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The Best Magazine Articles Ever (2012) (kk.org)
165 points by michael_fine 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments

Paul Ford’s “What is Code?” for Bloomberg tech I think deserves a mention.

Super ambitious and rewarding. I tried to purchase a paper copy because I like it so much but felt ridiculous paying $80 for a magazine.

I would love a decent PDF as I don't like reading long form works on a screen. The best I've found is a scan of the magazine here: http://veryinteractive.net/library/what-is-code

I found that particular article to suffer significantly once reduced to static print. It takes advantage of the flexibility of being on a screen in ways that significantly enhance the experience.

Agreed. It's best enjoyed with the interactivity of the online version. I mostly wanted the hardcopy as a keepsake.

epub / mobi versions are available here: https://archive.org/details/whatiscode.html

I would include "The Wedding Merchants" by Caitlin Flanagan for The Atlantic in Feb 2001.

All about how it's not actually traditional for weddings to be the expensive fancy extravaganzas they are today, and who made them that way and how they did it.


Oh I loved that article! It was helpful in my decision to have a smaller wedding.

For one of favorite articles, I nominate this epic profile Tommy Tomlinson wrote in 2014 on college/NFL QB Jared Lorenzen:


Tomlinson one of my favorite writers, and the article is about Lorenzen's struggles played a role in my own starting to get healthier. So, degrees of separation, but I always felt like some day I'd read an article about Lorenzen making a big transformation. Very sad to realize with news of his passing a few weeks ago that it turned out differently.


Thank you so much. Marriage will be coming up fairly soon in my life and I've been dreading the expense. I hope my girlfriend finds this article as eye-opening as I did. The amount of many spent on a ring, ceremony, and reception have no correlation with our love for each other.

> Feb 2001

It's interesting that this is from 2001. I feel like the problem has gotten even worse since then.

This is great. Thank you!

This is a trollish comment but do the DFW articles hold up?:

radio article - talk radio is for stupid people

cruise ship article - cruise ships are for fat people

Maine state fair article - tourism is for boring people

How much of his appeal was due to flattering the vanity of his readers?

His language is beautiful and he has a way of writing that cuts to the base truth of a situtation, which side by side (i.e flowerly language AND truthful writing) seem like a contradiction, but I think it just highlights how talented he was. His writing always had the best words in the right order. And that means to me it will always be worth reading.

I wouldn't say the language is flowery. It's not. It just piles a lot of details on the reader.

"Taxonomically speaking, a lobster is a marine crustacean of the family Homaridae, characterized by five pairs of jointed legs, the first pair terminating in large pincerish claws used for subduing prey. Like many other species of benthic carnivore, lobsters are both hunters and scavengers. They have stalked eyes, gills on their legs, and antennae. There are dozens of different kinds worldwide, of which the relevant species here is the Maine lobster, Homarus americanus. The name “lobster” comes from the Old English loppestre, which is thought to be a corrupt form of the Latin word for locust combined with the Old English loppe, which meant spider."

This goes on for pages.

These sound like the assessments of someone who read a critique of the articles, but not the articles themselves.

Was going to reply with the very same sentiment.


>David Foster Wallace, “Shipping Out: On the (Nearly Lethal) Comforts of a Luxury Cruise.” Harper’s Magazine, January 1996

I much prefer the title he gave it when published in book form:

"A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again."

The collection of his articles that were published in that book is wonderful. I loved the cruise ship one, and I really enjoyed his articles about the IL state fair and about tennis because I grew up in the same area that he was talking about.

I haven’t read much of DFW outside of This Is Water [0]. In it he seems very aware of the outlook of contempt [1] folk of his intellectual milieu have for certain other segments of society and presents the case for reframing that viewpoint.

0. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI

1. http://www.econtalk.org/arthur-brooks-on-love-your-enemies/

“Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?” was the reason I subscribed to The Atlantic.

That's a great article. Was also discussed here:


These articles all seem very good, I still have fond memories of reading Neal Stephenson's article on optical fibres around the world (although I'm thought it was David Brin who wrote it)

However these all seem to be articles in American magazines, I assume there's a number of very good magazine articles in foreign magazines; although the US is known to have more magazines that focus on long form articles.

For french folks here, M le magazine du monde is good. But somehow US magazines are even better.

Great timing for this link, as I just found my e-reader in a random corner of my apartment after thinking I'd lost it while traveling! I'll be adding these to the reading queue.

I'm stumped... What makes these great? Is it excellent writing? -\0/-

Leafing through a few, they seemed pretty mediocre in terms of saying something new / teaching me something.

The Mastermind from The Atavist needs a mention here as well. The best series of articles I have read in a long, long time. Beware that they may take a lot of your time if you start. https://magazine.atavist.com/the-mastermind

Also agrees on "Have you ever tried to sell a diamond" from The Atlantic

Clicked through looking for “The Last Shot” from Harper’s, 1993. Was not disappointed.

Article is re the perpetuation of impossible dreams at the cost of disposability of lives underpinning pro sports.

Includes the immortal line uttered by a kid dreaming of enough money to buy a Nissan Sentra: “That shit is milk.”

I don't understand; that article doesn't seem to be on the list.

It’s on the full list, 90s.

After we both read and enjoyed The voyeur's motel by Gay Talese (who didn't know before hand, being from outside of the US), my SO offered me his book Fame and Obscurity, which contains Sinatra's profile. The Bridge would probably appeal at a lot of folks here.

Well the goes the rest of the day

"High tech cowboys of the deep seas" should definitely be on the list


It is on the list.


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