As you’re likely aware, there are 52 weeks in a year, which means that this edition of Things I Read That I Love is our One-Year Anniversary Edition! In honor of this auspicious occasion, I’m gonna share with you some of my favorite longform pieces of all time.
I’ve tried to stick to pieces that haven’t already been in prior TIRTLs, but some have. Most of my favorites aren’t available online (mostly pieces from The Believer, n+1, and old issues of The New Yorker and Harpers), like this Lorrie Moore thing on Friday Night Lights and Eileen Myles’ piece about her lost notebook.
Goodbye To All That (1968) by Joan Didion for The Saturday Evening Post – “It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city only for the very young.”
Conspiracy of Two (August 2007), by David Amsden for New York Magazine – “During their moments of clarity there were few people as thrilling to be around as these two—the banter was invigorating, the exchange of ideas fervent—but an incident like this was a reminder that moments of clarity were increasingly rare. For many friends this image of the couple—abrasive, frightened, isolated from what they loved and fostered—would prove to be their final memory.”
Joyas Voladoras (Autumn 2004), by Brian Doyle for The American Scholar – “Consider the hummingbird for a long moment. A hummingbird’s heart beats ten times a second. A hummingbird’s heart is the size of a pencil eraser. A hummingbird’s heart is a lot of the hummingbird.”
The Deadly Choices at Memorial Medical Center During And After Katrina (August 2009), by Sheri Fink for The New York Times Magazine – “The story of Memorial Medical Center raises other questions: Which patients should get a share of limited resources, and who decides? What does it mean to do the greatest good for the greatest number, and does that end justify all means? Where is the line between appropriate comfort care and mercy killing? How, if at all, should doctors and nurses be held accountable for their actions in the most desperate of circumstances, especially when their government fails them?”
The Ticking is The Bomb (January 2008), by Nick Flynn for Esquire – “Here’s a secret: Everyone, if they live long enough, will lose their way at some point. You will lose your way, you will wake up one morning and find yourself lost. This is a hard, simple truth. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, consider yourself lucky. When it does, when one day you look around and nothing is recognizable, when you find yourself alone in a dark wood having lost the way, you may find it easier to blame it on someone else — an errant lover, a missing father, a bad childhood — or it may be easier to blame the map you were given — folded too many times, out-of-date, tiny print — but mostly, if you are honest, you will only be able to blame yourself.”
I WILL REMAIN EVER-FAITHFUL: How Lil Wayne Helped Me Survive My First Year Teaching in New Orleans (August 2010), by David Ramsey for Oxford American – “For some of my students, the questions Where are you from? and Do you listen to Lil Wayne? were close to interchangeable. Their shared currency—as much as neighborhoods or food or slang or trauma—was the stoned musings of Weezy F. Baby.”
Look At Me! (May 2010), by Maureen Tkacik for The Columbia Journalism Review (May 2010) – “I also saw Gawker as American Apparel’s journalistic equivalent, and I justified taking the job by thinking of it as the next chapter in my immersion in the nothing-based economy, in which I would make the natural transition from creating demand for someone else’s brand to creating demand for my own. In hindsight, though, it seems obvious that Gawker had subconsciously inspired the whole book project in the first place.”
The Apostle: Paul Haggis Vs. The Church of Scientology (February 2011), by Lawrence Wright for The New Yorker – “I felt if I sent it to my friends they’d be as horrified as I was, and they’d ask questions as well. That turned out to be largely not the case. They were horrified that I’d send a letter like that.”
The Secret Of Excess: How a Life Became Cooking (August 2002), by Bill Buford for The New Yorker – “Batali has a remarkable girth, and it was a little startling to see him so clad, but within minutes he had transformed himself into the famous television chef: shorts, high-tops, sunglasses, his red hair pulled back into a ponytail. He had become Molto Mario—the many-layered name of his cooking program, which, in one of its senses, means, literally, Very Mario (that is, an intensified Mario, an exaggerated Mario, and an utterly over-the-top Mario)—and a figure whose renown I didn’t fully appreciate until, as guests of the commissioner, we were allowed on the field before the game.”
The Memory Addict (April 2008), by Sam Anderson for New York Magazine – “I find myself trusting Burroughs far more in person than I ever have in print—and yet I recognize in this trust yet another reason to doubt. Our meeting, after all, is just the first phase of a global marketing campaign whose success depends entirely on the spectacle of his honesty. Trust is the product for sale.”
The Tragedy of Britney Spears (February 2008), by Vanessa Grigoriadis for Rolling Stone – “If Britney was really who we believed her to be — a puppet, a grinning blonde without a cool thought in her head, a teasing coquette clueless to her own sexual power — none of this would have happened. She is not book-smart, granted. But she is intelligent enough to understand what the world wanted of her: that she was created as a virgin to be deflowered before us, for our amusement and titillation.”
Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush (October 2004), by Ron Suskind for The New York Times – “All of this — the ”gut” and ”instincts,” the certainty and religiosity -connects to a single word, ”faith,” and faith asserts its hold ever more on debates in this country and abroad. That a deep Christian faith illuminated the personal journey of George W. Bush is common knowledge. But faith has also shaped his presidency in profound, nonreligious ways.”
Bite Me (Or Don’t) (December 2008), by Christine Seifert for Bitch Magazine – ” The questions of the night were: Will Edward and Bella finally do it? If so, will the magic be ruined when the abstinence message is gone? But nobody seemed to be asking an even more important question: Has the abstinence message—however unwittingly—undermined feminist sensibilities? ”
The Illusion of Safety/The Safety of Illusion (August 2012), by Roxanne Gay for The Rumpus – “I used to think I didn’t have triggers because I told myself I was tough. I was steel. I was broken beneath the surface but my skin was forged, impenetrable. Then I realized I had all kinds of triggers. I simply buried them deep until there was no more room inside me. When the dam burst, I had to learn how to stare those triggers down. I had a lot of help, years and years of help.”
Consider the Lobster (August 2004), by David Foster Wallace for Gourmet – “Nothing against the aforementioned euphoric Senior Editor, but I’d be surprised if she’d spent much time here in Harbor Park, watching people slap canal-zone mosquitoes as they eat deep-fried Twinkies and watch Professor Paddywhack, on six-foot stilts in a raincoat with plastic lobsters protruding from all directions on springs, terrify their children.”
Lost in the Meritocracy (January/February 2005), by Walter Kirn for The Atlantic – “I drifted through classes and lectures, astonished anew by how little four years of college had affected me. The great poems and novels mystified me still, even the few I’d managed to read, and my math skills, once adequate for the SATs, had shriveled to nothing through lack of use. The lone science class I’d been required to take, an introductory geology course, was graded pass/fail, and though I’d passed it (barely), I still wasn’t sure what “igneous” meant.”
I Did It For Science: Sex & The City Endurance Test (January 2006), by Reverend Jen for Nerve.com – “Do people in Nebraska think this is how New Yorkers live? The women on this show work about as much as Mr. Rogers.”
The Percentages: A Biography of Class (October 2011) by Sady Doyle for Tiger Beatdown – “You called us hicks, you made costumes out of us, you made jokes out of us, you have a bar in your big fancy city and it’s called “Trailer”: of course we want to hear that the “coastal elite” is worthless, of course we want to hear that we’re better than you, that we’re “real.”
The Comfort Zone (November 2004), by Jonathan Franzen for The New Yorker -“Like most of the nation’s ten-year-olds, I had an intense, private relationship with Snoopy, the cartoon beagle. He was a solitary not-animal animal who lived among larger creatures of a different species, which was more or less my feeling in my own house.”
The American Man at Age 10 (December 1992), by Susan Orlean for Esquire – “If Colin Duffy and I were to get married, we would have matching superhero notebooks… We would have some homework, but it would not be too hard and we would always have just finished it. We would eat pizza and candy for all of our meals. We wouldn’t have sex, but we would have crushes on each other and, magically, babies would appear in our home.”
The Bravest Woman in Seattle (June 2011), by Eli Sanders for The Stranger – “She understood, sitting up there on the witness stand, why people might need to imagine her window coverings. But this is not what the survivor of the South Park rapes and murder had come to talk about. The mechanics, both psychological and practical, of how the attacks might have come to pass were now well beside the point. In any sense that would satisfy, they are probably unknowable.”
DGrassi Is tha Best Teen TV N da WRLD! (March 2005), by Ben Neihart for The New York Times – “Though the explosive-issue-per-capita ratio is seriously out of whack (and you’d probably not want your kid to attend Degrassi for that reason), the teen-diary attention to B-plot microissues (zits, periods, parents’ night) gives the episodes a peculiar authenticity no matter how outrageous their story lines.”
Make-Believe Maverick (October 2008), by Tim Dickinson for Rolling Stone – “This is the story of the real John McCain, the one who has been hiding in plain sight. It is the story of a man who has consistently put his own advancement above all else, a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition: to become commander in chief, ascending to the one position that would finally enable him to outrank his four-star father and grandfather.”
