colloff in Texas Monthly

Pamela Colloff is one of my favorite writers, and this story has started nearly a decade of reporting on people who’ve been wrongfully convicted. She’s done some amazing work, and I’d recommend reading more of it, but this piece remains my favorite.

What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane by William Langewieche in The Atlantic

Just terrific reporting, told in a riveting narrative. It’s heart stopping and heart breaking at the same time. One of the best things I’ve read in the past few years.

Cake Weather by Holly Anderson in Medium

Man, I loved this story about a cake recipe being passed down through the family and the writer’s job of making correctly. Holly Anderson is a terrific writer, and I wish she got to do it more. I’d also highly recommend her story from Grantland on Florida Man.

The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence by Tim Urban at Wait But Why

The most mind-bendy feature on AI that I’ve ever read. Is it a bit too far on the optimist’s side of things? Perhaps. But it’s still an gloriously fun read.

Additionally, if you’re looking for something good to read to pass the time in quarantine, a few places you can find ample material:

The Sunday Longread
Longform
Long Reads
Pulitzer
Pocket
Bloomberg’s Jealousy List

What to read on your spring break (aka being self-quarantined with family members you’re not used to speaking with for more than 10-minute increments)

We enter March still 6 stories off the pace, but considering we started two weeks late, that’s no so bad.

If you missed January and February reading lists, check ’em out now. I’ve added gold stars next to the ones I liked the best. I also put together a quick list of some of my all-time favorite feature stories, in case you’re really desperate to get out of talking to your significant other while under house arrest. Got suggestions? Let me know in the comments. Always looking for more good reading material.

Anyway, on to March…

55.) Miranda’s rebellion by Stephanie McCrummen in The Washington Post

I don’t have the proper words to explain how good this is, so let me leave it to my pal Tommy Tomlinson…

Seriously, it’s so good. Read it. Now.

56.) There’s an Entire Industry Dedicated to Making Foods Crispy, and It Is WILD by Alex Beggs in Bon Apetit

The Crunch Enhancer? Yeah, it’s a non-nutritive cereal varnish. It’s semi-permeable, it’s not osmotic. What it does is it coats and seals the flake and prevents the milk from penetrating it.

57.) Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet by Richard Cooke in Wired

This is something I think I’ve subconsciously considered often but never quite realized, that Wikipedia has blossomed into the antithesis of all the awfulness of the Internet, and this piece is wonderful in its appreciation.

58.) The Bible That Oozed Oil by Ruth Graham in Slate

The ending here — from both the author and some of those involved — seems to be “it’s all good if it brings people closer to God,” but I think it’s definitely way more complicated than that. This is another story of “people will believe anything if they REALLY want it to be true” type of piece, and that’s at the heart of so much that’s wrong with our country these days. I just think there’s something far more insidious about all this than just “ah, they meant well and no one got hurt” type of thing.

59.) Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it? by Susana Ferreira in The Guardian

60.) The Full-Circle Journey of ‘Homer Simpson Backs Into the Bushes’ by Stefan Sirucek in Vulture

61.) The Great Model Train Robbery by Austin Carr in Bloomberg Businessweek

The story fizzles a bit toward the end. I thought there was an opportunity to spin a mystery into more of a profile of the main character, similar to what was done (less than perfectly) in this piece on buried treasure on the Oregon Coast. Still, the first 3/4 of this are just joyously fun and it contains, what I would suggest, is the most British quote ever included in a story.

“We were gobsmacked,” she says. “I can’t even remember cups of tea being made, because we were so in shock.”

And that’s not even mentioning the line: “We’ve been burgled!”

62.) Steve Miller cracked the code of 1970s radio. But he’s still raging against the music industry by Geoff Edgers in The Washington Post

Per the story, Steve Miller slaved over getting songs perfect.

To that, I say:

Billy Mack is a detective down in Texas
You know he knows just exactly what the facts is
He ain’t gonna let those two escape justice
He makes his livin’ off of the people’s taxes

63.) The Great Buenos Aires Bank Heist by Josh Dean in GQ

63.) Birmingham’s ‘Fifth Girl’ by Sydney Trent in The Washington Post
https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2020/03/06/sarah-collins-rudolph-birmingham-church-bombing-fifth-girl/

64.) It might not have mattered, but at least we had fun by David Simon in The Diamondback

An ode to the printed student newspaper from one of the best there ever was. This, right here, is the best journalism advice you’ll ever get…

The world will be the world. Corruptions may abide. Deceits may prevail. Reform may descend to farce. And the response to the best journalism might be for someone to rush into the breach and pass the worst law. All of that may be true, but in the end, I still get to come to the campfire and tell you a story. And if the story is true, if I know most of what I need to know and if I write it well enough, then, OK, the rest of you motherfuckers can never say you didn’t know. I’ll take that much and run with it.

