Good writers are good readers…

What follows are the best magazine articles ever written according to the KK* Cool Tools blog. Click here to find the top 25 articles and start reading.

Remember to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. The articles which you can access on the KK* Cool Tools blog are:

The Top 25 Articles
Based on the number of times an article is recommended

Gay Talese, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.” Esquire, April 1966.

Hunter S. Thompson, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” Scanlan’s Monthly, June 1970.

Neal Stephenson, “Mother Earth, Mother Board: Wiring the Planet.” Wired, December 1996. On laying trans-oceanic fiber optic cable.

David Foster Wallace, “Federer As Religious Experience.” The New York Times, Play Magazine, August 20, 2006.

David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster.” Gourmet Magazine, August 2004.

John Updike, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu.” The New Yorker, October 22, 1960. About Ted Williams career framed by his last game. I read it every opening day without fail.

Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.” Rolling Stone. Part I: November 11, 1971; Part II: November 25, 1971.

Richard Ben Cramer, “What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” Esquire, June 1986.

Jon Krakauer, “Death of an Innocent: How Christopher McCandless Lost His Way in the Wilds.” Outside Magazine, January 1993. Article that became Into the Wild.

Susan Orlean, “The American Man at Age Ten.” Esquire, December 1992. [Ed.’s note: Not available in Esquire’s online archive, but you’ll find it with a little searching. Also republished in Orlean’s The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup and Glass’s The New Kings of Nonfiction.]

Edward Jay Epstein, “Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?” Atlantic Magazine, February 1982. Diamonds, De Beers, monopoly & marketing.

Ron Rosenbaum, “Secrets of the Little Blue Box.” Esquire, October 1971. The first and best account of telephone hackers, more amazing than you might believe.

Tom Junod, “Can you say…”Hero”?” Esquire, November 1998. A profile of Mr. Rogers. [Ed.’s note: This article was also quoted in “Esquire’s 70 Greatest Sentences” published October 1, 2003.]

Michael Lewis, “The End.” Portfolio, November 11, 2008. Breaks down supposedly complex economic cause and effect into very engaging, easily understood analysis. Real life characters as interesting and entertaining as the best fiction. A must.

George Plimpton, “The Curious Case Of Sidd Finch.” Sports Illustrated, April 1, 1985. I remember being extremely angry (for a few minutes) that the Mets were going to get this guy instead of my A’s. I was an honest kid and man, it just seemed so unfair. When I realized it was a prank, I wasn’t as upset. Because I always thought this guy, in some form, would someday show up and blow away the Twins, the Angels, and the Giants wearing an A’s uniform. I’m still waiting!

David Foster Wallace, “Shipping Out: On the (Nearly Lethal) Comforts of a Luxury Cruise.” Harper’s Magazine, January 1996

Jon Krakauer, “Into Thin Air.” Outside Magazine, September 1996.

Tom Junod, “The Falling Man.” Esquire, September 2003.

Gene Weingarten, “The Peekaboo Paradox.” The Washington Post, Sunday Magazine, January 22, 2006. Story about the weirdest clown, the Great Zucchini, you’ll never want to meet. Keep reading….

David Foster Wallace, “Host.” Atlantic Magazine, April 2005.

Gene Weingarten, “Pearls Before Breakfast.” The Washington Post, Magazine, April 8, 2007. Joshua Bell is one of the world’s greatest violinists. His instrument of choice is a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius. If he played it for spare change, incognito, outside a bustling Metro stop in Washington, would anyone notice?

Chris Jones, “The Things That Carried Him.” Esquire, May 2008. It’s extremely moving without being saccharine or twee. It’s a military story, but utterly without jingoism or indictment. And it’s wonderfully observed.

Michael Lewis, “Wall Street on the Tundra.” Vanity Fair, April 2009. It’s an in depth analysis of the financial collapse of Iceland. Excellent. There are some great one liners (this isn’t actually one of them, but it’ll give you the idea): “This in a country the size of Kentucky, but with fewer citizens than greater Peoria, Illinois. Peoria, Illinois, doesn’t have global financial institutions, or a university devoting itself to training many hundreds of financiers, or its own currency. And yet the world was taking Iceland seriously.”

Gene Weingarten, “Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?” The Washington Post, Magazine, March 8, 2009. Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing.

Again, click here to start reading the articles. What is your all time favorite magazine article? Tell your classmates the name of the article, the source, the author and why you believe that it is the best article you’ve read yet.

