Longform You Have to Read: Scary Viruses and Super Freak-Outs


In a world where you have more options for satisfying longform reading than ever, your friends here at Flavorwire are taking the time once a week to highlight some of the best that journalism and longform has to offer. Whether they’re unified by topic, publication, writer, being classic pieces of work, or by just a general feeling, these articles all have one thing in common: they’re essential reading.

This week: disease is in the air. After reading Eula Biss’ On Immunity: An Inoculation, and opening the newspaper to read that the first confirmed case of Ebola is in the U.S., it feels like the right time to explore some necessary journalism about how humans deal with pandemics, disease, and vaccinations.

A Conversation With Tracy Kidder About Mountains Beyond Mountains,” by Mark Klempner, The Huffington Post, May 2011

Tracy Kidder is one of the best nonfiction journalists working today and Mountains Beyond Mountains — his book about Doctor Paul Farmer’s Partners In Health organization and the work that the good man does in Haiti — is his best book. This interview is a marvelous look at how to capture a man’s life on the page.

Those Who Serve Ebola Victims Soldier On,” by Adam Nossiter and Ben C. Solomon, The New York Times, August 2014

A shattering report from the front lines of the Ebola crisis in Africa. We see the day-to-day life and survival of a nurse who’s bravely helped patients dying from the disease, and the life of a “burial boy” who gives the bodies a final resting place.

Ebola Isn’t the Pandemic. Fear Is,” by Scott Z. Burns, TIME, August 2014

The screenwriter of Contagion (where Gwyneth Paltrow brings about the end of the world) weighs in on what he knows about disease. He makes the effective claim that, for Americans, particularly, fear is the consequence of the Ebola outbreak; something that turns us into our primitive, animal selves.

Are Anti-Vaccinators Stupid or Disingenuous? A Q&A With Eula Biss,” by Michelle Dean, Gawker, September 2013

Former Flavorwire staffer Dean questions Biss, the author of the necessary, important On Immunity, and then the meticulous author takes to the Gawker comments section to discuss vaccination further.

It’s Nearly Impossible to Get Ebola in New York. So Why Is Everyone Freaking Out?” by Gwynn Guilford, Quartz, September 2014

This explainer does a succinct job of explaining that even though there’s a deadly pandemic in the world, the likelihood of its affecting Jane Doe in the U.S. is still fairly low. It’s not a time to freak out.