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What Writers and Editors Are Reading: July 2023

Take a peek inside your favorite writers’ Pockets to discover their recent reads—and why you might enjoy them too.

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Read when you’ve got time to spare.

Every 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. Think of it as a group chat with writers you love, swapping links to great pieces.

June’s edition covered sexting among teens, a literary breakup, and a 1980s Texas murder, among other stories. For July, stories explore dining out while blind, the spectacle of Lionel Messi, tainted turmeric, and more.

Image by Jasmin Merdan / Getty Images

The ‘Un-Becoming’: a Former L.A. Gang Member Finds His Resurrection Tale at UC Berkeley

James Rainey
Los Angeles Times

“It’s exceedingly difficult to share the kind of success story profiled here without implying that others should (1) be able to similarly pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and (2) leave their communities and all of who they were before behind. Jim Rainey does just that by shining a light on the institutional support his protagonist required and by including the following quote: ‘Kept his grades high & his car low.’” -Gail Cornwall

Aidan’s Jacket: A Lament

Rachel Handler

Recommended by Justin Heckert: “I am a jacket enthusiast. Actually a big-time, I-have-waaaayy-too-many, jacket collector. And when Aidan stepped into the frame in the latest episode of And Just Like That … and we saw him again for the first time in years, I immediately knew something was wrong. Why was he wearing this? Why was it buttoned all the way up? Is it a size too small? Anyway, I’m sure the jacket is quality (it costs almost $600), but the whole thing was wrong. Felt wrong. Just to look at him. Apparently, the hilarious Rachel Handler feels the same.”

Read Justin’s piece “Jason Brassard Spent His Lifetime Collecting the Rarest Video Games. Until the Heist.” which was one of Pocket’s best gaming articles of 2022.

The Vice of Spice: Confronting Lead-Tainted Turmeric

Wudan Yan

Recommended by Andrew Zaleski: “You probably never knew that the color of turmeric—a spice that even Gwyneth Paltrow has hawked for its supposed anti-inflammatory properties—was the result of combining the spice with lead chromate. That’s what gives the spice its yellowish coloring. In this great piece for Undark, Wudan Yan goes deep on the spice trade and discovers the lengths some scientists will go to fight food fraud.”

Read Andrew’s article “Why a Healthy Gut Is So Important For Overall Wellness,” which was one of Pocket’s top saved articles in May.

Political Heat

Malcolm Gladwell
The New Yorker

Recommended by Lauren Larson: “A blistering summer has made this 2002 piece by Malcolm Gladwell, a review of Eric Klinenberg’s study of a catastrophic heat wave in Chicago in July 1995, extra salient. The terrible deaths that Gladwell describes remind us to check on the vulnerable people around us during high heat. They might also remind us to judge systems and institutions not by “how they perform most of the time, under ‘normal’ conditions,” but by ‘how they perform under those rare moments of extreme stress.’ Those moments are less rare now than they were in 2002.”

Read Lauren’s piece “Apocalypse Sow: Can Anything Stop the Feral Hog Invasion?,” which was recommended in our April writers’ round-up.

Most Fitness Influencers Are Doing More Harm Than Good

Danielle Friedman
The New York Times

Recommended by Dr. Andrea Wojnicki: “This is the first time I read the term ‘Fitfluencer,’ but I immediately understood what it means. Unfortunately, I know too well the negative impact that fitfluencers can have. I strongly encourage you to read this article to learn the 4 rules and 1 question that experts recommend we should all keep in mind when we’re on social media and consuming content from fitfluencers. This is important content that we should be reading—and sharing!”

Read Andrea’s article “A Simple Way to Introduce Yourself,” featured in Pocket’s most read articles of 2022.

The Humiliation of Ron DeSantis

Helen Lewis
The Atlantic

Recommended by Derek Robertson: “Making Ron DeSantis look silly is not exactly a Herculean task. But here The Atlantic’s Helen Lewis plays a classic cultural-crit trick, taking a sure-to-be-forgotten TV interview with the Florida governor and flipping it into a subtle roast of his strange culture-war shadowboxing that transcends mere punditry. The takeaway in short: ‘Please let me play poker against this man.’”

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.

America Has Never Seen a Spectacle Like Messi

Gabriel Debenedetti
New York Magazine

Recommended by Bilge Ebiri: “As a soccer fan growing up in the US, I have seen the sport grow in fits and starts, and I’ve seen a lot of aging superstars come and go. Gabriel Debenedetti’s article really puts the new Messi phenomenon in perspective, while also arguing that this case may well prove to be different. Fascinating reading overall.”

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 Workers Behind AI Rarely See Its Rewards. This Indian Startup Wants to Fix That

Billy Perrigo

Recommended by the author: “AI data workers are often among the poorest people in the world, despite providing the lifeblood of a multibillion dollar industry. Karya, an Indian nonprofit, promises to do things differently: not only paying workers high wages, but also royalties. My story explores their model, which doesn't exist anywhere else. ”

Read another article by Billy “The A to Z of Artificial Intelligence,” which was one of Pocket’s top saved long reads in April.