The Longreads Blog

The Way We Walk: A Reading List

Photo: New York City Department of Transportation

Autumn is my favorite time to walk around my city. The swirling skies, the cool weather, the breeze, the crunchy leaves—it’s dynamic, and, best of all, I don’t sweat as much.

In Wanderlust: A History of WalkingRebecca Solnit writes, “Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.”

I love this quote. Despite the fear I feel sometimes as a woman walking alone, walking places gives me a sense of control. I’m not at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. I can take a new, weird route or linger by the Canadian geese in a recently renovated lake. In the following essays, Antonia Malachik discusses the cultural implications of our aversion to walking; Garnette Cadogan relates how his walks are coded by his skin color, depending on where in the world he is; Adee Braun praises the New York eat-and-walk—and that’s not all. You can read these on the move. Just don’t trip, okay?

1. “The End of Walking.” (Antonia Malachik, Aeon, August 2015)

We’ve featured Antonia Malachik’s article on Longreads before, but it fits this week’s theme too perfectly to ignore:

“In many parts of the US, pedestrianism is seen as a dubiously counter-culture activity. Gated communities are only the most recent incarnation of the narrow-eyed suspicion with which we view unleashed strangers venturing outside on foot, much less anywhere near our homes. A friend of mine told me recently that a few years ago, when she lived in Mississippi, she was stopped by police constantly simply because she preferred to walk to work. Twice they insisted on driving her home, ‘so I could prove I wasn’t homeless or a prostitute. Because who else would be out walking?’”

2. “A Walking Tour of the Places Where I Hit Rock Bottom.” (Michelle Tea, BuzzFeed News Reader, October 2016)

Author and activist Michelle Tea takes us to four of her old haunts: a clown-themed strip club, a bar, her old apartment, and an on-ramp.

3. “Walking While Black.” (Garnette Cadogan, LitHub, July 2016)

In an essay that remains sadly, horrifically relevant, Garnette Cadogan describes his risk-tainted wanders through Kingston, Jamaica; New York City; and New Orleans:

“Walking while black restricts the experience of walking, renders inaccessible the classic Romantic experience of walking alone. It forces me to be in constant relationship with others, unable to join the New York flaneurs I had read about and hoped to join…Walking as a black man has made me feel simultaneously more removed from the city, in my awareness that I am perceived as suspect, and more closely connected to it, in the full attentiveness demanded by my vigilance.”

4. “Mastering the Art of the New York Eat-and-Walk.” (Adee Braun, Narratively, September 2014)

My friends and I paused on a classic Manhattan street corner so we could purchase hot dogs on our ill-fated attempt to catch our bus back to Maryland. Certain denizens of the Mid-Atlantic are familiar with the Day Trip to New York City: You wake up earlier than is reasonable in order to board a stale, at-capacity charter bus full of crabby Marylanders (or wherever), and a few restless hours later, you’re deposited somewhere outside Times Square or Chinatown or the Javits Center. Then, you see a show (anecdotally, the most common reason for these jaunts), or go to the Strand bookstore (guilty), or something else. After we saw our show of choice (cliche, I know, but it was a one-weekend remount), we partook in that hallowed New York tradition: the eat-and-walk.

At Narratively, Adee Braun has written a love letter to the eat-and-walk, a lesser-known American export and beloved regional pastime.

5. “Ghosts and Empties.” (Lauren Groff, The New Yorker, July 2015)

Lauren Groff’s command of language will entrance you in this short story about an on-edge mom who takes evening walks in her North Florida neighborhood.

The Love of a Thousand Muskoxen: Grieving a Love Lost to Time and Sickness


Stephanie Land | Longreads | October 2016 | 14 minutes (3,488 words)


At two in the morning in mid-July, I sat cross-legged, my hands full of lichen, waiting for the caribou to come.

It was my second to last summer in Fairbanks, Alaska, and the light outside was what most people associate with dawn. I wore shorts and a hooded sweatshirt. I sat as still as possible. When the small herd started towards me, I looked back at Whitney for reassurance. He stood about twenty feet behind me in the fenced enclosure, hips cocked to one side, his frame lanky and thin despite his baggy pants and sweatshirt. When he smirked at me, something shifted in my chest.

He was just a teenager—19 and about to begin his second year in a private college on the east coast. I was five years older. I felt so much wiser. We were two weeks into the four that we would spend together. The finiteness of those days gave us freedom to be inseparable without losing ourselves in each other. After all, it was impractical—I knew that in two weeks, I would drop him off at the airport, that I would wake up the next morning with an aching chest and an empty bed. But for the short time before he left, I could love him unabashedly and feel no shame.

Read more…

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Photo: Peter Frick-Wright
Photo: Peter Frick-Wright

Below, our favorite stories of the week.

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Is Infidelity A Search for Identity? On Coupling: An Inventory

Photo by Jared eberhardt CC-BY SA 2.0
Photo by Jared eberhardt CC-BY SA 2.0

On a friend’s porch, someone has left behind a deer skull, beautifully intact, antlers and all, inside a wood crate set up against the wall. I consider the dead skull, the solid antlers, which won’t age for ages, which won’t die. The hollow sockets where eyes once looked for grass, the empty caves where a nose once bent to dirt. This deer must have lived in the woods behind here, in the fir and madrone, on the hillside taking a bed for its children, laying down in nights cold and rainy like this one. It makes me think about the wild in us all, how it stays tight, how we manage it or don’t, how we are animal in our marrow, our depth, our desire for sex as natural as the instinct to build a home, to shelter, to protect.

