While in custody: The fight to stop jail deaths in Washington state

Stephanie Deal wanted her mom to bail her out of jail but Jule Crowell thought her daughter, who was addicted to heroin, was safer there. Three days later, she was dead. I talked to Jule and other families recently for my story for Seattle Met magazine about the deaths of pre-trial detainees in Washington state. Read it here

2016 in books

It was a big year for Emmas and Elena

1. "The Good Rain" by Timothy Egan

2. "Messages from Frank's Landing" by Charles Wilkinson

3. "The Boys in the Boat" by Daniel James Brown

4. "My Brilliant Friend" by Elena Ferrante

5. "The Story of a New Name" by Elena Ferrante

6. "Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay" by Elena Ferrante

7. "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri

8. "Purity" by Jonathan Franzen

9. "Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff

10. "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?" by Mindy Kaling

11. "Why Not Me?" by Mindy Kaling

12. "Are You My Mother?" by Alison Bechdel

13. "Daily Rituals: How Artists Work" by Mason Currey

14. "The Story of the Lost Child" by Elena Ferrante

15. "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins

16. "The Girls" by Emma Cline

17. "Modern Lovers" by Emma Straub

18. "The Argonauts" by Maggie Nelson

19. "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" by Alexandra Fuller

20. "How to be a Person in the World" by Heather Havrilesky 

21. "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" by Richard Bach

22. "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

23. "The Wonder" by Emma Donoghue

24. "The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead

25. "Red Bird" by Mary Oliver

26. "The Association of Small Bombs" by Karan Mahajan

"Einstein had created an unwieldy monster that in a way he couldn’t tame. He conjured up a theory reliant on mathematics in a curved space-time that still demands years of its students’ attention. Though he managed to use those tools, compared to his mathematician friends he used them clumsily. Isn’t that great? I love that. His fragility, his defiant brilliance in the face of his own limitations… He ploughed right past his inadequacy."

More here.  

2015 in books

A friend and I read 26 books in 2014, or a book every two weeks. That was a personal record and last year we tried for 30. I topped out at 26 again, but in 2016, maybe I’ll throw my phone in the ocean, like Austin Kleon suggests. He read more than 70 books in a year and among his tips to read more are keeping a reading log and sharing your favorite books with others. Here’s my list with favorites in bold.  

1. “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Carver

2. “Beat the Reaper” by Josh Bazell

3. “Plague of Doves” by Louise Erdrich

4. “Travels with Charley: In Search of America” by John Steinbeck

5. “The Liar’s Club” by Mary Karr

6. “The First Bad Man” by Miranda July

7. “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline” by George Saunders

8. “In Persuasion Nation” by George Saunders

9. “In the Unlikely Event” by Judy Blume

10. “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers

11. “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson

12. “Home” by Toni Morrison

13. “The Keep” by Jennifer Egan

14. “Light in August” by William Faulkner

15. “Why We Write” by Meredith Maran

16. “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian” by Wallace Stegner

17. “The Last Kings of Sark” by Rosa Rankin Gee

18. “In a Narrow Grave: Essays on Texas” by Larry McMurtry

19. “The Unspeakable” by Meghan Daum

20. “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold

21. “Desert Solitaire” by Edward Abbey

22. “How to Write Short” by Roy Peter Clark

23. “Gratitude” by Oliver Sacks

24. “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed

25. ”NeuroTribes” by Steve Silberman

26. “Yukon Ho!” by Bill Watterson

Welcoming any recommendations for this year — especially books by non-white writers since they made embarrassingly few appearances in my library last year.



the ones that got away

"Infants in elf costumes sprinkle our News Feeds; some enterprising and sadistic parents actually dressed their children as turkeys at Thanksgiving; and a few years ago, my Instagram was awash in diamond ring close-ups on Christmas Day. Meanwhile, mine featured a photo of me looking pleased as punch to have received a One Direction beach towel. Single childless people are simultaneously aloof — sure that we’d sooner die than marry and mix DNA with Jeff from AP French class — and nagged by the sense that maybe we’re doing things entirely wrong, because, frankly, dressing a baby like a turkey seems delightful."

More from Alana Massey's ode to hometown friends here.

finding office comfort in a federal suite

"The forever war over the office thermostat has a new beachhead: the 'Comfort Suite' at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, where researchers are chasing detente between the half of the office that wants the air conditioning on maximum and the other half shivering in their cubicles, huddled under sweaters, pointing their toes toward wan little electric heaters."

More from my Wired story here.  


Testimony started today in Rashad Owens' capital murder trial in Austin, more than a year after he was accused of driving through a crowd of pedestrians during the South by Southwest Music Festival in March 2014. The deadly crash left four people dead and more than 20 injured. Austin American-Statesman photographer Jay Janner was at a nearby venue and started taking pictures 19 seconds after the car hurtled down the street. Earlier this year, several American-Statesman reporters and I tracked down 12 of the people who appeared in those shots and agreed to share how what happened affected them. Their stories, portraits and video interviews can be found here

hotty toddy

Who and what pays the price for ritualized Southern comfort and uniformity? Kiese Laymon on the allure of Ole Miss football

"I made the decision that night, as a third-grader, to never stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in any classroom that had the Mississippi state flag, the Confederate flag or any other flag that devalued the black lives and black labor of my Mississippi family, and our people.

"I kept that promise until today at my first University of Mississippi football game. After four strange weeks of living in Oxford, I'm wondering how many more promises I'm going to break."