The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Waco_Lake

Below, our favorite stories of the week. Kindle users, you can also get them as a Readlist.

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1. The Murders at the Lake

Michael Hall | Texas Monthly | March 28, 2014 | 99 minutes (24,844 words)

In 1982 three teenagers were found savagely stabbed to death near a lake in Waco, Texas. Four men were found guilty and two were sentenced to death. Were they guilty? Hall spent a year reporting this five-part series for Texas Monthly:

This story examines the case through the viewpoint of five people: a patrol sergeant who investigated the crime; a police detective who became skeptical of the investigation; an appellate lawyer who tried to stop the execution; a journalist whose reporting has raised new doubts about the case; and a convict who pleaded guilty but now vehemently proclaims his innocence.

See also: “A Question of Mercy” (Pamela Colloff, Feb. 2014)

 

2. The Talk

Rachel Giese | The Walrus | April 1, 2014 | 24 minutes (6,011 words)

A new kind of sex ed for teenage boys includes having discussions about healthy relationships, sexual orientation, and how to trust, communicate, negotiate, and empathize:

Vanier was the first of five junior high schools across Calgary to host WiseGuyz, almost four years ago now. Principal Martin Poirier, a dapper man in a blue bow tie, tells me the younger students look forward to signing up in grade nine. Though the program is voluntary, some are encouraged to enroll, the ones who act inappropriately, or who seem immature and might need more confidence. “What these boys learn,” he says, “has an impact on the whole school. They become role models.”

The curriculum follows a carefully plotted schedule. After the unit on human rights and values, it moves on to the nuts and bolts: anatomy, sex, and contraception. The third unit focuses on gender and sexuality, and the course wraps up in the spring by addressing healthy relationships. It’s heavy stuff, and WiseGuyz takes it seriously, basing the content on current research and constant evaluation. The Calgary Sexual Health Centre study that informed the program drew on surveys from health and social service organizations that serve young people, as well as focus groups and academic literature. A couple of years ago, WiseGuyz commissioned another report measuring its impact and collecting feedback from interviews with teachers and past participants.

See also: “Teaching Good Sex” (Laurie Abraham, New York Times, Nov. 2011)

 

3. The Wolf Hunters of Wall Street

Michael Lewis | New York Times Magazine | March 31, 2014 | 43 minutes (10,8076 words)

An adaptation from Michael Lewis’s new book, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, about high-frequency trading and the rigging of Wall Street:

“As the market problem got worse,” [Brad Katsuyama] says, “I started to just assume my real problem was with how bad their technology was.”

But as he talked to Wall Street investors, he came to realize that they were dealing with the same problem. He had a good friend who traded stocks at a big-time hedge fund in Stamford, Conn., called SAC Capital, which was famous (and soon to be infamous) for being one step ahead of the U.S. stock market. If anyone was going to know something about the market that Katsuyama didn’t know, he figured, it would be someone there. One spring morning, he took the train up to Stamford and spent the day watching his friend trade. Right away he saw that, even though his friend was using software supplied to him by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and the other big firms, he was experiencing exactly the same problem as RBC: He would hit a button to buy or sell a stock, and the market would move away from him. “When I see this guy trading, and he was getting screwed — I now see that it isn’t just me. My frustration is the market’s frustration. And I was like, ‘Whoa, this is serious.’ ”

More Michael Lewis in the Longreads archive

 

4. The Girls Next Door

Daliah Singer | 5280 Magazine | April 1, 2014 | 26 minutes (6,675 words)

In 2012, President Barack Obama said the fight against human trafficking was “one of the great human rights causes of our time.” So why are so many Colorado children still being exploited?

Lipstick kisses stain the corners of the mirror. Open tubes of mascara, a rainbow of eye shadows, and a warm curling iron cover the counter of the pink bathroom. T-shirts, skirts, and heels are scattered on the couch and spread along the floor of the basement. Sixteen-year-old Susie discards an entire pile of tops before settling on a cropped T-shirt, jeans, and wedges. Her naturally curly black hair is stick straight, her nails are freshly manicured, and her youthful olive skin needs no makeup. She hums along to some current mid-’90s radio hits—Mariah Carey, Tupac, Biggie—and helps a friend apply yet another layer of eyeliner, while the giggles and chatter of two other girls, ages 15 and 16, fill whatever space is left in the cramped room.

See also: “Amanda Marshall Cracks Down on Child Prostitution.” (Nigel Duara, Portland Monthly, Oct. 2012)

 

5. The Life and Career of Nile Rodgers, In His Own Words

Kera Bolonik | New York Magazine | March 30, 2014 | 7 minutes (1,930 words)

Nile Rodgers reflects on how he ended up in the music business, producing hits for his own band Chic and artists including David Bowie and Daft Punk:

We took Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and Joey D and the Starliters’ “ Peppermint Twist” and made it be about the “Freak.” To make it sound like it was ours, we called it “Le Freak.” But we didn’t tell people how to do the dance because we didn’t really know how to do it. It became better to speak of it in this euphoric way, and talk about the experience of doing it. We say, “Have you heard about the new dance craze.” We assume you haven’t. “We’ll show you the way.” But we don’t! The dance never became “the Twist” or even “the Hustle.” But the song is a triple-platinum single. And when we were on American Bandstand, Dick Clark introduced us in a really wonderful way. He said, “This is the biggest song by a band nobody knows about a dance that nobody knows how to do. Ladies and gentlemen, Chic! ‘Le Freak’!” It was so right on the money.

See more music stories in the Longreads archive

 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The staff of Longreads.
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