65.) Tim Anderson Is Here to Save Baseball From Itselfby Tyler Kepner in The New York Times

66.) This backpack has it all: Kevlar, batteries, and a federal investigation by Ashley Carman in The Verge

67.) Suckers List: How Allstate’s Secret Auto Insurance Algorithm Squeezes Big Spenders by Maddy Varner and Aaron Sankin in The Markup

First, let me say this is terrific investigative reporting. This stuff is so complex and required so much groundwork in tracking down info from individual states, that it’s nearly mind-boggling.

On the actual subject matter though, I’m ambivalent. I agree this pricing model is problematic if our expectation is that we’re always charged based on a reasonable, actuarial assessment of risk, but do any of us actually think that? To me, it feels more like this plan is just a surcharge for laziness (of which I’m also a victim, certainly) that isn’t entirely different than all those FREE FOR THE FIRST 3 MONTHS! deals that rely on the customer simply maintaining the status quo.

To wit:

Patty Born, a professor studying insurance regulation at Florida State University’s College of Business, doubts insurers will ever share enough information about their pricing models to allow customers to know if they’re overpaying. She said the only defense is to regularly check competitors’ rates.

Well, yeah. Doesn’t it seem a bit better to tell customers to price shop routinely — a process that’s made easier by sites that will do it for you! — than to require all this state and federal regulation? Rather than asking lawmakers to unravel a complex array of pricing models that they’re not equipped to understand, maybe just use NerdWallet or Compare or The Zebra or any of the other 149 million search results that popped up when I Googled “find cheapest car insurance.”

68.) The Trump Presidency Is Over by Peter Wehner in The Atlantic

The left seems certain, this time, that Trump is in over his head and everyone will realize it. I’ve found that your reaction to the Coronavirus has instead been every bit as politicized as everything else these days. If you’re a Republican, it’s all an overreaction and Trump is doing a fine job amidst alarmist chaos. If you’re a Democrat, it’s an earth-shaking event the likes of which we’ve not seen in a century, made all the worse by the people in charge. Trump fan or not, this to me is the ultimate failure of the current political climate — there is no truth, even when truth matters above all else.

69.) The Aesthetic Splendor of “The Simpsons” by Naomi Fry in The New Yorker

70.) Garbage Language: Why do corporations speak the way they do? by Molly Young in Vulture

This is a terrific read, but alas, I’m afraid the corporate world has won. In the days of “Office Space,” we all reflexively agreed that this type of business babble was ridiculous and a sign of black heart (See: Lumberg, Bill), but these days, it’s just common language.

The piece did remind me, however, of one of my small joys in life. I used to get quite annoyed by Airport Business Guy. OK, in truth, he still annoys the hell out of me. He’s always on the phone until the minute the plane takes off, and he’s right back on it again when the wheels touch the ground, and ever word is excruciating. It’s all Garbage Language, which I’ve always assumed is designed to impress all his fellow travelers with jargon that simply screams: “Yes, I’m very important!”

But the more I’ve thought about Airport Business Guy over the years, the happier I am that he exists, because in him, I view a world I’ve managed to escape. Do I use Garbage Language at times? Well, when I feel it’s a value-add, I can certainly actuate a bit of directionality on that front. In reality though, my life is office-free, a fact that Airport Business Guy always reminds me of, and I’m forever appreciative.

71.) Coronavirus will radically alter the U.S. by William Wan, Joel Achenbach, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Ben Guarino in The Washington Post.

Perhaps the most sobering account I’ve read thus far of how bad things could get, and it gets at two really important things that I don’t think have been talked about enough: 1.) “Flattening the curve” doesn’t mean cutting down on the number of people who get it. It’s simply shifting the timeline for infection. And 2.) Health care is the absolute most important thing here in terms of survival.

Of note:

In China, the fatality rate in Wuhan, the raging epicenter, was 5.8 percent. But in all other areas of the country it was 0.7 percent — a signal that most deaths were driven by an overwhelmed health system.

