The Best Magazine Articles Ever

The following are suggestions for the best magazine articles (in English) ever.  Stars denote how many times a correspondent has suggested it. Submitter comments are in italics. For a great way to read long-form magazine articles on a tablet device see my review of LongForm and Instapaper here.

This is a work in progress. It is a on-going list of suggestions collectively made by readers of this post. At this point the list has not been vetted or selected by me. In fact, other than the original five items I suggested, all of the articles mentioned here have been recommended by someone other than me. (Although I used to edit Wired magazine none of the article from Wired were suggested by me or anyone who worked at Wired. I also did not suggest my own pieces.)

This list is incomplete (as all such lists are) but way too long now. I am no longer accepting additions to the list, but I will accept “votes” for articles already on the list. Let me know by email (articles@kk.org) which favorite article you’d like to elevate to the “top.” 

— KK

The Top 25 Articles
Based on the number of times an article is recommended

********** Gay Talese, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” Esquire, April 1966.

********* Hunter S. Thompson, ”The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” Scanlan’s Monthly, June 1970.

********* Neal Stephenson, “Mother Earth, Mother Board: Wiring the Planet.” Wired, December 1996. On laying trans-oceanic fiber optic cable.

******* David Foster Wallace, “Federer As Religious Experience.” The New York Times, Play Magazine, August 20, 2006.

******* David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster.” Gourmet Magazine, August 2004.

****** John Updike, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.” The New Yorker, October 22, 1960. About Ted Williams career framed by his last game. I read it every opening day without fail.

***** Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.” Rolling Stone. Part I: November 11, 1971; Part II: November 25, 1971.

***** Richard Ben Cramer, “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” Esquire, June 1986.

**** Jon Krakauer, “Death of an Innocent: How Christopher McCandless Lost His Way in the Wilds.” Outside Magazine, January 1993. Article that became Into the Wild.

**** Susan Orlean, “The American Man at Age Ten.” Esquire, December 1992. [Ed.'s note: Not available in Esquire's online archive, but you'll find it with a little searching. Also republished in Orlean's The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup and Glass's The New Kings of Nonfiction.]

**** Edward Jay Epstein, “Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?” Atlantic Magazine, February 1982. Diamonds, De Beers, monopoly & marketing.

**** Ron Rosenbaum, “Secrets of the Little Blue Box.” Esquire, October 1971. The first and best account of telephone hackers, more amazing than you might believe.

**** Tom Junod, “Can you say…”Hero”?” Esquire, November 1998. A profile of Mr. Rogers. [Ed.'s note: This article was also quoted in "Esquire's 70 Greatest Sentences" published October 1, 2003.]

**** Michael Lewis, “The End.” Portfolio, November 11, 2008. Breaks down supposedly complex economic cause and effect into very engaging, easily understood analysis.  Real life characters as interesting and entertaining as the best fiction.  A must.

*** George Plimpton, “The Curious Case Of Sidd Finch.” Sports Illustrated, April 1, 1985. I remember being extremely angry (for a few minutes) that the Mets were going to get this guy instead of my A’s. I was an honest kid and man, it just seemed so unfair. When I realized it was a prank, I wasn’t as upset. Because I always thought this guy, in some form, would someday show up and blow away the Twins, the Angels, and the Giants wearing an A’s uniform. I’m still waiting!

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

*** Jon Krakauer, “Into Thin Air.” Outside Magazine, September 1996.

*** Tom Junod, ”The Falling Man.” Esquire, September 2003.

*** Gene Weingarten, “The Peekaboo Paradox.” The Washington Post, Sunday Magazine, January 22, 2006. Story about the weirdest clown, the Great Zucchini, you’ll never want to meet. Keep reading….

*** David Foster Wallace, “Host.” Atlantic Magazine, April 2005.

*** Gene Weingarten, “Pearls Before Breakfast.” The Washington Post, Magazine, April 8, 2007. Joshua Bell is one of the world’s greatest violinists. His instrument of choice is a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius. If he played it for spare change, incognito, outside a bustling Metro stop in Washington, would anyone notice?

*** Chris Jones, “The Things That Carried Him.” Esquire, May 2008. It’s extremely moving without being saccharine or twee. It’s a military story, but utterly without jingoism or indictment. And it’s wonderfully observed.