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About Samir Husni

Samir Husni, aka Mr. Magazine™, is the founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi. He is also Professor and Hederman Lecturer of Journalism at the School of Journalism and New Media. Dr. Husni is the author of the annual Samir Husni's Guide to New Magazines, which is now in its 28th year. He is also the author of Launch Your Own Magazine: A Guide for Succeeding in Today's Marketplace published by Hamblett House, Inc. and Selling Content: The Step-by-Step Art of Packaging Your Own Magazine, published by Kendall Hunt, Magazine Publishing in the 21st Century, published by Kendall Hunt, and co-author of Design Your Own Magazine. He has presented seminars on trends in American magazines to the editorial, advertising and sales staff of the magazine groups of the Morris Communications Company, Hearst Corp., Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, Meredith Corp., Reader's Digest Magazine, ESPN the magazine, Sail Magazine, American Airlines Publishing, the National Geographic Society, the Swedish magazine group Bonnier, the Finnish magazine group Sanoma Magazines, Southern Progress magazines, New South Publishing, Inc., the Society of Professional Journalists, the American Society of Magazine Editors, Vance Publishing Corporation, the Florida Magazine Association, The Magazine Association of Georgia, the National Society of Black Journalists, the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association, and the American Press Institute. He is "the country's leading magazine expert," according to Forbes ASAP magazine, "the nation's leading authority on new magazines," according to min:media industry newsletter; and The Chicago Tribune dubbed him "the planet's leading expert on new magazines." Dr. Husni has been interviewed by major U.S. media on subjects related to the magazine industry. He has been profiled and is regularly quoted in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many other newspapers nationwide, as well as the major newsweeklies and a host of trade publications. He has appeared on Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, CNNFN, PBS, and on numerous radio talk shows including National Public Radio's Morning and Weekend Editions. Dr. Husni has also served as an expert witness in several lawsuits involving major media corporations including Time Inc. and American Express Publishing among others. He has been a judge of The National Magazines Awards, The Evangelical Magazines Association, The City and Regional Magazines Association, and The Florida and Georgia Magazine Association Awards. Dr. Husni is the President and CEO of Magazine Consulting & Research, a firm specializing in new magazine launches, repositioning of established magazines, and packaging publications for better sales and presentations. Dr. Husni holds a doctorate in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a master's degree in journalism from the University of North Texas. When he is not in his office reading magazines, Dr. Husni is at the newsstands buying magazines.
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10 Responses to Good writers are good readers…

  1. Jajuan McNeil says:

    The best article that I have ever read was written by William Deresiewicz and it was entitled, “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education.” The reason that I liked the article so much is because the writer took on the notion of diversity on college campuses and helped me to form a better idea of what the concept meant. All the times that I had talked or heard about diversity I thought of race, but once I read this article, I was astonished to have the chance to reevaluate my stance as it refers to diversity and education.
    So, I do believe that Deresiewicz piece has been the best article that I have read in my life.

  2. Maggie Giffin says:

    Any article involving Manhattan, the South, and good cuisine is automatically an attractive piece to me. These three things are my heart and passion, especially when displayed in Garden and Gun. Like Dr. Husni says, a magazine should start a conversation with the reader; it’s engaging, exciting and an experience. One of my favorite articles written is “The Southern Invasion of NYC” in the May issue of Garden&Gun, because reading this article was an experience for me. The author, Jessica Mischner, took me back to a time when I lived and attended school in New York, brought thankfulness to the place I am now, and gave me a hope for a future afar. Not only was the article engaging, but so vividly written I could see the grease popping from fried chicken just off Bleeker Street.
    It is becoming more evident each and every day of the southern invasion that has taken over New York. More designers, chefs, and artist are all migrating north to showcase their talents. I know this and love this but to read about the cultural diversion invading the north was exciting for me. The article opened up with an anecdote, noting Willie Morris’s move to the big apple. Growing up forty minutes from Willie Morris’s home town of Yazoo, this immediately grabbed my attention. I also learned new facts about the author’s life from the article. Morris was the youngest editor and chief to ever preside of Harper’s magazine. Mischner also had standout quotes from some of the city’s best chefs, all from the South. One of my favorite quotes in the article encompasses this movement Mischner captures in her article, “In the same way that there are more Jews in New York than any other place except Israel, there are now more Southerners in new York than anywhere except the South,” said restaurateur Danny Meyer. A good article should be inspiring, and this one did exactly that.

  3. Kirby Sage says:

    I have to admit it. I really don’t believe I’ve read enough articles to have a favorite. I know there are certain subjects I like to read about, but there are WAYS an author can write about something that will draw my attention to it or make it seem interesting.
    Some of the most interesting articles I’ve read have been in National Geographic. I love to learn about different cultures and different people. Another reason National Geographic interests me is because their articles are actually multimedia packages. There’s always insightful and powerful pictures to accompany excellent and vivid writing.
    Being a college student, especially a college student in this day and age, I’m ashamed to say that I have been swept away in the technological tide. I don’t read as much as I should or want to. But every now and again a random article about fashion, food, music, or culture strikes my fancy. I’m a very visual person, and these subjects allow for either very vivid writing and description or excellent pictures. I think both are needed to make a good article.

  4. Ren Turner says:

    Tom Junod, “Falling Man” from the Sep 2003 issue of Esquire,
    Junod uses his trademark of creative non fiction writing to detail an already gripping story. What is the identity of the falling man? The falling man being the man from the North Tower on 9/11 who decided to jump, rather than wait for the tower to collapse. As he falls head first in a seemingly casual manner, an AP photographer snapped a haunting photo of the guy.
    The writing is phenomenal, the story is unique and intimate to all Americans, and Junod captivates the reader throughout the entire story.