Bottom line is, many, many people will get this virus, but perhaps 8 times as many will die if we don’t ensure our heath care system can handle the sick.

72.) Anatomy of a Pandemic by Kevin Patterson in The Walrus

73.) Coronavirus and Chronopolitics by Gabriel Winant in NPlusOne

Good piece on the problems facing the medical field that unfortunately also has to wedge in a political diatribe about how wrong we all were for not voting for Bernie.

74.) I’m on the Front Lines. I Have No Plan for This.by Daniela J. Lamas in The New York Times

75.)“Everyone Knows a Leon”: The Freestyle Brilliance of J.B. Smoove, the Secret Weapon of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ by Jeff Weiss in The Ringer

On one hand, I really dislike the writing style at The Ringer. On the other hand, I absolutely love JB Smoove. So, on the whole, it’s still worth a read.

76.) The Myth of ‘Bloody Mary’ by Milan Solly in The Smithsonian Magazine

77.) The Killing of a Colorado Rancher by Rachel Monroe in The Atlantic

78.) The coronavirus generation: We became parents of a baby boy in the cradle of a pandemic by Michael Graf in Charlotte Agenda

My buddy Michael is just a terrific essayist, and his account of what it’s like to be in the midst of the scariest and most eye-opening time in anyone’s life (bringing home a new child) during the scariest and most eye-opening time in recent history (the pandemic) is just fantastic.

79.) The Accusations Were Lies. But Could We Prove It?by Sarah Viren in The New York Times

This is one of the most tensely written narratives I’ve read this year. It’s about a 45-minute read that felt like I finished in 5 minutes. Just a terrific first-person account that, in the end, became about something even bigger than the details of the actual narrative. One of my favorite reads of 2020 so far.

80.) The new coronavirus economy: A gigantic experiment reshaping how we work and live by Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell, Laura Reiley and Abha Bhattarai in The Washington Post

I think it’s almost impossible to understand now how much this catastrophic event in world history could change our futures. The ripple effects — not just on health and economy, but on culture in general — will be staggering.

81.) Inside the Pro-Trump Facebook Group Where First Responders Call Coronavirus a Hoax by Isaac Arnsdorf in ProPublica

82.) The Sedan Also Rises by David Frey in Narratively

I wish there was more depth to this story, but it has convinced me I want to read a good Hemingway biography. Any suggestions?

83.) Tom Perrotta’s ‘The Leftovers’ imagined 2 percent of the population disappearing. That could be our reality.by Ron Charles in The Washington Post

“The Leftovers” is one of the truly great TV shows of all time because it looks at the inverse of a catastrophe — not the 2% who died, but the 98% who survived. It’s a show about grief, and that’s part of the calculus that hasn’t been considered enough during this insane time we’re living through.

84.) A Different Kind of Theory of Everythingby Natalie Wolchover in The New Yorker

85.) He urged saving the economy over protecting those who are ‘not productive’ from the coronavirus. Then he faced America’s wrath.by Marc Fisher in The Washington Post

86.) The mother and the murderer by Gareth Evans in BBC News

87.) How China Built a Twitter Propaganda Machine Then Let It Loose on Coronavirus by Jeff Koa and Mia Shuang in ProPublica

88.) The Contrarian Coronavirus Theory That Informed the Trump Administration by Isaac Chotiner in The New Yorker

Hoo boy this is one heck of an interview. I think there’s ample room to question forecasting models, but it’s also critical to question the questioners, and this is just a terrific takedown.

89.) The History of Loneliness by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker

90.) This Is Not the Apocalypse You Were Looking For by Laurie Penny in Wired

We’re going to be inundated with “what did we learn” think pieces in the months and years to come, but I think this serves as a good starting point:

There’s an important difference between apocalypse and a catastrophe. A catastrophe is total devastation, with nothing left and nothing learned. “Apocalypse”—especially in the biblical sense—means a time of crisis and change, of hidden truths revealed. A time, quite literally, of revelation.

91.) Days After a Funeral in a Georgia Town, Coronavirus ‘Hit Like a Bomb’by Ellen Barry in The New York Times

Such a sad piece about a place I lived for two years. That the story shows such so many frustrations I saw there — a lack of effective government response, a gossip culture that pitted neighbors against one another — is not surprising though.

We’re on to April’s list, which you can find HERE.