*** Michael Lewis, “Wall Street on the Tundra.” Vanity Fair, April 2009. It’s an in depth analysis of the financial collapse of Iceland. Excellent. There are some great one liners (this isn’t actually one of them, but it’ll give you the idea): “This in a country the size of Kentucky, but with fewer citizens than greater Peoria, Illinois. Peoria, Illinois, doesn’t have global financial institutions, or a university devoting itself to training many hundreds of financiers, or its own currency. And yet the world was taking Iceland seriously.”

*** Gene Weingarten, “Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?” The Washington Post, Magazine, March 8, 2009. Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing.

The Full List
Works are arranged in chronological order of appearance
1960s and earlier
1970s
1980s
1990s
2000s
2010s

Contributors

Thanks to Matthew Robbins, Jim Hausman, Richard Perrin, Louis Rossetto, Steven Levy, Pete Forde, Martin Haeberli, Howard Rheingold, Todd Lappin, Mark Frauenfelder, Thodoris Georgakopoulos, Lee Joramo, Jeb Adams, Jason Kottke, James Cooper, MarkA, Matt LaWell, Erik Price, Donna Lowe, Sam Posten, Bill Fisher, Rodolfo S Filho, Edward Fu, Oliver Hulland, Craig Pittman, Peter Jacobson, Steven Leckart, Robin Southern, Mark Sigal, Brian Burt, Mark Neigh, Bill Barol, Michelle Roufa, Gaelle, Steve, Yahmdallah, Rob McKnight, Karl, Brant Freer, Andrew Jankowich, Jim Higgins, Garth Bishop, Mark, Andy Wilcock, Bob Bleakney, David Dale, Adam Michell, Ted Byfield, Elmo Keep, Timoni Grone, David Deubelbeiss, Stephan Beckert, Cathal Kelly, Jeff Amato, Shane Gray, Andrew Gauthier, Aileen Gallagher, Matthew Taylor, Neil H., Russ Mitchell, Darren Barefoot, Jesse S., Kevin Chicas, Sveinn Birkir, Jenny Butler, Lex Alexander, Steve Helland, Jason, Douglas Rushkoff, Marshall Hughes, Jay, Mark Daly, Aaryn Belfer, David Herwaldt, Michael Coxe, Andrew Weber, Adam Wuerl, Ed Caesar, Jack Mottram, Larry Kooper, Luke Fehsenfeld, Ed Kemmick, Susan, Rex Sorgatz, Lauren, Glenn Crumpley, John Strubing, David, Alex Hanson, Simon Owens, Jon Houston, Doug Wilber, MSeto, Paulo Campos, Mark Medley, Joel Lovell, Galen Davis, Anthony Crupi, Todd Lappin, Chris Tackett, Jose Garcia Fermoso, Peter Smith, Steve, Jack Cameron, Ben, Sean Shea, Dave Swint, Michael Mees, Thierry Chervel, Jon Oster, Damian, Robert Rossney, Nathaniel Tapley, Joshua Ellis, Kenny, Nicola Clarke, Tim Frijnts, Greg Varner, Lara O’Reilly, Lee Lehrberg, Yeah, Christy Collins, Rory Byrne, Rusty, Dani Kazsas, Michael Mason, Joe Duax, David, Selcuk Oktay, Amanda Wallwin, Tim, John Gillespie, Bill Hansen, Harriet Brown, James Barber, Brad Johnson, J K Norman, Jessica Johnson, Regina, Joel Lovell, Gary Wasko, Brad Wieners, Jonathan Rees, Matthew Blankman, Eric, Alex Krupp, Quentin Lewis, Kevin Platt, William McGee, Michael O’Donnell, Gabriel, Bruce Umbaugh, Chris Spurgeon, John de Guzman, Andrew Corsello, Jay Pfeifer, Jim Morton, Pete Danko, Lex Alexander, Eddie McShane, Joe Strubing, Melissa J. Hutson, Jon Houston, Alex, Brian, Kate Porter, Nell Minow, Pema, Alex Nydahl, Ed Hirsch, Michael Remolona, JR, Sheerly Avni, Steve Grob, Michael Mees, H Wessells, Maddy, Miriam Weiss, Jay Love, Todd Gureckis, Dusty Altena, W. K. Winecoff, Daniel Dillion, Michael Varga, Jeff Blattner, Thane Rehn, Daryl Sng, Margaret Kienzle, Beth Sullivan, Patricia A. French, Amy Simms, Elaine Grabicki, Michael Atchison, Tiff Fehr, Gareth Hughes, Joseph Hubbard, Rick Miller, Ryan Jasper, Timothy Kenslea, Kevin Schlottmann, David Noller, Paul Devlin, Dana LaFontaine, David Kirchner, Declan Fay, Elmo Keep