This post is part of a series recommending narrative, longform journalism and nonfiction pieces. Philosophers of story spend a lot of energy trying to nail down the purpose of storytelling. We know that people connect through stories, we know that stories mean more than statistics, we know that those who read a lot of stories tend to be more empathetic and gracious, but why do we tell stories in the first place? Is it just because they’re fun to tell, because we like stringing words together, because we’re trying to make sense of life? Yes, yes, and yes, but there’s more. Stories are meditations. On life, the workings of this world, the problems of humanity. They are attempts to glimpse the big picture, to see what perhaps God sees when He looks down on creation. They are collections of events and thoughts and feelings, and they seek to deepen our thoughts and feelings toward events. That last part — deepen our thoughts and feelings toward events — is what this first piece accomplished for me.
The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust by Tim Maughan, BBC
The title says a lot. I read this piece a day or so after watching Wall-E and the combination of disgust toward earth’s ruin due to pollution in the film and the sinking feeling from this piece has me seriously considering going off the grid, forget the Internet and writing for a living. The “lake” is in Inner Mongolia (as opposed to Outer Mongolia) and is the byproduct of processes related to manufacturing the modern world’s most cherished possessions: speedily outdated cell phones.
None Dare Call It a Conspiracy by Scott Anderson, originally for GQ, republished by Longform
If you want a taste of post-Soviet Russian intrigue that affects Russians’ lives today, read this piece and gain another angle from which to consider Putin. A story like this takes serious nerve to report, not to mention write and publish where the whole world can see it. If you’re into politics, curious about how Putin rose to power, or want to know about terrorism unrelated to the Middle East, read this and marvel at how little we hear or know of Russia.
Lincoln Like Me by Megan Fernandez, Indianapolis Monthly
A little Hoosier flavor to whet your palate. The author, a distant relative of Abraham Lincoln, shares her journey to find out why her side of the family doesn’t brag about their relation the way others do. In the spirit of the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, explore the genetic side of the Lincoln story. More fun than deeply perplexing.
And as a throwback to winter and the Iditarod about a month ago, a piece from 2013:
Out in the Great Alone by Brian Phillips, ESPN
Not as much about the great sled dog race as it is about the author’s experience in aircrafts following the mushers’ route, this piece stands as an entertaining piece of nonfiction with humorous observations of humanity.