February Reading List -or- How I Learned to Stop Watching So Much TV and Read on My Cell Phone Instead

If you missed my January post, I’m trying to read 366 pieces of quality journalism in 366 days in 2020, and because I got a late start, I’m still working to play catch-up. (Ed. I caught up a bit, and am on to March HERE.)

I also went back and added a ⭐ to the stories I thought were genuine standouts, so you don’t have to sift through it all if you want to just find the best of the best.

26.) The Myth of Authenticity Is Killing Tex-Mex by Meghan McCarron in Eater

Man, I enjoyed this story so much. This is such a perfect example of how taking a small idea and really digging into it can open up so many avenues to explore far bigger cultural, social and human issue. Terrific piece.

27.) The Last Time Democracy Almost Died by Jill Lepore in The New Yorker

Every story about how WW2 helped save democracy that ignores the fact that we put Japanese Americans into internment camps and the myriad other problems in 1940s society in the US really frustrate me.

28.) China Sacrifices a Province to Save the World From Coronavirus in Bloomburg

29.) An Unsettling New Theory: There Is No Swing Voter by David Freedlander in Politico

Interesting piece that didn’t address the central question I wanted to know: Why does Rachel Bitecofer curse so damn much?

30.) Stop Blaming History for Your All-White, All-Male Movie by Aisha Harris in The New York Times

I went in to this dubious about the premise. Instead, it was an articulate argument about the need for a better understanding of minorities in history rather than a refutation of the movies that have been made.

31.) The Danger of Befriending Celebrities by Michael Musto in Longreads

32.) Late Bloomers by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker

33.) ‘How do you get over it?’ Football, grief and hope two years after Parkland by Andrea Adelson on ESPN

Andrea is such a great writer, but the reporting on this is what makes it. It’s just spectacular.

Continue reading February Reading List -or- How I Learned to Stop Watching So Much TV and Read on My Cell Phone Instead

David’s Story-A-Day Calendar (better title TBD, suggestions wanted) for January

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. But Jan. 15 resolutions? Well, that’s a whole other prospect. Actually, this was just an idea that came to me two weeks after it would’ve seemed fitting, but it was an idea none the less, and I wanted to follow through.

Here it is: I’m going to read a story a day for a whole year.

Now, I’ve got a little making up to do. The real goal is 366 stories in 366 days (happy Leap Year, btw) rather than one per day, since I got a late start. This also won’t be about reading a quick newser on Trump’s latest tweet or a gamer on a college basketball showdown. I’m talking about features, stories the writer put some real time and effort into. Mostly, I mean long form, but it’s not about length so much as depth. Does the piece try to say something? If so, it counts.

The reason for this plan is twofold. For one, I used to read a lot more than I have recently. I used to put out a list of my favorite stories at the end of each year, but I didn’t do it for 2019 because, frankly, I’d spent too much time watching TV and playing games on my phone than reading. But the second is, I think good writers get better by reading, and I want to get better. I want to read a lot, and I want to really give some thought to what the writer did with the story. Why did it work? Why didn’t it? How might I have approached it? And, of course, what can I steal from this for my own work?

So here’s the plan: I’ll read 366 stories in 2020 and post a link to each of them here. For some, I’ll write a bit about them. For others, just a link. But in a time when we could all use a reminder of why journalism matters, I hope it’ll at least be a good home for some quality work and, ideally, offer a little inspiration for me to do some quality work, too.

Got a story I should read? Please send me suggestions HERE.

1.) Lived In Bars by Helena Fitzgerald in Good Beer Hunting

Everyone who loves bars has at some point wrestled with some big questions about their own alcohol consumption. This makes me feel at least a little better about the idea that maybe it isn’t just the booze that keeps me coming back.

2.) How Toto’s “Africa” Became the New “Don’t Stop Believin” by Rob Sheffield in Rolling Stone

I feel like there’s more of an idea here that’s not realized. Alas, Sheffield is still great and if you want a good book recommendation I suggest picking up “Love is a Mixtape.”

3.) He Is Our OJ by John F. Harris in Politico

4.) The Incredibly Happy Life of Larry David by Brett Martin in GQ

I generally hate celebrity profiles because they’re inherently just a story about the interview, which is lame. In this case though, the story of the interview really tells us a lot about Larry David, which should come as a surprise to no one.

5.) How Dog Parks Took Over the Urban Landscape by Alissa Greenberg at Smithsonian Continue reading David’s Story-A-Day Calendar (better title TBD, suggestions wanted) for January