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Dublin: 9 °C Friday 21 November, 2014

Sitdown Sunday: The 20 deadliest reads of 2012

It’s been a year of great writing. Here’s the very best from around the web.

Image: Maglara via Shutterstock

AS THE FIRST full year of Sitdown Sundays draws to a close, this bumper piece will keep you reading into the small hours of New Year’s Eve.

Picking our favourite longreads from each month, there are a further eight to keep you going, so pick a comfy chair and drift away.

This could be just what the doctor* ordered to help you recuperate before the New Year festivities start to gear up. Enjoy.

* We are NOT trained medical professionals.

January

1. Weight Watchers’ secret formula
Jeffrey M O’Brien on why the weight-loss juggernaut is revamping its approach, and how they’re doing it. (Wired)

In college, it was all-you-can-eat—10,000 gallons of beer, pizza, the whole thing,” he recalls. “Then I got a job with a lot of traveling. There was life on the road, room service. It became really easy to have any kind of awesome food any time I wanted. Take-out Chinese, delivery Chinese, deep-dish Chicago pizza, barbecue, huge breakfasts.

February

2. My debt to Ireland
American essayist John Jeremiah Sullivan on travelling to Ireland after decades away, and what it taught him. (New York Times)

It was hard to see why the government would allow the ruination of so much open land, which is one of Ireland’s principal commodities, namely the “unspoiled” landscape. People go to Ireland for all sorts of reasons, but they mainly go there because it’s pretty, because it’s “not all built up.”

March

3. A journey to Achillhenge
Donald Mahoney on the massive concrete monument – nicknamed the ‘boom tomb’ – built in protest by rogue Mayo developer Joe McNamara. (Dublin Review)

Achill natives saw the fleet and wondered what McNamara was up to. The woman who ran the B&B where I stayed guessed he was building windmills. He employed five people during the construction process: a welder, a crane driver, and three men to drive the low-loaders.

April

4. Is Facebook making us lonely?
Stephen Marche on how new research suggests we’ve never been lonelier, and the ways it may be making us sick. (Atlantic)

We know intuitively that loneliness and being alone are not the same thing. Solitude can be lovely. Crowded parties can be agony. We also know, thanks to a growing body of research on the topic, that loneliness is not a matter of external conditions; it is a psychological state.

May

5. Barack Obama: young and in love
David Maraniss tells the story of the US president’s romance as a 22-year-old. (Vanity Fair)

The party in the sixth-floor apartment was well under way when Genevieve arrived: lights dim, Ella Fitzgerald playing on the stereo, chattering people, arty types, recent college grads, some in the publishing world, none of whom she knew except the host [...] Standing in the kitchen was a guy named Barack, wearing blue jeans, T-shirt, dark leather jacket.

June

6. An oral history of The Wire
Marc Spitz interviews the cast and creators of David Simon’s era-defining show, ten years after it first hit our screens. (Maxim)

It was real to the point where crackheads would come up and try to cop. I had fake money, and they would come over, and an exchange would go down. I would think they were part of the crew, and I’d make the exchange. Then security would come around and be like, “No! No! No!” and break it up.

July

7. What I did on my summer holidays
Darragh McCausland on what led him to check himself into a psychiatric hospital, and what happened next. (The Racket)

The bathrooms had no locks and the shower activated from a hole in the ceiling, rather than from a nozzle, which might support a noose. At that particular moment, with all the obvious means to harm myself removed, my situation seemed to me the better end point to a process that had only one other possible ending.

August

8. Do you want sprouts with that?
Frederick Kaufman on how the ex-president of McDonalds is setting up a new fast food chain with a very different approach. (Wired)

He sees Brussels sprouts as a viable alternative to French fries, and he has built an ingenious process to realise that vision. “People say, ‘I have not had a Brussels sprout in ten years’,” says Roberts, “‘but I will have these four times a week.’”

September

9. Can you die from a nightmare?
Doree Shafrir on the night terrors that plague her – a phenomenon suffered by many, but about which little is known. (Buzzfeed)

I am now completely panicked, and I jump back onto my bed and lean over the half-wall that my bed is up against, overlooking the hallway. There, I see what’s causing all the problems, and I push it downward and off the wall with all my might. It shatters loudly, glass flying everywhere.

October

10. My baby and the beauty pageant
Tracie Egan Morrissey recounts the time she entered her toddler daughter in a pageant, and what she became. (Jezebel)

I seriously considered getting a baby wig, but my daughter was born with a full head of hair and received two professional haircuts before her first birthday. Her natural hair would be so impressive for her age division that it would give her an edge, I just knew it.

