It has been a brutal year in terms of updating this blog (only 5 posts since the LAST “Top 10 Longreads” post? Terrible). I am putting plans in place to move this sucker over to WordPress/Medium and get going again. The biggest obstacle remains porting over/recreating all my old posts and making sure the link structure is intact. Once that’s done, I am hopeful that the regular blogging will recommence!
But some traditions die hard, so as usual, here are my 10 favorite longreads of 2016 in no particular order. These were pieces that in some way caused me to think, moved me, changed my mind, or made me laugh. I hope you get something out of them too:
How Making a Murderer Went Wrong – Kathryn Schulz explores the terrifying implications of letting popular entertainment dictate the path of justice in individual cases. In the case of the wildly popular Making a Murderer on Netflix, there are plenty of reasons to doubt the case presented to you.
How Zano Raised Millions on Kickstarter and Left Most Backers with Nothing – Kickstarter (the company) did something most companies wouldn’t: they asked a freelance reporter to write a story on one of their high-profile failures. Kickstarter failures happen often, with project creators frequently failing to deliver on the promised project or on individual rewards. By pulling back the curtain on how one company failed, this story hopes to encourage caution in optimistic backers.
Ask Polly: I’ve Failed at Everything I Worked to Achieve – It wouldn’t be a yearly favorite longreads list without another advice column by Heather Havrilesky. In this one, she provides advice to a young law school student struggling with trying to make sense of her level of accomplishments (or lack thereof). As usual, her advice feels universal and essential.
It Smelled Like Death: An Oral History of the Double Dare Obstacle Course – Hilarious piece by Marah Eakin about a pop culture artifact that I hadn’t given any thought to since childhood. The best nuggets from this piece all involve how slapdash and potentially dangerous the obstacle course really was. Sometimes, the best entertainment is borne of necessity and severe constraints.
The Revenge of Roger Ailes – Riveting story by Gabriel Sherman about how the women at Fox News took down Roger Ailes, a man who sexually harassed women with impunity and who subjugated his employees through constant fear and scrutiny.
How Things Work – In Nick Denton’s final post for Gawker, he lays out what he was trying to accomplish with his company and its flagship blog, as well as what led to its downfall. A lot of insightful ink was spilled about how the downfall of Gawker is emblematic of a lot that’s going wrong with the media and our culture today. This piece by Denton himself felt like the best one to include here.
Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All – In a year filled with great reporting about Donald Trump (and a ton of truly awful reporting about him), I was struck by Tony Schwartz’s desire to speak out against Trump decades after helping him write The Art of the Deal. This piece in The New Yorker was one of the first that featured his critiques, and its anecdotes are still remarkable to this day.
Time Risk – More than any other piece this year, Terry Rossio’s column on “time risk” helped me to understand the entertainment industry better. It is a massive column (it took me over 2 hours to read) but within its insights about how film projects get made, there’s also a lot here about how we choose to spend our time as creators in this world, and what we should prioritize.
Death, The Prosperity Gospel, and Me – Cancer can instantly reconfigure all of your life’s priorities and your entire view of the world. Kate Bowler movingly describes what happens when your theology comes in conflict with your life circumstances.
The Quest for a Unifying Theory of Time Travel in Star Trek – Delving through decades worth of Trek episodes and films, Xaq Rzetelny searches for a way to explain how the legendary franchise deploys the mechanic of time travel. In other words, this article was genetically engineered for me to love it.
Also worth mentioning:
– Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
– History tells us what will happen next with Brexit and Trump by Tobias Stone
– In Defense of a Boring, Comfortable Life by B.J. Mendelson
– Future Shock by Abraham Riseman