I’ve recently enjoyed two long reads that are very much worth a bit of your weekend time. The first is just a travelogue, but it happens to be a travelogue written by a smart, observant 19-year-old who was handed the opportunity of a lifetime.
Bill Richardson, former Governor, US Ambassador to the UN and backchannel freelance diplomat extraordinaire, was planning his 8th trip to Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea. He invited my father Eric, who invited me.
“My father Eric” is Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google. He accompanied Gov. Richardson to North Korea to speak about the benefits of a free, open internet. (Raise your hand if you thought that would work.) But his efforts have been completely eclipsed by his daughter Sophie’s travelogue, which is packed full of photos and the wry, irreverent observations of a young writer who is concerned with neither diplomacy nor the red pen of an editor. She writes what she thought, what she saw, and what she felt, and the result is the most genuine, interesting account of a North Korean tour that I’ve ever read.
At the other extreme of professionalism is the New York Times account of the Stevens Pass, Washington avalanche that killed three expert skiers. I’m not sure if this should even be called a newspaper article, because it is so much more than that. It combines Pulitzer-level reporting with state-of-the-art web page coding, resulting in an interactive tale that grabs you by the throat from the first sentence and does not let you go. The interactive components are simply marvelous, including small photos that expand into slide shows, videos, recordings of 911 calls, three-dimensional “flying” maps, animations, and my personal favorite: the map of skiers’ tracks that builds itself as you read.
All of this makes the story vibrantly real — I felt as if I were there, experiencing it myself. And I particularly appreciated the 3-D maps, which enabled me to “see” every aspect, including precisely who was where at what time.
This story is a showcase for the educational possibilities of interactive books. After reading it, I retained far more details than I ever would have from a text-only article, and began thinking about how that could play out in university textbooks, or nonfiction books…or heck, even fiction. The potential is enormous, and I had not fully realized that until experiencing it with this article.
Pour yourself a nice cuppa, get comfortable, and treat yourself to a couple of good long reads. It’s the weekend, after all.