5 Great Christmas Longreads
December 23, 2013

Christmas has become known as one of the peak times for reading. People have more days off, which gives them the luxury to relax, enjoy cozy nights with their families — and devour longer articles. In that spirit, I give you five Christmas-related longreads to immerse yourselves in this holiday season.

Related story: “Longform: Means More Than Just a Lot of Words”

1) The Sporting Event

In 2007 Eli Saslow, inimitable narrator of tragedy, terror and disenchantment, wrote an eight-part Washington Post series called Why We Compete: In the 21st Century, Sports Continue to Compel Us. The final article in the series examines the culture surrounding one of the oldest sports in the world: ba’, a mix of football, rugby and West Side Story, with no uniforms and no written rules. Ba’ takes place on Christmas Day in Kirkwall, Scotland, between men whose families have played this game on this day every year since the 1600s.

As always, Saslow manages to be both detailed and concise, reaching a level of engagement that few others can. At nearly 3,000 words, The Old Ba’ Game is a shorter longread that will leave you excited to celebrate your own traditions.

2) The Disaster

Disclaimer: Do not read this article on Christmas. It tells the story of three young sisters who died tragically in a fire on Christmas Day, providing a horrendously poignant reminder that life and death are unexplainable sometimes. Regardless, New York Magazine contributing editor Dan P. Lee wrote an impressive character study that deserves a read during your time off. 4:52 on Christmas Morning will break your heart and make you call your loved ones.

3) The Fictional Piece

We’re going all the way back to 1977 for this one. Though Frank Deford’s Sports Illustrated story about a professional basketball player who breaks his hand right before Christmas is technically fiction, it reads like a lengthy, feel-good feature. Three years ago, The Denver Post called it “prophetic” and compared the title character to LeBron James. The written equivalent of A Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Gift For Fort Zack will allow you to bask in the optimistic spirit of Christmas.

4) The Historical Story

It is difficult to imagine what a World War II Christmastime must have been like. Here, Primo Levi, who worked as a chemist in a division of Auschwitz, gives us that lens as he recounts Christmas of 1944, when the prisoners knew the war was ending. This story is now part of a larger collection by Levi called “Moments of Reprieve: A Memoir of Auschwitz“; The New York Times called this particular piece one of the best stories” within the book and described Levi’s style as “wry” and “understated.” The New York Review of Books’ Last Christmas of the War will let you marvel at how fortunate you are this Christmas.

5) The Investigative Article

Journalist Carole Cadwalladr worked in an Amazon warehouse for a week during the holiday season and shared her observations in The Guardian. My week as an Amazon insider will make you question what company you’re buying from this Christmas and whether the benefits are worth the innumerable costs.

For even longer reads, here are five Christmas-themed nonfiction books:

1. SantaLand Diaries by David Sedaris

2. Tinsel: A Search for America’s Christmas Present by Hank Stuever

3. Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941 by Stanley Weintraub

4. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

5. Thanks, Santa, but who’s gonna put it together? by Owen Canfield


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