William Brennan

I'm a journalist who writes about things like government secrecy, endangered languages, gun violence, international culture, and pets (including dinosaur chickens) for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard, and other magazines.

My latest piece is: “Up All Night,” a brief look at how human activity is inducing evolutionary change in animals all over the world, for the October 2018 issue of The Atlantic

Featured Work

"Worst Roommate Ever"

An investigation for New York Magazine into the tactics—and the tragedy—of America's most accomplished serial squatter. 

"TV's Fake-Language Master"

A profile of the linguist David J. Peterson, who creates obsessively detailed—and fully functional—languages for Game of Thrones and other shows

"The Irish Novel That's So Good People Were Scared to Translate it"

In 1949, Máirtín Ó Cadhain published what is widely considered to be the Irish language's greatest novel. Why did it take almost 70 years for it to be translated into English? For The New Yorker's Page-turner blog, I investigated.

“Hunted By the Mob”

The Italian writer Roberto Saviano has lived in hiding since the 2006 publication of his mafia exposé Gomorrah, which brought him international fame—and credible threats on his life by the mob. I profiled him in 2015, as he lived in self-described “exile” in New York.

“Up All Night”

All over the world, animals have started to become more active at night. I wrote about why, for The Atlantic.

“Julie Washington’s Quest to Get Schools To Respect African-American English”

In 1996, the school board of Oakland, California, approved the use of “Ebonics” as a tool for helping students learn to read. The decision was met with national outrage and quickly withdrawn. But new research by scholars like Julie Washington, a speech pathologist at Georgia State University, suggests an interesting possibility: Maybe Oakland was onto something.