  5. Markus Simmons says:

    My favorite magazine article was written by Lisa DePaulo in the Aug 2009 issue of GQ and is titled “Channing Tatum Won the Lottery {And here’s how}”. In this story DePaulo interviews actor Channing Tatum who she describes as “at that state of celebrity when he doesn’t mind spending time with a reporter.” It’s perhaps this attitude that allows the reader to feel as if they’re sitting in on a conversation between DePaulo and Tatum rather than reading a magazine. The article takes place at a bar-b-que at Tatum’s uncle’s 300 acre ranch in the town of Wetumpka, AL, where Tatum’s mother was raised and he refers to as his “favorite place on earth, by far.” The setting has a lot to do with why I enjoy reading the story so much. Most articles are written from a fancy restaurant in downtown L.A. or a hole-in-the-wall eatery that the interviewee has chosen to seem more “hip” or otherwise improve their celebrity. DePaulo’s exposition seems to do just the opposite for Tatum; that is, the other people mentioned barely seem to recognize that he’s any more famous than the local high school quarterback. The article is great because she successfully humanizes one of Hollywood’s “A-Listers.” The conclusion to the article is perfectly befitting of such a humanizing story: “You see why I love it here, right?” says Tatum. “I do,” replies DePaulo. I can’t help but agree.

  6. Lance Ingram says:

    The Dirty Mind and Lonely Heart of John Mayer by Erik Hedegaard in Rolling Stone. The article was in the Feb. 4, 2010 edition of Rolling Stone and was been a much discussed article between one of my very good friends and I. My former DM editor, JB Clark, encouraged me to read the article and after hearing him talk about the article for about two weeks I went out and picked up the edition of Rolling Stone, and I was blown away. The way the story flowed kept me reading, eagerly anticipating the next page, and left me desiring more after I finished reading it. I have been a fan of John Mayer for about five years now and going into the article I thought I knew who the megastar was. Wrong. The writer did a great job creating the hysteria and size of the musician but did an even better job of telling who Mayer truly is. Erik did a perfect job of describing the loneliness of Mayer and presented examples from his life of how people walked out on him. Besides just showing how lonely the guitarist is, the writer showed just how immature and perverse he is. With songs such as “Your Body Is A Wonderland” readers would think John Mayer would be a sweet, gentleman, but after reading the article it’s clearly wrong. The author followed Mayer’s life through several days and ventured into how big he was (Mayer never waited in a bathroom line because of who he is) and how small he feels (he’d rather watch porn than go out and meet a girl because he’s afraid of failure). Erik also did a great job of showing the trust that he was so obviously able to establish. It was one of those articles that after you finish reading you question if any of it could be true, but the author did such a great job that it’s undeniable that Mayer is the freak Hedegaard described.

  7. Natalie Dickson says:

    I’ve read the “Frank Sinatra has a Cold” and “What do You Think of Ted Williams Now?” articles and was utterly amazed at both Talese and Cramer’s writing styles. What particularly impressed me, though, was how they were able to get so close to such big names like Sinatra and Williams. Neither man would have been easy to get an interview with, much less spend time with, but both worked masterfully with the resources and contacts they had to produce comprehensive, insightful pieces.

  8. Elizabeth Pearson says:

    While I very much enjoy reading and writing feature articles that tell stories of people, their interest, present lives and even past lives, I must say that my favorite articles to read are ones that have an affect on my life and encourage me to act on or become better at something I enjoy. This is one reason I enjoy reading the content of Women’s Health magazine. I love reading about how women have overcome obesity or pulled themselves out of an eating disorder. For me, it’s very inspring. On a different note, I also enjoy reading sports stories. One of my favorites is “Pure Heart” by William Nack that was featured in the October 1990 edition of Sport’s Illustrated. Truly a great story written about Secretariat’s career as a racehorse.

  9. Elizabeth White says:

    My favorite magazine articles are feature stories, particularly features written in parts, so I can look forward to enjoying the next one once I am done reading a section. When I’m in the mood to read a good feature, I often visit the Pulitzer Prize website and read stories from past feature writing winners. The best one I have ever come across is by St. Petersburg Times journalist Lane DeGregory. The three part series is titled “The Girl in the Window,” and follows the journey of a feral child- a little girl completely neglected at birth who eventually finds hope and love in an adoptive family. It is a story of the sad, gruesome circumstances, but is also very hopeful and incredibly well written. I would encourage all of you to check it out!
    http://www.pulitzer.org/archives/8417

  10. Erin Duff says:

    For me, no one article stands out in my mind as being the best. If I’m honest, I don’t really read magazines. I glance at them. However, I know what topics I like to read about. I like learning about different cultures. I like learning about the different food, the people and how they interact with one another, what makes that culture unique and the history that’s behind it. I like learning about different customs and the different ways each culture celebrates important events. I like learning about people and the thousands of ways each person is different from another. I like learning their stories. Magazines that are based on celebrity gossip and celebrities’ lives don’t interest me because, frankly, I don’t care. I’d much rather read about someone’s life who I can actually relate to in some way.

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