Following up on my just posted best sports writing linked to in 2014 is the below listing of the best non-sports (and non-business) writing I read and posted on in 2014:
"Salvage Beast" by William Langewiesche for Vanity Fair - on Nick Sloane, a salvage master ship captain who comes in when vessels are in distress and works to either save them, recover goods aboard or reduce the environmental impact of a wreck. The story also struck me as particularly interesting in that it brought to mind Susan Casey's great book The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean.
"The Human Factor" by William Langewiesche for Vanity Fair - on the crash of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean, a disaster that's written in this excellent piece as being one that both become more rare with automated flight systems and was caused in part by pilots not being prepared to deal with problems that arise, given due to their reliance on... automated flight systems.
"The Plane That Fell From the Sky" by Buzz Bissinger for the St. Paul Pioneer Press from 1981 - on TWA Flight 841 that suffered severe mechanical failure (as opposed to the human failings from the doomed Air France flight) and then required herculean efforts from the captain to try to land the plane safely.
"The Long Fall of One-Eleven Heavy" by Michael Paterniti for Esquire from 2000 - on Swiss Air flight 111 that crashed into the Atlantic, killing all 229 passengers. Just an amazing piece that made me wonder what it was like to write when just reading it was heart-wrenching.
"The Perfect Fire" by Sean Flynn for Esquire from 2000 - on a giant warehouse blaze fought by firefighters in Worcester, MA and remarkably tense writing that brought to mind some of the best works of authors like Sebastian Junger or Jon Krakauer.
"The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit" by Michael Finkel for GQ Magazine - on Christopher Knight, who spent close to 30 years by himself in the woods of Maine off supplies he pilfered. Knight's story is a tremendously interesting one and Finkel wrote the piece with himself in it as someone who visited Knight in prison. This first-person approach definitely worked in the story and was made even more interesting with Finkel's own back-story as a journalist fired for creating a composite character, and Finkel then having his identity assumed by a murderer. It's a remarkable tale that Finkel wrote of in the 2006 book True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa that's the basis of a soon to be released movie starring Jonah Hill and James Franco.
"Beyond Belief: A Journey to Antartica" by Chris Jones for AFAR Magazine - an almost dream-like read on time in a remarkable place.
"The Brief, Wondrous Life of Zina Lahr" by Grayson Schaffer for Outside Magazine - a piece that sticks with you as a reader, in part because of what the family has had to go through with Zina's seven-months pregnant sister dying in a 2010 car accident and also just because of the description of Zina herself. Really just captivating writing on someone that most people would never have known of if not for this story.
"A Speck in the Sea" by Paul Tough for the New York Times - on fisherman John Aldridge who fell off a lobster boat into the Atlantic. It was also interesting to me that the piece written by Tough who wrote the book How Children Succeed, which I wrote about earlier this year.
"Can You Say... Hero?" by Tom Junod for Esquire from 1998 - on Mr. Rogers and one of the most memorable magazine pieces I've read (for the first time in a prior year and posted online by Esquire in 2014).