Take a Break from December with the Year’s Best Longreads

Holidays, vacations, wrapping up the old year, planning for the new year… December can get a little hectic, no matter where you live or what holidays you celebrate (or don’t).

If you’re feeling frazzled rather than festive, take a few minutes to do the best kind of self-care: reading. Over at Longreads, we’re sharing 2018’s best, starting with all our number one story selections of the year — here are four favorites to bookmark for a quiet moment.

“I Walked from Selma to Montgomery,” Rahawa Haile, Buzzfeed News

Writer and outdoorswoman Rahawa Haile hiked the Appalachian Trail. Then she walked a less orthodox route: the road from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama — a path people walked not because of its stunning natural beauty, but as part of many Americans’ fight to be recognized as rights-bearing people.

When I first told friends of my plan to walk from Selma to Montgomery, most thought I’d lost my mind. It made less sense to them than my desire to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. A roadwalk along a highway in rural Alabama months into our fresh hell — why? When several of them asked if I was afraid, I did my best to explain the fear was the point. That their fear for me was the fear I lived with every day.

“Sweetness Mattered,” Aaron Hamburger, Tin House

As a 13 year old, Hamburger was brutally assaulted by Bradley, a neighbor and classmate, driving him deeper into the closet than he already was. As a scared but smitten 14 year old, he began sharing candy with Justin — another classmate, straight and kind. The series of small acts ultimately helped him come to terms with himself and his sexuality.

When I’d exhausted my supply, I went to the drugstore and bought another bag. And when that one ran out, I bought another, and then another one after that—for three years. Justin never questioned how any bag of Halloween candy might reasonably be expected to last that long. He never said anything like, “Come on, Burg, why are you still feeding me candy after all this time?” He simply accepted the candy. 

“For One Last Night, Make It a Blockbuster Night,” Justin Hecker, The Ringer

No one rents movies from Blockbuster any more, because there aren’t any Blockbusters left. Except in Alaska, where time moves a little differently and the last three Blockbuster stores only just closed.

He wasn’t exactly a people person. But he was pretty good at talking about movies. And that was the best part, wasn’t it? What still made Blockbuster better, what had made it essential in such a town and let it live almost a decade beyond its lifespan in the Lower 48 — the promise that on-demand had never been able to fulfill, what neither the Redbox knockoff at neighboring Safeway, or Amazon Prime, or Netflix and its recommendation algorithm had come close to replicating. If a customer was looking for something in particular, they could browse for it there and could share the language of movies with him, and he had seen just about everything — 10 free rentals for employees per week! — and if it was checked out he could suggest something in the same genre, perhaps with the same actress, steer them to the right aisle in maybe BASED ON A TRUE STORY or FAMILY GOLD.

“The Mystery of Tucker Carlson,” Lyz Lenz, Columbia Journalism Review

“If you ask his former editors, they’ll say they’re wistful when they think about the old Tucker Carlson.” Many people know Tucker Carlson as “the yell-y guy with the bow tie that Jon Stewart once insulted.” But before he was that yell-y guy, he was a smart, thoughtful, National Magazine Award-nominated conservative writer.

The question, What happened to Tucker Carlson? is worth answering. If we can figure out how an intelligent writer and conservative can go from writing National Magazine Award–nominated articles and being hailed by some of the best editors in the business, to shouting about immigrants on Fox News, perhaps we can understand what is happening to this country, or at least to journalism, in 2018.

Writers and editors are choosing their favorite essays, food writing, investigative journalism, and more over the next week — visit Longreads to see all their picks.

Have you read something this year that’s worth revisiting? Share with us in the comments. More great reading is always welcome!

December 13, 2018Journalism, Journals & Magazines, Nonfiction, Personal Essay,