November

11. Don’t stop eating
Jon Ronson explores the world of competitive eating and sees more corned-beef sandwiches than he ever thought possible. (GQ)

It’s a ten-minute contest. By minute six, most of the field is belching and cramping. But not Joey Chestnut. Pat Bertoletti is doing his level best to keep pace with the champ, and young Matt Stonie seems remarkably adept for someone so slight. But Joey is on another level. He’s Usain Bolt, but with sandwiches.

December

12. Sleeping your life away
Virginia Hughes looks at the case of Anna Sumner, who thought her constant need to sleep was down to her hectic lifestyle. She was wrong. (The Last Word On Nothing)

Sumner began having long sleeping spells like never before. She’d go to bed one night and wake up a full day later, or more—her longest stint was 53 hours. She’d open her eyes and feel completely disoriented, staring at her alarm clock with no idea whether the time was AM or PM. First it was once a month, then every two weeks, then every week. “I started approaching sleep with this trepidation,” she recalls. “Is tonight going to be the night?”

Here are eight others that we just couldn’t leave out

13. The story of the one-eyed matador
Karen Russell on Juan Jose Padilla’s return to the ring after suffering a terrible goring. (GQ)

In his hospital room, he begins to rehearse bullfighting moves with the sheets. Less than two weeks after the accident, he gives a press conference in a wheelchair with his face uncovered. “I have no rancour toward this bull or toward my profession,” he slurs into the mike. He makes the following pledge: “I will return to dress as a torero.”

14. We Are Alive
David Remnick on Bruce Springsteen at 62. (New Yorker)

When he takes in something new—a visitor, a thought, a passing car in the distance—his eyes narrow, as if in hard light, and his lower jaw protrudes a bit. His hairline is receding, and, if one had to guess, he has, over the years, in the face of high-def scrutiny and the fight against time, enjoined the expensive attentions of cosmetic and dental practitioners.

15. Innocent until proven guilty
Pamela Colloff looks at the case of Michael Morton and his 25-year fight to clear his name. (Texas Monthy)

At lunchtime each day, when the courtroom emptied for an hour-long recess, Michael hung back, too unsettled to eat. The windows of the old, drafty courtroom afforded a view of Georgetown’s main square, and he often stood by them, staring down at the people below who casually went about their business. He marveled as they walked to their lunch appointments or waved at friends, unencumbered by anything like the terror that had begun to creep into his mind that he might actually be found guilty.

16. Life in a gun shop
Jeanne Maris Laskas went to work at an Arizona gun store, to see how people shop for their weapons. (GQ)

“But they’re assault rifles,” I noted. I knew that much from TV. “Assault is one of the worst things the media has ever done to us,” he said. “Have any of these rifles ever assaulted anyone?”

17. My father’s last words
Mark Warren on what his father left him, and the words he used. (Esquire)

Daddy was at such cross purposes with the world that he came back from fighting the Nazis with antipathy for the English and warm reminiscences of the Germans, and speaking auf Deutsch. Mach schnell! he would bark at us. Kommen Sie hier! German is such a warm language when hollered at children in this way.

18. Living with a killer
Amity Bitzel writes about her relationship with her adopted brother – a killer who had murdered both his parents. (XOJane)

In 1984, in the quiet and modestly affluent suburb of Cape St. Clair, Maryland, a 17-year-old boy named Larry Swartz murdered both of his adoptive parents. In 1993, after serving nine years of his 12-year sentence, Larry was released from prison and came to live with us.

19. The top of the food chain
Josh Tyrangiel talks to Tim Cook about what it’s like being the head of Apple. (Business Week)

More so than any person I ever met in my life, he [Steve Jobs] had the ability to change his mind, much more so than anyone I’ve ever met. He could be so sold on a certain direction and in a nanosecond (Cook snaps his fingers) have a completely different view. (Laughs.) I thought in the early days, “Wow, this is strange.” Then I realized how much of a gift it was. So many people, particularly, I think, CEOs and top executives, they get so planted in their old ideas, and they refuse or don’t have the courage to admit that they’re now wrong. Maybe the most underappreciated thing about Steve was that he had the courage to change his mind. And you know – it’s a talent. It’s a talent.

20. Anticipation: boxed
Mark O’Connell delves into the world of ‘unboxing’ videos, the joys they bring and his desire to make his own. (Dublin Review)

The ‘unboxing’ video offers the viewer the vicarious experience of removing a newly purchased product (usually an electronic device of some sort) from its packaging. It is a visual document of the consummation of the purchaser–product relationship, that apex of possibility and anticipation right before the start of the slow, inevitable decline into disappointment and neglect.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

The Sports Pages – the best sports writing collected every week by TheScore.ie >

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