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What Writers and Editors Are Reading: April 2023

A “Bend It Like Beckham” retrospective, trying to stop the feral hog invasion, and how people get sucked into conspiracy theories: Catch up on the best recommendations from our favorite writers and editors.

Pocket Collections

Read when you’ve got time to spare.

Once a month at Pocket, we ask our favorite writers and editors to share their good taste and discerning reading habits. They tell us the best pieces—both new and old—they read last month, and we share them with you. It’s like being in a group chat with writers you love, swapping links of great pieces and notes on why they loved them.

Past editions have covered chronic pain, Madonna’s face, New York City rents, and more. In April, stories explore the feral hog invasion, a character study of Patti Lupone, and the fraught adoption industry, among others.

Image by DBenitostock / Getty Images

Living in Adoption’s Emotional Aftermath

Larissa MacFarquhar
The New Yorker

Recommended by Rhaina Cohen: “Larissa MacFarquhar is a master of capturing moral and emotional complexity, and that ability is on full display in this piece that braids together the stories of three adoptees. Through their individual experiences, MacFarquhar teaches us about the giant, fraught adoption industry. I was blown away by her deep, compassionate reporting.”

Read Rhaina’s piece “What If Friendship, Not Marriage, Was at the Center of Life?” which featured in Pocket’s collection on the importance of friendship last year.

Bend It Like Beckham Wants You to Be Your Bravest Self

Roxana Hadadi

Recommended by Bilge Ebiri: “It’s wild to think that Bend It Like Beckham is 20 years old already. I remember enjoying it at the time, but Roxana Hadadi’s appreciation of the film, in which she argues that it’s really about ‘self-discovery’ and teen aspirations of freedom, made me see it in a new light—in part because so few movies since then have managed to deal artfully with the subjects Beckham explores.”

Read Bilge’s piece “‘This Is a Cry for Help,” which was recommended in our February edition of what writers and editors are reading.

The Monster Discloses Himself

Phil Christman
Hedgehog Review

Recommended by B.D. McClay: “Conspiracy theorists believe a lot of things that aren’t true. The trouble is, so do the rest of us. ‘During my own lifetime, a formidable number of seemingly outrageous claims about American history, once relegated to the alternative media, have turned out, as documents were declassified and guilty parties spoke, to be simply true,’ writes Phil Christman in his perceptive study of how and why people get sucked into conspiratorial thinking. What should you do when you don’t want to fall down the rabbit hole, but have realized you have legitimate reasons not to trust certain authorities? There’s no easy answer here—but for clearly stating the problem, this essay is one to read.”

Read B.D.’s piece “Eleanor Catton Wants Plot to Matter Again,” which was recommended in our March edition of what writers and editors are reading.

Signs and Wonders

Will Stephenson
Harper’s Magazine

Recommended by Derek Robertson: “At Harper’s, Will Stephenson writes authoritatively on Charles Portis, one of the great, gnomic authors of the American South, finally getting his due in the canon with a Library of America collection. But don’t let that fool you—the collection, Portis, and this essay are anything but stuffy. Quit your job, get an oil change, change your life.”

Read Derek’s piece “‘Top Gun: Maverick’ Is America’s Cry for Help,” which featured in Pocket’s collection of stories that lived rent-free in our heads last year.

They Saw the Horrific Aftermath of a Mass Shooting. Should We?

Jay Kirk
The New York Times

Recommended by Gail Cornwall: “With a fresh vantage point and relentless attention to detail, Jay Kirk and The New York Times Magazine have produced one of the most stirring pieces of writing… ever.

Through the trauma of crime-scene investigators, Kirk begins to convey what we as a society have chosen to shroud: the visceral horror of gun violence. ‘It had fallen to him to empty the 20 lunchboxes. His advice to the small crew he brought in: Don’t read the notes..’ They tried not to notice ‘Pokémon cards and Little Mermaid this and that, stuff their own kids had at home. The Christmas projects the children had been working on for their parents. The drawings of stick-figure families huddled on the couch reading.’ But they had no choice but to process it all, for their jobs and for the families of the slain children of Sandy Hook: ‘Each small shirt. Each elfin dress. Each backpack. Each barrette.’”

Read “Stop Venting! It Doesn’t Work.” by Gail and Juli Fraga which featured in Pocket’s best great advice articles of 2022.

Who’s Afraid of Patti LuPone?

Rachel Handler

Recommended by Eric Vilas-Boas: “Rachel Handler’s profile of a Broadway legend, whom she describes as having a ‘near-Shakespearean quotability and relish for calling a spade a son of a bitch’ is often hysterical, but it’s also a sly character study. Using vivid anecdotes and asides, Handler threads LuPone’s personality through that of her role in Beau Is Afraid to reveal what a consummate New Yorker she is—equal parts acidity and appeal.”

Read Eric’s piece “‘It’s Kind of Embarrassing’: Why Animators Are Unhappy With the Oscars,” which was recommended in our March edition of what writers and editors are reading.