Last year, I shared a post featuring my favourite literary journalism articles that I had read, after studying this type of journalism for a class at university.
Read Part I here!
I’ve noticed that my post has gained a lot of traction over the past year, I assume from students such as myself who are studying literary journalism, so I thought I’d write up another post and share some more articles!
Before we get into the articles, let’s take another look into what literary journalism is:
Literary journalism is a a type of creative non-fiction. It is still an article and presents the facts of a case or the news of the day, but it does so through the utilisation of narrative techniques. The most common type of literary journalism, and arguably the most famous, is investigative features, but others include news features, profiles, backgrounders, human interest pieces, lifestyle features and even travel stories.
While there are scores upon scores of incredible literary journalism articles out there, I chose these nine because they’re topics that we can all relate to, or ones that our society is currently facing. Some of these articles are difficult to read, due to their content matter or the scientific explanations, but they’re articles I believe we should all read, because they affect everyone.
A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah for GQ
Roof is what happens when we prefer vast historical erasures to real education about race. The rise of groups like Trump’s Republican Party, with its overtures to the alt-right, has emboldened men like Dylann Roof to come out of their slumber and loudly, violently out themselves. But in South Carolina, those men never disappeared, were there always, waiting. It is possible that Dylann Roof is not an outlier at all, then, but rather emblematic of an approaching storm.
This article is an attempt to uncover the history of the man who murdered nine black people attending church in 2015. There have been many articles written about Roof, but none pack quite so much a punch as this one by Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, a black woman, who originally sets out to look into Roof’s life, but also provides a touching history of black pioneers, from ministers to slave revolt leaders. Ghansah’s powerful article does a superb job at highlighting the discontent American white men feel at their lives, and how they blame it on educated people of colour, all with a President’s blessing.
Read it here.
Interested in something similar? Watch Theo E.J. Wilson’s TED Talk about when he, a black man, went undercover in the online ALT-Right, and discusses ways to build bridges through hate. Watch here.
The Fermi Paradox by Tim Urban for Wait But Why
Some people stick with the traditional, feeling struck by the epic beauty or blown away by the insane scale of the universe. Personally, I go for the old “existential meltdown followed by acting weird for the next half hour.” But everyone feels something.
Physicist Enrico Fermi felt something too—”Where is everybody?”
Technically, this article isn’t literary journalism, it’s more of a long-form article, but it is, without a doubt, one of the best articles I’ve ever read so I couldn’t pass up a chance to rave about it. The Fermi paradox is a real scientific idea, created by a physicist Enrico Fermi, that delves into the contradiction between the lack of evidence and the high probability for the existence of alien civilisations. Urban’s article “dumbs down” the idea, and presents Fermi’s reasonings in an intelligent and humorous manner. If you want to question your place in the universe and/or have an existential crisis, read this article ASAP!
Read it here.
Interested in something similar? Check out Netflix’s Explained (season 1, episode 9): this episode examines the Fermi paradox and questions the existence of extraterrestrial life.
What Bullets Do To Bodies by Jason Fagone for Highline
As five years stretched into 10, and 10 into 20, Goldberg built up a deep well of experience in doing the things that are necessary to save the lives of gun victims, the things that are never shown on TV or in movies, the things that stay hidden behind hospital walls and allow Americans to imagine whatever they like about the effects of bullets or not to imagine anything at all. “You think you know what happens here?” Scott Charles asked me. “Because I thought I knew. But there’s nothing that can prepare you for what bullets do to human bodies. And that’s true for pro-gun people also.”
Fagone’s article about the invisible, or not spoken about, effects of gun violence is horrifying and so important. He follows around trauma surgeon Dr Amy Goldberg for 24 hours and writes about his experience, and all the work she’s done to combat gun violence. Please be warned that this article is very graphic, as Fagone describes in detail what surgeons are forced to do in order to save a gun shot wound victim. This article is powerful and moving, and hopefully, will convince some readers that America requires changes to its gun laws.
Read it here.
Interested in something similar? Watch Australian comedian Jim Jeffries’ segment on gun control: Part 1 and Part 2.
The Blockchain: a love story—and a horror story. Inside the Crypto World’s Biggest Scandal by Gideon Lewis-Kraus for Wired
In the summer of 2014, a few months after their honeymoon, Arthur wrote a pair of white papers, under the pseudonym LM Goodman, and posted them on the cryptography listserv famous for Bitcoin’s quiet debut. The papers outlined what Arthur saw as Bitcoin’s flaws, and they accurately anticipated issues that would soon plague Ethereum; they also predicted, with stunning foresight, that the digital world would soon be awash in new fly-by-night currencies. As a way out of these traps, Goodman proposed a new platform called Tezos, the world’s first “self- amending” cryptocurrency, one that could assimilate all the best newfangled ideas. “While the irony of preventing the fragmentation of cryptocurrencies by releasing a new one does not escape us,” the second paper concluded, “Tezos truly aims to be the last cryptocurrency.”
This article starts off a bit dry as you’re inundated with a whole much of technological words and concepts most of us aren’t familiar with, but as the story develops, it’s very intriguing and wildly real. It’s a story of a couple who believed they had created a digital utopia: a program where banks are no longer necessary and people are the arbiters of their own money; instead, this couple would face months of possible litigation due to poor management of the new cryptocurrency. It’s a wild, confusing story.
Read it here.
Interested in something similar? Watch Netflix’s Explained show (season 1, episode 5), about cryptocurrencies and why it’s so popular.
