The early days of electronic spreadsheets and how the tool transformed business.
On cattle auctions, reality TV and coming of age during the Great Recession.
The writer is reluctantly whisked away to to a small house in upstate New York to attend an ayhuasca ceremony with six strangers.
Picking up the pieces in Afghanistan.
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On the president’s campaign to crack down on campus rape.
The future (and past) of non-lethal weaponry deployed against civilian populations.
It’s legal to buy poppy seeds in America and it’s legal to plant them—unless you’re familiar with the simple process of turning them into opium, that is. Then having poppies in your garden is a felony.
A suburban teen attempts to build a reactor, radioactivity ensues.
Going undercover with David Sullivan, cult infiltrator.
Exploring the riddle of Morgellons disease: sufferers feel things crawling under their skin and hardly anyone believes them.
At the annual meeting of Berkshire Hathaway in Omaha.
The story of H.H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer.
Fast-food workers, the minimum wage, and a future served by robot labor.
The gospel according to nine-year-olds; a missionary group that won the right to evangelize in schools and how children process their message.
What a secret audio tape revealed about the murder of mycologist and magic mushroom pioneer Steven Pollock.
Undercover in an industrial slaughterhouse.
Previously: Conover discusses this story on the Longform Podcast.
A visit to Tokyo’s first co-sleeping cafe, where one can pay a set fee to sleep next to a woman in 20 minute increments, though spooning, being patted on the head, and a change of pajamas are extra.
Tracking the circuitous fall of a Chinese political star.
A trip to the Famous Poets Society convention/contest in Reno.
On wearing a concealed handgun and how it changed the author’s worldview.
A Ugandan bill that would threaten homosexuals with imprisonment, or in some cases death, has its roots in the shadowy American evangelical group known as the The Family.
The surprising anti-monopolist origins of the world’s most popular board game.
Stalking bluefin tuna, the most valuable wild animal in the world.
Wandering through the Frankfurt Book Fair.
In a posthumously published essay, Twain recounts dreams of a long-lost love.
A longtime Harper’s contributor considers America as he dies: “When I died, I died of many things: the failing systems; the weakening of age; the exhaustion of the long war against dying. Finally, I succumbed to the lack of ethics in a California hospital, killed by filth and neglect.”
An investigation into sexual violence on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
The decline and fall of Cabrini-Green, Chicago’s infamous public housing development.
Portraits from weed country.
Attending the two-day-long “Crap$ 101” course, where aspiring craps players learn the Golden Touch system of betting, visualize dice tosses, and pursue the elusive “controlled throw.”
An art collector reflects back on the summer camp of her childhood, and a dreadful occurrence.
"[T]hese paintings are not landscape paintings. Because there aren’t any landscapes up there, not in the old, tidy European sense, with a gentle hill, a curving river, a cottage, a mountain in the background, a golden evening sky. lnstead there’s a tangle, a receding maze, in which you can become lost almost as soon as you step off the path. There are no backgrounds in any of these paintings, no vistas; only a great deal of foreground that goes back and back, endlessly, involving you in its twists and turns of tree and branch and rock. No matter how far back in you go, there will be more. And the trees themselves are hardly trees; they are currents of energy. charged with violent color."
A report from the trial of Ivan Demjanjuk—a.k.a. “The Last Nazi”—who died on March 17.
Idleness is not just a psychological necessity, requisite to the construction of a complete human being; it constitutes as well a kind of political space, a space as necessary to the workings of an actual democracy as, say, a free press.
Undercover as a student at Phoenix University, the largest for-profit higher education company in the country and the second-largest enroller of students (behind the SUNY system), where only 12 percent of first-time students graduate and the ad budget accounts for 30 percent of overall spending.
The writer contemplates beauty and identity following reconstructive surgery.
There was a long period of time, almost a year, during which I never looked in a mirror. It wasn’t easy, for I’d never suspected just how omnipresent are our own images. I began by merely avoiding mirrors, but by the end of the year I found myself with an acute knowledge of the reflected image, its numerous tricks and wiles, how it can spring up at any moment: a glass tabletop, a well-polished door handle, a darkened window, a pair of sunglasses, a restaurant’s otherwise magnificent brass-plated coffee machine sitting innocently by the cash register.
