The Best Articles We Read in 2019
The cutthroat world of competitive oyster shucking. The mysterious death of a genius coder on the brink of blockchain riches. Caroline Calloway. These are 17 of the long-form articles that captivated us over the past 12 months.
“Prepping for Parole” by Jennifer Gonnerman (The New Yorker)
In New York, volunteers with the Parole Preparation Project have all types of day jobs (law students and lawyers, a Planet Fitness employee, a software engineer, a waiter), but they come together for one purpose: to help people who are incarcerated prepare for their parole board hearings. It’s an eye-opening look at the flaws in the justice system.
“The Secret Lives of Tumblr Tweens” by Elspeth Reeve (The New Republic)
A far cry from the Instagram influencers we know (and sometimes love to hate), Tumblr tweens and teens present much less glamorous versions of their lives. Reeve’s deep dive into some of the platform’s most famous users is a fascinating look at what happens when you hit a million followers, make more money than your mom, lose it all and then turn 16.
“Emotional Baggage” by Zoe Schiffer (The Verge)
This explosive account of the toxic work environment at travel startup Away led to the departure of the company’s CEO. If nothing else it will make you appreciate having a boss who doesn’t humiliate you in front of your colleagues on the regular.
“The Strange Life and Mysterious Death of a Virtuoso Coder” by Brenden I. Koerner (Wired)
Jerold Haas was on the brink of blockchain riches. Then his body was found in the woods of southern Ohio. This in-depth investigation into how he got there is full of so many twists and turns, you'll never be able to guess the circumstances surrounding Haas’s death until the very end.
“Stammer Time” by Barry Yeoman (The Baffler)
Beginning at a convention for people who stutter, Yeoman’s article is an introduction to the complex debate surrounding the search for a cure to stuttering. While some are excited by the process, Yeoman writes, “Some of us, though, have been trying to flip the paradigm, to reframe stuttering as a trait that confers transformative powers.”
“Hysteria High: How Demons Destroyed a Florida School” by Jeff Maysh (Medium)
This wild ride was tied to Halloween, but it’s never a bad time for a spooky read. In this case, a nonfiction piece on the history of Miami Aerospace Academy, a private military school in Little Havana, Miami, where screaming students were said to be “possessed by spirits.”
“After the Storm” by Mary Heglar (Guernica)
In this deeply personal essay, Mary Heglar details how Hurricane Katrina and the murder of Emmett Till (which happened just about 50 years to the day before Katrina hit) shaped her commitment to climate justice.
“I Was Caroline Calloway” by Natalie Beach (The Cut)
Is this story about an infamous influencer who’s been compared to a “one-woman Fyre Fest” the most groundbreaking? No, but when a piece gets the entire internet talking for days, it’s worth calling out on a “best of” list.
“Stories About My Brother” by Prachi Gupta (Jezebel)
When the author’s brother died unexpectedly in 2017 (at just 29 years old), Gupta was understandably shattered. Then she dug into his last few years, uncovering his journey into the world of the men’s rights movement and the shocking decision that eventually led to his death.
“Meet the Rich Kids Who Want to Give Away All Their Money” by Norman Vanamee (Town & Country)
Succession this is not: Resource Generation is an organization founded on the belief that young wealthy people should give away their inherited money and excess wealth. Vanamee’s account of its members motivations and goals is totally unexpected.
“Competitive Oyster Shucking Is Real, Decadent and China’s Best Party” by Noelle Mateer (Deadspin)
Oyster shucking as sport began in 1954 with the first Galway International Oyster Festival in Ireland. In 2018, the first Shucking World Cup was held in China. Read about the celebrities of the sport and the financial limitations that keep some of the world’s best shuckers from ever being noticed on an international stage.
“How the Unchecked Power of Judges Is Hurting Poor Texans” by Neena Satija (Texas Monthly)
This collaboration between Texas Monthly and the Texas Tribune is an eye-opening look inside Texas’s slow-to-change legal system and how, basically, if you’re in need of a lawyer and can’t afford one, you’re screwed.
“Is There Anything We Can All Agree On? Yes: Dolly Parton” by Lindsay Zoladz (The New York Times)
In these politically divisive times, Zoladz argues that there is one great unifier: country legend Dolly Parton. As the subject of a new podcast and the inspiration behind a new Netflix series, the 73-year-old continues to delight the masses—even as she remains something of an enigma.
“Is It Okay to Laugh at Florida Man?” by Logan Hill (The Washington Post Magazine)
Over the past few years, “Florida Man” has become the punch line of a joke. Hill looks into what it’s like to go viral as one of the internet’s favorite memes and explores the moral implications of our laughing along.
“Behold, the Millennial Nuns” by Eve Fairbanks (HuffPost)
After 50 straight years of decline, more and more women are being called to the holy life. Fairbanks’s article chronicles the surprising uptick in women becoming nuns in a world that seems to be heading in a more secular direction.
“Down the Rabbit Hole I Go: How a Young Woman Followed Two Hackers’ Lies to Her Death” by Joseph Bernstein and Davey Alba (BuzzFeed)
Tomi was a 23-year-old from Indiana who moved to California to make it big in the cannabis business. Then she met a hacker who introduced her to a dark world of digital manipulation, suspicion, paranoia and fear. The shocking story ends with Tomi’s body floating in a river in the Philippines.
“The Devastating Allure of Medical Miracles” by David Dobbs (Wired)
When a major transplant surgery is hailed as a medical miracle, the world watches...for about a minute. This article explores what happens after the news crews go away and patients are left with innumerable—and potentially fatal—residual medical issues.