I Read Over 500 of Your Emails This Week


If you’ve been reading Now I Know for a while now, you know that I welcome comments via email. In fact, I really, really appreciate it when you all write in. During the first few years of this project, I made a point to reply to (almost) every email I received but at some point that became impossible. I have, however, made a concerted effort to read every single note, and — with a brief exception that I’m about to explain — I’ve been diligent about that. It may take a few weeks, but I’ll almost always get to your notes.

Except for the ones sent from October 2019 to March 2020. 

For some reason, during that time period, I looked at all the emails you sent but, in many cases, only at the previews that Gmail provides. If the email required my attention, I typically read it in the moment, but if not, I let it sit. Most of them were quick notes commenting on whatever I wrote about (or noticing a typo), but a lot were suggestions for future stories or for Weekender selections. I only write three or four Now I Knows a week and share three or four longreads, so I figured I’d get to them sooner or later. And I guess I never did. In the spring of 2020, I switched my Now I Know email address from my personal Gmail account to an account at Hey.com, and those emails you sent me just kind of sat in Gmail unread. Newer ones from life, the universe, and everything added to that list, and a week ago today, I had 912 unread emails in my inbox.

That’s ridiculous, so I went through a lot of them. I’m down to 284 as I write this. (Yes, 912 minus 284 is way more than 500, but “over 500” is a better headline than “over 600,” I think.)  And I know have dozens of more stories to share with you — and have already been sharing. Each of the three longreads below was something someone sent me more than two years ago, and both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s stories this week were from suggestions readers made a long time ago and what feels like a galaxy far, far away. I’m really glad I didn’t just mass-delete these 912 emails; I would have missed out on a bunch of things I wouldn’t have known anyway. And I also notice that you all have a very good understanding of what interests me — the Weekender selections, below, are all about topics that I’ve covered before or, in the case of the first one, something I use a lot more than I should (as made clear from my writing.)

Anyway, please keep the comments and suggestions (and complaints) coming! You can reply to this email or any other, and I’ll read it!

The Now I Know Week in Review

Monday: We Are All Invisible Pinocchios: When we lie, our noses don’t grow… but they do something!

Tuesday: The Marketing Stunt That Vacuumed Up a Whole Company: There’s a Spaceballs joke to be made here but it’s crude, so I’ll pass.

Wednesday: The Lady Who Made a Living By Smashing Booze: The title implies that the protagonist in this one was some sort of grifter, which wasn’t my intent. I think she was motivated by good intentions; whether you approve of her actions is up to you.

Thursday: You Can’t Be Late to This Party: The party happened before the invitation went out, and that was the point!

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads for the weekend.

1) “The Birth of the Semicolon” (The Paris Review, 6 minutes, August 2019). Thanks to John G. for sharing this story on the history of my favorite punctuation mark, as evidenced by how often I use it when I probably don’t need to. 

2) “The Launch” (California Sunday Magazine, 20 minutes, July 2019). Thanks to Michael G. for this story about a new type of apple, and the big business behind it. I’ve written about apples a lot: old cultivars you rarely see anymore, when the government bailed out apple growers, how apples in your stores are much older than you think, and most on-point for this longread, a brief glimpse into apple patents (the fruit, not the computer, to be clear), This is a deep dive into how one company made a new apple, patented it, and launched it commercially. It’s incredible, especially considering it’s about an apple.

3) “The Maraschino Mogul” (The New Yorker, 26 minutes, April 2018). Thanks to reader Adam O. for this, a follow-up on something I wrote a while ago. In 2013, I shared a story about how some New York City beekeepers noticed that their honey was turning red. The culprit: a maraschino cherry factory nearby. The bees had been eating the red-dyed sugar and the dye made its way into the honey. Funny story, but nothing too deep, right? Nope! It turns out that this very same maraschino cherry factory was up to no good, as the New Yorker explores in the 2018 article linked.

Have a great weekend!