Wednesday, January 7, 2015

If you like good reads that last awhile: Barry Yeoman's 2014 picks

Barry Yeoman of Durham is a journalist extraordinaire and a writing teacher with no equal. Here's his list of his favorite long-form journalism from 2014. Thank you, Facebook.

The Contestant
Daniel Alarcón, The California Sunday Magazine
After appearing on a Peruvian reality TV show, a young woman disappears.

The Shame of Borough Park
Rachel Aviv, The New Yorker
Sexual molestation, rabbinical debates, illegal wiretaps, drug addiction, sketchy prosecutions, political alliance-building, internecine feuding, and extortion allegations in Brooklyn's Chasidic community.

Prescription for Death
Vince Beiser, Playboy
“The worst drug dealers are the pharmaceutical companies. We basically deal with their victims.” A dispatch from a West Virginia county with an overdose rate 16 times the national average.

A Question of Mercy
Pam Colloff, Texas Monthly
The story of a Texas prosecutor who feels “the certitude of [his] moral code” unraveling 15 years after winning a guilty verdict.

North Carolina’s Civil War
Michael Graff, Politico
“That’s life now, down here in North Carolina, the prettiest, ugliest, most forward-thinking, most backward-minded, most divided state in the South.”

A Toast Story
John Gravois, Pacific Standard
A story about toast but not about toast. Starts twee. Ends real.

The Quinoa Quarrel
Lisa M. Hamilton, Harper’s / Food & Environment Reporting Network
This story about the conflict between Bolivian indigenous rights and international food security poses a moral conundrum with no facile solution, no easy sense of “right” and “wrong,” which is what good journalism should sometimes do.

The Trials of White Boy Rick
Evan Hughes, The Atavist
The gripping (and true) story about a baby-faced drug trafficker in Detroit.

Who is Charlie Crist? The answer is complicated
Adam C. Smith and Michael Kruse, Tampa Bay Times
“A ‘vessel,’ Crist called himself last month. It's unwittingly introspective, an apt description, more true than he even intends. A vessel is empty until it's not. Who do you want him to be? What do you want him to do? He’s a devoted listener. Fill him up.”

Whipping Boy
Allen Kurzweil, The New Yorker
A grown man seeks out his childhood bully. The ensuing drama involves fake royalty, President Eisenhower, silk neckwear, and a California prison.

The Madness of Modern-Day Poaching
Paul Kvinta, Outside
Kvinta’s article about rhino poaching is populated by prostitutes, a compromised whistleblower, an investigative reporter, and a Lone Ranger-style private eye. It is hard to read in some places, but it is also a wild and fascinating ride.

When Hope Needs Hope
Joan Garrett McClane, Chattanooga Times Free Press
What happens when a hospice physician learns she has Stage 4 cancer?

How to Build a Perfect Refugee Camp
Mac McClelland, The New York Times Magazine
At this model refugee camp in Turkey, everyone is appreciative but no one is happy.

Can Whole Foods Change the Way Poor People Eat?
Tracie MacMillan, Slate / Food & Environment Reporting Network
When Whole Foods opened a store in Midtown Detroit, co-CEO Walter Robb promised the company would tackle “elitism” and “racism” in Detroit. Tracie McMillan went to see how those plans were working out.

The Lost Bones
Ben Montgomery, Tampa Bay Times
A two-part series about the hard-fought effort to exhume and analyze the remains of the boys buried at a horrific Florida reform school.

Caviar’s Last Stand
Michelle Nijhuis, Medium / Food & Environment Reporting Network
Your expensive “Russian caviar” might be an illegal knockoff from the Ozarks.

Follow the Blood Money
Adam Penenberg, Pando Daily
“What struck Osen was how organized the whole process was: the banal evil of the international cash-for-martyrdom industry.”

A Raised Voice
Claudia Roth Pierpont, The New Yorker
A tremendous profile of Nina Simone: “It took her an hour to write ‘Mississippi Goddam.’... It’s a song about a movement nearly out of patience by a woman who never had very much to begin with, and who had little hope for the American future.”

An Accident Waiting to Happen
Elizabeth Royte, OnEarth
“Picture this: a unit train jumps the track just west of the Continental Divide. Cars tumble off the rail bed, bouncing and ricocheting off each other. Tankers puncture, oil spills and flows, and a spark detonates a massive explosion.” Then the phone rings in Kalispell.

In a Liberian slum swarming with Ebola, a race against time to save two little girls
Kevin Sieff, The Washington Post
“You can’t quarantine people here,” says a pastor. “We’re all intertwined.”

Portrait of a Serial Winner
Wright Thompson, ESPN The Magazine
“When a defender presses close, Suarez doesn't respond as if the man is trying to take the ball. He reacts as if the defender is trying to send him back to the streets of Montevideo, alone.”

Sixty-Nine Days
Héctor Tobar, The New Yorker
“Down here, there is no day, only darkness and explosions,” Victor Segovia wrote in his diary. “All our spirits are on the ground. We are bordering on insanity.”

You Can’t Quit Cold Turkey
Tommy Tomlinson, ESPN The Magazine
A sports story and a confessional: “Jared Lorenzen and I are in love with the same woman. Her name is Little Debbie, and she makes delicious snack cakes.”

A Time Bomb
John H. Tucker, Indyweek
The wrenching story of a teen who overdoses on synthetic LSD.

Home For the Holidays
Michael Vitez, Philadelphia Inquirer
The Thanksgiving homecoming of a 19-year-old “peacemaker” who was brutally pummeled by a college football player.

Double Jeopardy
Paige Williams, The New Yorker
Alabama allows judges to override reluctant juries and impose the death penalty. These “judicial overrides” spike in election years. “Frankly, nothing says ‘tough on crime’ like the death penalty,” says one critic.

A Plea for Peace
Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times
A dispatch from the Central African Republic: “If they wanted to kill the child, he declared, they would have to shoot him first. One of them swung around and pointed his gun at the priest.”