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This Book Is Now a Pulitzer Prize Winner: An Excerpt from 'Toms River' by Dan Fagin

This year's Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction was awarded yesterday to Dan Fagin, an NYU science journalism professor, for Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation. According to the Pulitzer committee, Fagin's book, which chronicles the effects of chemical waste dumping on a small New Jersey community, "deftly combines investigative reporting and historical research to probe a New Jersey seashore town’s cluster of childhood cancers linked to water and air pollution." Thank you to Fagin and Bantam Books for allowing us to reprint the excerpt here.

AUTHOR:Dan Fagin
PUBLISHED: April 15, 2014
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2153 words)

Tell Me A Story: A Reading List

These four fantastic fiction pieces will take you far away from this perpetual winter.
PUBLISHED: March 2, 2014

Showtime, Synergy: Exclusive Early Access to a New Story from The Awl and Matt Siegel

This week, we are excited to give Longreads Members exclusive early access to a new story from Matt Siegel, to be published next week on The Awl. Here’s more from The Awl co-founder and editor Choire Sicha:

“Matt Siegel’s very funny nonfiction story of love, deceit and betrayal (oh my God, I know!!!) comes on all unassuming and conversational. Unlike many citizens of the MFA world (Matt’s a recent graduate of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program), he keeps his techniques hidden. We’re really looking forward to publishing this at The Awl, but we’re more thrilled to share it with Longreads Members—like ourselves!—first.”
Siegel (@unabashedqueer) has previously written for The Huffington Post, The Hairpin, Flaunt Magazine, and The Advocate.

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PUBLISHED: March 2, 2014
LENGTH: 29 minutes (7343 words)

How Much My Novel Cost Me

Writer Emily Gould on writing books, going into debt and navigating relationships. An excerpt from MFA VS NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction:

It was more like the failure occurred in tiny increments over the course of two years, after which it was too late to develop a solid Plan B.

I spent some of the advance on clothes that no longer fit my body/life, but mostly I spent it on taxes—New York even has a city tax, on top of the state and federal kind—and rent. I lived alone for three years in Brooklyn, paying $1,700 a month ($61,200 all told) for a pretty but small one-bedroom within eyeshot of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway. I also spent $400 a month on health insurance. At one point I thought I would find another full-time job after finishing the book, but then I must have convinced myself that teaching yoga part time would better enable my writing. I also thought that I would immediately start another book, which I would sell, like the first, before I’d written half of it. In order to believe this I had to cut myself off from all kinds of practical realities; considering these realities seemed like planning for failure. In retrospect it seems clear that I should never have bought health insurance, nor lived by myself.

PUBLISHED: Feb. 24, 2014
LENGTH: 22 minutes (5586 words)

Ghosting: Confessions of a WikiLeaks Ghostwriter

Andrew O’Hagan, in the London Review of Books, recounts the disastrous experience of trying to ghostwrite the autobiography of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (The publisher later released an unauthorized early draft of the book):

I wrote through the night to assemble what we had. The thinness could become a kind of statement, I asserted; it could become a modernist autobiography. But the jokes wouldn’t hold and Julian, despite promising his publishers and me that he’d produce pages, paragraphs, even notes towards his book, produced nothing in all the months I was there. Not a single written sentence came from him in all that time. But at the end, from all those exhausting late night interviews, we assembled a rough draft of 70,000 words. It wasn’t by any means great, but it had a voice, a reasonable, even-tempered, slightly amused but moral voice, which was as invented as anything I’d ever produced in fiction. Yet it hadn’t felt like creating a character in a novel, so much as writing a voiceover for a real person who isn’t quite real. His vanity and the organisation’s need for money couldn’t resist the project, but he never really considered the outcome, that I’d be there, making marks on a page that would in some way represent this process. The issue of control never became real to Julian. He should have felt worried about what he was supplying, but he never did – he had in this, as in everything, a broad illusion of control. Only once did he turn to me and show a glint of understanding. ‘People think you’re helping me write my book,’ he said, ‘but actually I’m helping you write your novel.’

PUBLISHED: Feb. 23, 2014
LENGTH: 105 minutes (26390 words)

Life, Death and Witchcraft in the Niger Delta: Our Longreads Member Pick

For this week's Longreads Member Pick, we're excited to share "On the Far Side of the Fire," an essay by Jessica Wilbanks, which first appeared in Ninth Letter and was awarded the journal's annual creative nonfiction award. This is the first time it has been published online.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 23, 2014
LENGTH: 27 minutes (6860 words)

The Murderer and the Manuscript

Alaric hunt is writing detective novels, while serving a life sentence for murder, arson, robbery and other charges:

Alaric Hunt turned 44 in September. He last saw the outside world at 19. He works every day at the prison library in a maximum-security facility in Bishopville, S.C., passing out the same five magazines and newspapers to the same inmates who chose the library over some other activity. He discovered his favorite writer, Hemingway, at a library like this one, in a different prison. He found the Greek and the Roman philosophers there too. He rediscovered the science-fiction masters who wowed him as a boy and spurred him to write his own stories. And, one Friday three years ago, he found the listing for the contest that would change his life.

PUBLISHED: Jan. 10, 2014
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2823 words)

Longreads Best of 2013: Open Thread

We’re kicking off the Longreads Best of 2013 series tomorrow—and we want your help.

In the comments below, share links to your favorite nonfiction and fiction stories, or your favorite books, writers and publishers of the year. We’ll keep this thread open all through December.

PUBLISHED: Dec. 1, 2013

Rodolfo Walsh and the Struggle for Argentina

Walsh was an artist, activist and investigative journalist whose book Operation Massacre is credited by many as the first “nonfiction novel,” having been published years before Truman Capote defined the term with In Cold Blood. Phelan explores Walsh’s life and impact on Argentina:

Having famously declared, “The typewriter is a weapon,” he had come to doubt that words alone were any real substitute for bullets in effecting change, and particularly the fine words of literary artists. “Beautiful bourgeois art!” he later wrote. “When you have people giving their lives, then literature is no longer your loyal and sweet lover, but a cheap and common whore. There are times when every spectator is a coward, or a traitor.”

PUBLISHED: Oct. 30, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4800 words)