There is so much talk now about the art of the film that we may be in danger of forgetting that most of the movies we enjoy are not works of art.
The author travels to North Korea in the years after Kim Jong Il’s succession. He also gets a haircut:
But suddenly the whole chair starts vibrating and I find myself surrendering to her, as she begins to knead the acupressure points on my forehead and neck. Next it's ginseng unguent all over my face. Gobs of pomade smelling like bubble gum go on my hair. Then, like a true daughter of the revolution, she upholsters her blow dryer and begins combing in the pomade and sculpting my now subdued hair. The pungent aroma of heated pomade, like fat frying in a pan, fills the room. My stylist gives my hair a little twist with the comb. It feels like she's making a Dairy Queen curl on top. Then she fries it in place with the dryer. Another dab of pomade. More mincing motions with the comb. Another blast of hot air. Suddenly I feel a moist breeze around my ears. She's taken out a can of imported aerosol spray and is cementing her creation in place. She's delicately patting my new coiffure now the way a baker taps a loaf of bread to see if it's springy to the touch. She murmurs something. I'm breathless with expectation. I open my eyes and gaze into the mirror. Magnifique! It looks like I have a loofah sponge on my head! I am reborn -- a cross between Elvis and a 1950s Bulgarian hydrology expert! At last I have become a true son of Pyongyang!
On H.H. Holmes “an old hand at corpse manipulation and insurance fraud,” who built a house of death in 1890s Chicago.
On the occasion of Hamid Karzai’s visit to the White House, a fever dream tour of the Afghanistan war through the eyes of the leaders who gave birth to its narrative.
The author travels to Mexico to meet a retired assassin and kidnapper, now himself a target of the faceless cartels that once employed him
On the world’s longest foot race, which takes place entirely within Queens, N.Y.:
Such were the hazards last summer in Jamaica, Queens, at the tenth running of the Self-Transcendence 3,100. The fifteen participants—all but two of them disciples of the Bengali Guru Sri Chinmoy, who has resided in the neighborhood for forty years—hailed from ten countries on three continents. They ran in all weather, seven days a week, from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, or until their bodies compelled them to rest. If they logged fewer than fifty miles on a given day, they risked disqualification. By their own reckoning, the runners climbed eight meters per lap, mounting and descending a spectral Everest every week and a half. They toiled in this fashion for six to eight weeks, however long it took them to complete 5,649 circuits—3,100 miles—around a single city block.
Poe's "The Raven," reimagined
" That's right, buddy, the crow is talking. Pinch yourself; it isn't a dream. The crow is talking. Feed me meat."
In 1992, a Chinese freighter tipped violently in a storm dumping a load of plastic floatee toys—7,200 red beavers, 7,200 green frogs, 7,200 blue turtles, and 7,200 yellow ducks—to the open sea. This is their story.
An essay on gynobibliophobia and the critical reception of women writers.
A travelogue through the contradiction-rich and predominantly Muslim Southern Thailand.
The author attends a Tolstoy conference as a grad student. She wears flip-flops, sweatpants and a flannel shirt, and tries to determine if Tolstoy was murdered.
This is the piece of writing that inspired me to make the turn from fiction and corporate research into journalism. It’s the best reframing of American society that I’ve ever read. And kudos to Harper’s for running it. It’s not often you see anarchist anthropologists making highly visible contributions to public discourse.
An undercover report on Afghanistan’s drug-smuggling border police that is now heavily used for intelligence training.
Scenario-based forecasts on the future of America, in the style of the C.I.A’s National Intelligence Estimate.
The author joins his father’s work crew, gutting out foreclosed houses in Florida and interviewing their former residents.
Our debt, conscious or unconscious, to what has come before, and what it can tell us about copyright, the public domain, and the complicated relationship between creators and consumers.
How the U.S. Army went evangelical and turned a war into a crusade.
The poet and his love affair with Italian motorbikes (and also lots of women.)
A war correspondent decides to rent a house in Baghdad to save money. Complications ensue.
A conversation with NYU Law Professor Philip Alston on the legality of ‘targeted killings’ by drones, which have made headlines in Pakistan, but also have been deployed by the C.I.A. in countries like Yemen.