One Town’s War On Gay Teens (February 2012), by Sabrina Rubin Erdely for Rolling Stone – “So maybe she was a fat dyke, Brittany thought morosely; maybe she deserved the teasing. She would have been shocked to know the truth behind the adults’ inaction: No one would come to her aid for fear of violating the districtwide policy requiring school personnel to stay “neutral” on issues of homosexuality. All Brittany knew was that she was on her own, vulnerable and ashamed, and needed to find her best friend, Samantha, fast.”
Waking Up to New York (April 2009), by multiple authors for New York Magazine – “I was 17 years old and got on the elevator at the Algonquin and there was the famous actress Anna May Wong. I went into my room starstruck. Then I lifted the window shade to look out and there was a brick wall. It was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen. In Texas, you have sky. Here, a brick wall!”
Ten Days In The Life Of A Tampon (May 2008), by Moe Tkacik for Jezebel – (ed note: This is the grossest thing I’ve ever read on the internet, which was a revelatory moment in which I realized nothing anybody could ever write online could be this gross, that the grossness bar had been set, and therefore the whole world was our oyster, we could write about anything, anything!) “By Monday it occurred to me it might be a bacterial infection, which I’d deserve, or some other sort of sexually transmitted disease, which I would also deserve, and that I ought to make an appointment with a gynecologist, which was true even before I started emitting the thin brown fluid of stench.”
Exposed (May 2008), by Emily Gould for The New York Times Magazine – “There was a harder truth that I refused to confront, though. After all, by going on TV and having a daily blog presence in front of thousands of people, I had put myself in the category of “people who make their livings in public,” and so, by my own declared value system, I was an appropriate target for the kind of flak I was getting. But that didn’t mean I could handle it.”
Another Pretty Face Of A Generation (May 2008), by Rebecca Traister for Salon.com – “We have to remember: There is nothing wrong with women writing about themselves, their youth, their indiscretions, their habits and values and personal development. Men have been writing about this stuff for thousands of years; they call it the canon.”
The Assclown Offensive: How to Enrage The Church of Scientology (September 2009), by Julian Dibbell for WIRED Magazine – “To troll is to post deliberately incendiary content to a discussion forum or other online community—say, kitten-torture fantasies on a message board for cat lovers—for no other reason than to stir up chaos and outrage. Trolling is (for the troll, at least) a source of amusement. But for Anonymous it has long been more like a way of life.”
My Misspent Youth (October 1999), by Meghan Daum for The New Yorker– “Earlier this summer I was walking down West End Avenue in Manhattan and remembered, with a sadness that nearly knocked me off my feet, just why I came to New York seven years ago and just why I am now about to leave.”
This recurring feature almost exclusively populates my Instapaper, and I have a fairly large tattoo of a hummingbird on my upper left arm because of Joyas Voladores. As always, thanks for sharing, Riese.
Happy birthday TIRTIL, I have loved reading all the things!
I’ll bake the cake!
i love this series, i think i’ve read at least one piece from every post. thanks for all the work you put into it.
Thank you so much for all of this excellent reading material! I look forward to this all week!
Riese, we just moved to New Orleans and my partner works in a public school and I volunteer there too, and that piece about Lil’ Wayne just made me cry so many cathartic tears. Thank you.
I love this feature, by now I know I will never regret clicking on an article, so thanks for taking the time to provide easy access to good reads I wouldn’t have time to find myself.
I’ve read a number of articles in this list and they are soooo good! Some of them I discovered through this series (which is my favorite weekly feature). So much nostalgia!
Thanks Riese! This was one of the things that got me reading Autostraddle in the past year. And also I just saved like half of this to Pocket.
Thank you for even creating AND keeping up with these posts! They’re my absolute fave!!!
On a sad note, I read “One Town’s War On Gay Teens” when that issue came out and it not only completely broke my heart, it made me so deeply ashamed that my home state, where I have grown up and still continue to live, continues to re-elect such a toxic woman. Hopefully, next election will find her seeking a new job – preferably ELSEWHERE!!!!
Uh, wow. Thanks for keeping me in good procrastination material for the next eternity.
Also, I look forward to this post every week. You have such good taste in articles.
i trust you
I have been ambivalent about reading these past months. I want to, I used to love it, but I have trouble maintaining the focus it takes. It took a lot of effort to get through The Ticking Is The Bomb, but whoa big payoff. The style was unlike most writing Iève been exposed to – vagueness and specificity together at once. Anyways thanks!
I have now added a bookmark folder at the top of my Chrome window titled ‘READ THIS’ … and I’m slowly working my way through all the articles on this glorious grey&foggy Michigan day.
Perfection, Ms. Riese :) Thanks for everything, as always
Riese, I just wanted to say that this has just been one of my favorite features of the site over the past year. Thank you so much for putting in the time and effort every week to bring these to us.