Bill Gurley: Favorite Longreads of 2012

Benchmark Capital general partner Bill Gurley wrote “Longreads+Instapaper is basically ‘time-shifting’ for the written word. I am an addict.” For us, Longreads and Instapaper are essential tools in our quest for high signal – low noise. Together they are especially powerful. The “best Longreads of 2012” adds savvy selections by guest authors, where you will be served many hours of delight – whatever your tastes.

Bill Gurley has contributed his own favorite long reads, beginning with this introduction:

Over the past several years, I have become a huge fan of Mark Armstrong’s web service, Longreads. For those of you that don’t know, Longreads is a Twitter handle (@longreads), and a web service ( that points to the best long form content on the Internet. At its core, it’s an amazingly effective editorial and discovery engine. Combined with a product like Instapaper, it creates an online/offline reading experience that feels purpose built for a tablet world. Many short form articles can be read quickly while you browse through your Twitter feed. But the really great articles that make you think and help you learn (the ones that use Daniel Kahneman’s System 2), require more dedicated reading time. Longreads+Instapaper is basically ‘time-shifting’ for the written word. I am an addict.

Several others have posted their favorite longreads of the year (you can find them here).  Unfortunately, I did not keep track as much as I should have. Next year I aim to do better. With that caveat, here are a few of my favorite long-form articles from last year.

I almost always appreciate Bill Gurley’s recommendations, so not surprisingly I found three of Bill’s choices on the podium for our best-of-the-best:

Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust, by Juliet Eilperin (Wired Magazine)

Ambition, passion, intelligence, and a boat-load of money can only take you so far. You still need physics and economics on your side. Wired Magazine often surprises with a contrarian viewpoint, and in this case published an article everyone else was afraid to write. If you want your venture to succeed, it must succeed as a business – eventually.

Is Sugar Toxic, by Gary Taubes (New York Times Magazine)

Technically, this article was published in 2011, but that should not stop it from being further distributed. Gary Taubes, as well as others, have uncovered the real cause of America’s obesity. Michael Bloomberg may look silly trying to outlaw mega-sodas, but at the very least he is calling attention to the proper villain. This is an amazing lesson in how everyone can get it wrong and wrong for decades – the scientists, the government, and the doctors

Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek by John Branch (New York Times Magazine)

This is perhaps the most interesting longread of the year. The subject matter is backcountry skiing, but that has little to do with Branch’s phenomenal achievement. The concept of computer generated ‘multi-media’ dates back to the early 1990’s, which is the first time we could imagine text, pictures, audio, and video all combined in a single content offering. However, most efforts over the past 20 years appear to be a technology looking for a solution – there is no flow. Snow Fall may be seminal accomplishment in multimedia where the insertion of each media type builds upon the story in a remarkably compelling way. I wouldn’t be surprised if this article takes on historical journalistic importance. Bonus: Q&A with the author.

Your comments on your own favorites will help us prioritize what to read next. Enjoy!