At Guernica, Melissa Matthewson explores infidelity in the search for her identity.

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Becoming One of the World’s 65 Million Refugees

Refugees at Budapest Keleti railway station, September 2015. Via 
Wikimedia Commons.
Refugees at Budapest Keleti railway station, September 2015. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson | Cast Away: True Stories of Survival from Europe’s Refugee Crisis | The New Press | September 2016 | 20 minutes (5,452 words)


Below is an excerpt from Cast Away, by Charlotte McDonald-Gibson. This story comes recommended by Longreads contributing editor Dana Snitzky.

* * *

This war is none of my business.

Majid Hussain didn’t know who would turn up on his doorstep first: Colonel Gaddafi’s foot soldiers following orders to purge Libya of its migrant workforce, or vengeful rebels wielding Kalashnikovs and the conviction that everyone with black skin deserved to be lynched.

For months the Nigerian teenager had watched on television in Tripoli as rebels not much older than himself stormed through the desert in their cheap sunglasses and mismatching camouflage, and it had seemed inconceivable that this shabby army of the disaffected could pose a threat to Muammar Gaddafi’s calm and ordered capital. He had heard rumours that all Africans from south of the Sahara were at risk of attack from rebels seeking mass punishment for the few who had colluded with the regime – but surely these were just rumours? Every day Majid still went to work and returned home every evening to his reliable air-conditioning and his satellite TV. The rebellion had remained remote from his life, and he wanted it to stay that way.

This war is none of my business, he thought. I have already seen my own country torn apart by old hatreds – I don’t need to see that again.

Majid and his housemate Ali had laughed off reports on CNN and the BBC about fighting on the outskirts of Tripoli, and they didn’t want to believe the news that Gaddafi was bombing civilians in Benghazi. It was all Western propaganda, the two Nigerians convinced each other. Even when a spokesman for Gaddafi warned on public radio that they would flood Europe with migrants if there was any Western military action, the young men remained unconcerned. Read more…

The ‘Anti-Helicopter Parent’ Is Just as Insufferable as the Helicopter Parent

Photo by jdlrobson
Photo by jdlrobson

If you read enough #longreads about parenting in The Atlantic, New York Times Magazine, and Slate, then eventually you will discover you are an awful parent. But there is nothing so satisfying for us awful parents as reading stories about parents who are more insufferable than we are. So it is with great pride I share this piece by Melanie Thernstrom, who profiles a “free-range” parent who lets his children play on the roof of their house and then rubs it in the face of his neighbors – thereby forcing the other parents to become imagination-quashing killjoys, AKA people who try to keep their kids from potentially breaking their necks. (But hey, my neighbor says the odds are low, and life-endangering activities are mother nature’s way of thinning the herd! I guess it’s fine!) Read more…

Making Sense of Life In the Death Zone

Photo by Calum Robinson CC-BY SA 2.0
Photo by Calum Robinson CC-BY SA 2.0

There’s an image that’s been seared into my mind for a few years now. It’s the face of a man I barely knew but considered a friend nonetheless. I can still see him in the night when I close my eyes. He doesn’t smile. He doesn’t scream. He just looks at me from beneath a layer of frost-covered flesh. When he visits me, I don’t sleep. He remains as I left him, seated near the top of the world, trapped in the Death Zone.

At The Walrus, read an excerpt from The Escapist: Cheating Death on the World’s Highest Mountain, by Gabriel Filippi with Brett Popplewell.

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Present-Day Witchcraft: Seven Stories About Witches

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

I’m in no way immune to the lure of the witchy, and honestly, I don’t want to resist. I bought a small piece of sunstone from my local metaphysical shop, because I read that sunstone encourages mental clarity.

When I arrived at the shop, I awkwardly browsed until I got up the courage to ask the saleswoman how to choose a crystal. She said to hold each stone and see which felt right—felt special. I was skeptical, but I swear the stone I ended up purchasing buzzed with warmth when I held it in my hand. It was inexpensive and pretty, and I think it’s on a bookshelf somewhere, now.

I wore a cheap hematite ring, too, until it cracked in half while I was tapping my glands during doula class, which sent me into a temporary existential tailspin: Should I get a new one? Was it just a cheap piece of jewelry? Was it a sign that doula work would disrupt my stability? Did I not need the ring anymore?

I can’t put it better than Autostraddle’s Trans Editor (and Bruja femme) Mey Rude, who wrote, “We’ve said it before (and so have other people), but we’re definitely living in an age of the Resurgence of the Witch. This feels especially true for queer women. We’re embracing our family traditions and our cultural heritage. We’re learning about herbology and tarot cards and candle magic. We’re dressing like extras from Wicked or The Craft. We’re forming sisterhoods and cultivating auras.”

1. “Why We Are Witches: An A-Camp Roundtable.” (Mey Rude and Autostraddle Staff, Autostraddle, June 2015)

Mey, Laura, Ali, Beth and Cecelia discuss building altars, using Tarot cards, learning their family histories, reclaiming religious rituals and so much more! Read more…