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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 12°C
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# long reads
Sitdown Sunday: Inside the restoration of Notre Dame cathedral
Settle back in a comfy chair and sit back with some of the week’s best longreads.

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. The age of anti-ambition

Noreen Malone explores the current changes that are happening with the American workforces’ relationship with work.

(The New York Times, approx 21 mins reading time)

Essential or nonessential, remote or in person, almost no one I know likes work very much at the moment. The primary emotion that a job elicits right now is the determination to endure: If we can just get through the next set of months, maybe things will get better. The act of working has been stripped bare. You don’t have little outfits to put on, and lunches to go to, and coffee breaks to linger over and clients to schmooze. The office is where it shouldn’t be — at home, in our intimate spaces — and all that’s left now is the job itself, naked and alone. And a lot of people don’t like what they see.

2. Stuck in pandemic limbo

Ed Yong writes about the risks facing millions of immunocompromised people as society continues to open up. 

(The Atlantic, approx 17 mins reading time)

As the coronavirus moves from a furious boil to a gentle simmer, many immunocompromised people (like everyone else) hope to slowly expand their life again. But right now, “it’s like asking someone who cannot swim to jump into the ocean instead of trying a pool,” Vivian Cheung, a biologist at the University of Michigan who has a genetic autoimmune disorder, told me. “I feel this pressure of jumping into the Pacific and not knowing if I can survive or not.”

3. Notre Dame rises again

A look at how the restoration of Paris’s historic Notre Dame cathedral three years after a devastating fire is honouring its medieval roots.

(National Geographic, approx 32 mins reading time)

Everyone in France remembers where they were when Notre Dame burned that April night—in that way, though no one died, it’s like 9/11. Bernard Hermann, a retired photographer, was in his garret on the Place du Petit Pont, facing the cathedral. A book of his, called Paris, km 00—on French maps, distances are measured from a zero point in front of Notre Dame—consists of photographs taken from his windows. “The drama of Notre Dame was for me the end of the world,” Hermann said. “I was thunderstruck. I closed the curtains.” Jean-Michel Leniaud, a historian of architecture, was at a reception at the Palace of Versailles. He rushed back to Paris and watched the drama. “People were crying. People were praying. People were kneeling in the street,” he said.

4. Banned books

Constance Grady writes about the recent upsurge of banning certain books being taught in schools in the US. 

(Vox, approx 9 mins reading time)

While the extremes to which the most recent book bannings go are new, the pattern they follow is not. Adam Laats, a historian who studies the history of American education, sees our current trend of banned books as being rooted in a backlash that emerged in the US in the 20th century. That backlash, he says, was against “a specific kind of content, seen as teaching children, especially white children, that there’s something wrong with America.” Looking at the school book bannings of the 1930s against the bannings of the 2020s can show us how history repeats itself — even when we attempt to bury our history.

5. Saving winter in the Alps

With the region’s economy and culture reliant on winter, Denise Hruby writes about the efforts to preserve snow and ice in the Alps as the climate warms. 

(National Geographic, approx 30 mins reading time)

Alpine winters are dying. Since the 19th century, average temperatures in these mountains have risen by two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 Fahrenheit—about twice the global average. Snow is arriving later in the season and melting sooner. The Alps as a whole have lost about a month of snow cover, according to scientists who analyzed data from more than 2,000 weather stations. 

6. The Bat and the Cat

The Batman stars Robert Pattinson and Zoë Kravitz and director Matt Reeves delve inside the highly anticipated, dark new chapter in the Caped Crusader’s history, which hits Irish cinemas next month.

(Entertainment Weekly, approx 20 mins reading time)

Reeves’ version of Gotham City is seedy, dark, and rain-soaked, the sun only visible at dusk. The director wanted it to feel like it was a place where you could run into any character from the lore if you opened the right door. Hence, the inclusion of Selina and Farrell’s Penguin alongside mainstays like Lieutenant Gordon. In the same way that Selina hasn’t yet become Catwoman, Cobblepot isn’t a major crime boss, and Gordon hasn’t risen to commissioner. “The Riddler dubs himself the Riddler in this movie. This character hasn’t existed in the world yet, but he’s presenting himself,” says Reeves. “So I wanted this to be filled with all those little teases where the freshness of it was meeting the characters in ways you hadn’t seen yet. They weren’t yet the iconic mythic versions of what they become.” 


This article from 2017 focuses on a condition called “highly superior autobiographical memory”, believed to affect around 60 people around the world. It causes them to remember absolutely everything. You can also listen to the article here.

(The Guardian, approx 34 mins reading time)

Price was the first person ever to be diagnosed with what is now known as highly superior autobiographical memory, or HSAM, a condition she shares with around 60 other known people. She can remember most of the days of her life as clearly as the rest of us remember the recent past, with a mixture of broad strokes and sharp detail. Now 51, Price remembers the day of the week for every date since 1980; she remembers what she was doing, who she was with, where she was on each of these days. She can actively recall a memory of 20 years ago as easily as a memory of two days ago, but her memories are also triggered involuntarily.

More: The best reads from every previous Sitdown Sunday>

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