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sitdown sunday

Sitdown Sunday: 7 deadly reads

The very best of the week’s writing from around the web.

IT’S A DAY of rest, and you may be in the mood for a quiet corner and a comfy chair. We’ve hand-picked the week’s best reads for you to savour.

1. Playing tricks on yourself
Oliver Sacks looks at how our memory can play tricks on us, resulting in stories we’ve been told becoming our own memories, thoughts, and experiences. (The New York Review of Books)

I accepted that I must have forgotten or lost a great deal, but assumed that the memories I did have – especially those that were very vivid, concrete, and circumstantial – were essentially valid and reliable; and it was a shock to me when I found that some of them were not.

2. Stuck in time
Mike Dash details the amazing story of a Russian family who lived in complete isolation for 40 years, never knowing that World War II had come and gone. (Smithsonian)

The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow – “a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists – and, astonishingly, home to a family of five.

3. The real price of guns
Tim Dickinson delves into the National Rifle Association, its structures and the man at the top – Wayne LaPierre. (Rolling Stone)

Billing itself as the nation’s “oldest civil rights organization,” the NRA still claims to represent the interests of marksmen, hunters and responsible gun owners. But over the past decade and a half, the NRA has morphed into a front group for the firearms industry, whose profits are increasingly dependent on the sale of military-bred weapons like the assault rifles used in the massacres at Newtown and Aurora, Colorado.

4. North Korea – an insiders view
John Everard, the former UK ambassador to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recalls the country he lived in, and people he met and the rituals he witnessed. (The Independent)

I was often asked for medicines, but not as often as I was asked for DVDs of television soap operas, usually but not always from South Korea. These portrayed a world of which North Koreans can only dream – of people who eat well in smart restaurants, have their own cars and live in flats where the heating always works – and my contacts devoured them ravenously. I once lent one a set of DVDs of Desperate Housewives and met the same person the next day with big rings under their eyes. They had sat up all night and watched the entire series in one sitting.

5. The Google life
Rebecca Solnit marvels at the ‘Google bus’ and the impact that Silicon Valley is having on its workers, and on San Francisco. (London Review of Books)

Where orchards grew Apple stands. The work hours are still extreme but now the wages are colossal – you hear tech workers complaining about not having time to spend their money. They eat out often, though, because their work schedules don’t include a lot of time for shopping and cooking, and San Francisco’s restaurants are booming. Cafés, which proliferated in the 1980s as places to mingle and idle, are now workstations for freelancers, and many of the sleeker locales are routinely populated by silent ranks staring at their Apple-product screens, as though an office had suddenly been stripped of its cubicles.

6. The internet and I
Kevin Barry looks back on the role that the internet has played in his life, from dial-up in ’94 to being permanently connected. (The Dublin Review)

I check my Gmail. I read bits of the papers. I Google myself – and yes, shame reddens my cheek as I type that phrase. I would almost rather admit to lying in bed, mornings, and abusing myself, but my suspicion is that almost all writers, young and old, now perform Google and Twitter searches for references to themselves several dozen times a day.


In early 2010 Willian Langewiesche wrote in Vanity Fair about America sniper Russ Crane and why be believed he has God on his side.

He does not enjoy killing coyotes. He shoots them reflexively, in service to mankind. His neighbours appreciate the gesture. They know little of Crane’s history, but find him a useful man to have around. Crane tends to agree. He told me he believes that the overwhelming majority of people in the world are good, but that they are as vulnerable as sheep to the wolves who prey upon them. His role, he said, is that of a sheepdog with the training and temperament to intervene.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday >

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