Here’s my list of my five favorite pieces of long-form journalism in 2010, in no particular order:
“Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation?” by Steven Hyden, The AV Club
One man’s journey back to his youth to explore the music that defined the 1990s; charting it’s ebbs and flows in a multi-part series that also explains why alternative rock has largely faded from memory.
“The Empty Chamber” by George Packer, The New Yorker
Packer captures the maddening inactivity and ineptitude of our nation’s deliberative body.
“The Dirtiest Player” by Jason Fagone, GQ
Not only a fantastic piece of reporting and a well-told story of Marvin Harrison’s alleged involvement in another man’s death, but an indictment of sports journalists (and perhaps sports journalism in general, which equates being good on the field with being good off) who did features on Harrison and never dug any further to actually understand the man and his past.
“Roger Ebert: The Essential Man” by Chris Jones, Esquire
From one of the best writers in America right now comes an amazing profile of the venerable film critic, who has lost his jaw to cancer but not his passion for work. Let’s just say it got a little dusty in the room when I got to the part about Siskel. You should also check out Jones’ exceptional, National Magazine Award-winning piece “The Things That Carried Him.”
“The Late Shaft” by Bill Zehme, Playboy
Zehme is one of the absolute masters of the form and few people on the planet know more about the intricacies of the late night comedy world than this man who has covered it since he first profiled Dave back in the early 80s. In the process of writing about Letterman around the time he started Late Night, Dave introduced Zehme to a promising young comic, Jay Leno, and for the last three decades he’s chronicled their rise and feud (along with Johnny’s eventual ouster) in the pages of Rolling Stone and Esquire. Zehme has trolled the mind of these comics more than most, especially Jay, whose autobiography he penned.
Honorable mentions have to go to Atul Gawande’s “Letting Go,” Michael Lewis’ “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds,” Mark Greif’s “What Was the Hipster?” Chuck Klosterman’s profile of Jonathan Franzen in GQ and the gang at Slate’s preseason NFL Roundtable with Josh Levin, Stefan Fatsis, Nate Jackson and Tom Scocca–it was truly a thinking fan’s guide to the game.