Looking for Life on a Flat Earth by Alan Burdick for The New Yorker
If we can agree on anything anymore, it’s that we live in a post-truth era. Facts are no longer correct or incorrect; everything is potentially true unless it’s disagreeable, in which case it’s fake … The flat Earth is the post-truth landscape.
I’ve actually written about Flat Earth theory quite a bit — for university — and the further I go down the rabbit hole, the more compelling the theory seems. Not because I believe in the “evidence”, but because I’m fascinated by the ideology behind it and how the people who believe in such a theory all claim to be be proponents of a new era of truth. I interviewed a professor at the University of Melbourne named Nicholas Haslam last year about Flat Earth, and he said: “Once you begin to seriously question common sense or trusted authorities, to maintain a coherent view of the world you often have to believe more and more outrageous things. It’s possible that someone comes to believe an outlandish theory in a step by step fashion, beginning with something relatively plausible but gradually escalating to something impossible.” And that’s what Burdick’s article so eloquently examines.
Read it here.
Interested in something similar? Watch YouTuber Shane Dawson and his brother explain the Flat Earth Theory and the compelling evidence behind it here.
Hands Off: More Than 180 Women Have Reported Sexual Assaults at Massage Envy by Katie J.M. Baker for Buzzfeed
The internal review policy “is not in place to protect the client,” said Kate Hardy, who worked on and off as a front desk associate and then clinic manager in Montana from 2014 until June 2017. “It’s in place to protect the company. It’s centered around defusing the situation so the client doesn’t call the police. You don’t want cop cars showing up at your location the next day.”
TW: graphic descriptions of sexual assault.
A deeply saddening and angering article about a company that continues to hide accusations of alleged sexual assault against it’s massage therapists. Baker’s investigation into Massage Envy shows how little prepared the company is to deal with an accusation. Reading the responses of the victims is heartbreaking, but knowing that they are eliciting change is incredible.
Read it here.
Interested in something similar? Watch comedian and star of Last Week Tonight John Oliver discuss workplace sexual harassment here.
The Heart of Whiteness: Ijeoma Oluo Interviews Rachel Dolezal, the White Woman Who Identifies as Black by Ijeoma Oluo for The Stranger
For a white woman who had grown up with only a few magazines of stylized images of blackness to imagine herself into a real-life black identity without any lived black experience, to turn herself into a black history professor without a history degree, to place herself at the forefront of local black society that she had adopted less than a decade earlier, all while seeming to claim to do it better and more authentically than any black person who would dare challenge her—well, it’s the ultimate “you can be anything” success story of white America. Another branch of manifest destiny. No wonder America couldn’t get enough of the Dolezal story.
I originally read this article for a class at university and it is still just as powerful. Ijeoma Uluo interviews Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who pretended to be black, and discusses what Dolezal’s trickery highlights: white supremacy, the anti-black culture permeating America, and the incorrect idea that “race is a construct”. I’ve read this article three times and I’m still confused and intrigued by this case.
Read it here.
Interested in something similar? Watch Netflix’s divisive documentary about Rachel Dolezal called The Rachel Divide.
Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change by Nathaniel Rich for The New York Times
The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.
Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?
This interactive article is a long read, but it is 100% worth it. If you know anyone who is a climate change denier, please get them to read this article, because Nathaniel Rich’s 18-month investigation is haunting, deeply upsetting and so compelling. It’s a terrifying thought that the human race could have prevented climate change in the 1980s, but that’s exactly true. Rich’s novel-like article (with two parts, a prologue, and an epilogue) explains how.
Read it here.
Interested in something similar? Watch AsapSCIENCE, featuring Bill Nye, discuss what will happen to human beings due to climate change here.
Blood Will Tell by Pamela Coloff for ProPublica
In the bedroom, blood was everywhere — spattered across the bed, the ceiling, all four walls. Daniels immediately took hold of Vera and instructed her and Otis to go to the living room. He did not step any farther into the bedroom, but as he stood in the doorway, he could tell that Mickey was dead. Her body lay across the length of the unmade bed, her outstretched legs dangling over the mattress’s edge. Her pink nightgown was drawn up to the top of her thighs, and she was naked from the waist down.
Daniels rushed to the phone in the kitchen and called the police. “It looks like someone broke in and shot Mickey,” he said.
I had to include a true crime article in this list, because I have a fascination with murder and crime (as do many people). This investigative feature is so incredibly compelling, it will have you reading it in one sitting. It’s about the death of a woman named Mickey Bryan and whose husband is convicted of her murder, but friends, family and the small Texas town doubt that he could have done such a thing. This two-part article examines the murder, the case, and questions what really happened to Mickey.
Read it here.
Interested in something similar? Watch Netflix’s new documentary The Staircase, about the death of Kathleen Peterson, wife of famed author Michael Peterson, who mysteriously died after falling down the stairs.
So there you go! There’s 9 more literary journalism articles for you to enjoy and discuss!
Do you like true crime stories? Are you interested in politics, or are worried about the future of our world?
If you’re looking for a particular type of literary journalism article — any genre — but don’t know where to begin, feel free to leave a comment or message me and I am happy to provide some recommendations! They’re quite hard to find sometimes.
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Writing big posts like this takes a lot of time and effort and requires a huge amount of research. I primarily blog as a hobby and would never demand compensation for my work, because it’s something I genuinely love doing – having lovely people like you read and/or comment on my posts is as much thanks as I need! That being said, I am going to leave my ko-fi button here, in case anyone feels like supporting me further – but please do not feel obliged.
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