Longreads Best of 2014: Here Are All of Our No. 1 Story Picks from This Year

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All through December, we’ll be featuring Longreads’ Best of 2014. To get you ready, here’s a list of every story that was chosen as No. 1 in our weekly Top 5 email.

If you like these, you can sign up to receive our free weekly email every Friday.

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I Smoked Pot with David Brooks (Jan. 3)

Gary Greenberg | garygreenberg.com | January 3, 2014 | 6 minutes (1,700 words)

A satirical response to New York Times columnist David Brooks, from his “stoner friend,” about giving up smoking pot.

 

Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet (Jan. 10)

Amanda Hess | Pacific Standard | January 6, 2014 | 28 minutes (7,188 words)

Women who are harassed online through social media sites like Twitter and in the comment sections of media sites have found it difficult to seek help from law enforcement agencies.

 

Inside Monopoly’s Secret War Against the Third Reich (Jan. 17)

Christian Donlan | Eurogamer | January 12, 2014 | 35 minutes (8,900 words)

How a popular board game helped flood escape tools into POW camps around Europe during World War II.

 

This Is Danny Pearl’s Final Story (Jan. 24)

Asra Q. Nomani | Washingtonian | January 23, 2014 | 30 minutes (7,639 words)

Asra Nomani, a close friend and colleague of Daniel Pearl — who was murdered in 2002 by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, an architect of the 9/11 attacks — discusses how she grappled with Pearl’s death years later while investigating his murder.

 

Sinners in the Hands (Jan. 31)

Sonia Smith | Texas Monthly | January 27, 2014 | 35 minutes (8,773 words)

The town of Wells, Texas, grapples with a church that appears to be a cult.

 

The Empathy Exams (Feb. 7)

Leslie Jamison | The Believer | February 3, 2014 | 37 minutes (9,369 words)

An affecting essay about medical acting, illness, and empathy.

 

Ghosts of the Tsunami (Feb. 14)

Richard Lloyd Parry | London Review of Books | February 6, 2014 | 28 minutes (7,185 words)

The writer visits a Zen temple in Japan, where he meets with a priest who has been exorcising the spirits of people who had drowned in the 2011 tsunami and taken possession of the living. A story about loss and Japan’s cult of ancestors.

 

This Old Man (Feb. 21)

Roger Angell | The New Yorker | February 17, 2014 | 20 minutes (5,062 words)

On life as a nonagenarian.

 

Ghosting: Confessions of a WikiLeaks Ghostwriter (Feb. 28)

Andrew O’Hagan | London Review of Books | February 23, 2014 | 105 minutes (26,390 words)

Andrew O’Hagan, in the London Review of Books, recounts the disastrous experience of trying to ghostwrite the autobiography of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (The publisher later released an unauthorized early draft of the book).

 

The Murders Before the Marathon (March 7)

Susan Zalkind | Boston Magazine | March 1, 2014 | 32 minutes (8,130 words)

A triple murder investigation led by the FBI is potentially linked to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Clandestine actions by the FBI leave the suspect’s friends and family members with more questions, and a community is left wondering: Could solving this case have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings?

 

Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney (March 14)

Ron Suskind | The New York Times Magazine | March 9, 2014 | 36 minutes (9,118 words)

Suskind explores how his autistic son Owen found a voice through the lessons and sidekicks in Disney films. The story is an excerpt from the journalist’s new book, Life, Animated.

 

How We Survived Two Years of Hell As Hostages in Tehran (March 21)

Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd | Mother Jones | March 12, 2014 | 43 minutes (10,825 words)

Three Americans recount their experience of being held captive in Iran’s Evin Prison after unknowingly crossing the Iraq-Iran border while out on a hike. An excerpt from A Sliver of Light, a co-written book about their ordeal.

 

Is There Hope for the Survivors of the Drug Wars? (March 28)

Monica Potts | American Prospect | March 24, 2014 | 32 minutes (8,059 words)

Men from Baltimore’s poor neighborhoods are turning to a family and job training center to keep themselves off the street dealing drugs and rebuild their lives after spending time in jail.

 

The Murders at the Lake (April 4)

Michael Hall | Texas Monthly | March 28, 2014 | 99 minutes (24,844 words)

In 1982 three teenagers were found savagely stabbed to death near a lake in Waco, Texas. Four men were found guilty and two were sentenced to death. Were they guilty? Hall spent a year reporting this five-part series for Texas Monthly.

 

The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates (April 11)

David Bernstein, Noah Isackson | Chicago Magazine | April 7, 2014 | 27 minutes (6,980 words)

The city’s drop in crime has been nothing short of miraculous. Here’s what’s behind the unbelievable numbers.

 

For Richard Family, Loss and Love (April 18)

David Abel | Boston Globe | April 13, 2014 | 54 minutes (13,683 words)

A family forever changed by the Boston Marathon bombings, one year later.

 

No Exit: ‘Your Feeling of Autonomy Is a Fantasy’ (April 25)

Gideon Lewis-Kraus | Wired | April 23, 2014 | 42 minutes (10,559 words)

A remarkable inside look at the hope, desperation, and financial realities for startups and founders working in San Francisco and Silicon Valley.

 

The Hunt for El Chapo (May 2)

Patrick Radden Keefe | The New Yorker | April 28, 2014 | 39 minutes (9,825 words)

How the notorious leader of the Sinoloa Drug Cartel was captured.

 

The Day I Started Lying to Ruth (May 9)

Peter B. Bach | New York Magazine | May 6, 2014 | 24 minutes (6,012 words)

A cancer doctor, on losing his own wife to cancer.

 

The Undefeated Champions of Defeat City (May 16)

Kathy Dobie | GQ | May 13, 2014 | 25 minutes (6,333 words)

A Little League is helping transform a city plagued by drugs, addiction and violence.

 

The Worst Day Of My Life Is Now New York’s Hottest Tourist Attraction (May 23)

Steve Kandell | BuzzFeed | May 20, 2014 | 8 minutes (2,224 words)

Nearly 13 years after his sister’s death, Kandell visits the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

 

For Hire: Dedicated Young Man With Down Syndrome (May 30)

Michael Bérubé | Al Jazeera America | May 25, 2014 | 14 minutes (3,549 words)

A father reflects on his son’s job search.

 

Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant? (June 6)

Wells Tower | GQ | June 4, 2014 | 32 minutes (8,196 words)

The writer joins a Texas couple on an elephant hunt in Botswana and questions whether a regulated hunting industry could help the elephant population in the country.

 

Life, After (June 13)

Miles O’Brien | New York magazine | June 12, 2014 | 10 minutes (2,680 words)

TV reporter Miles O’Brien’s first-person account of what it’s like to lose your arm.

 

Mother’s Mind (June 20)

Pam Belluck | The New York Times | June 16, 2014 | 22 minutes (5,482 words)

A look at new findings on postpartum depression and maternal mental illness.

 

A Bitter End (June 27)

Emily Guendelsberger | Philadelphia City Paper | June 26, 2014 | 50 minutes (12,732 words)

A daughter gets caught up in a right-to-die case after she hands morphine to her 92-year-old father, who, for a long time, had expressed a desire to die.

 

Sixty-nine Days (July 3)

Héctor Tobar | The New Yorker | June 30, 2014 | 58 minutes (14,378 words)

An in-depth account of how the Chilean miners survived during the 2010 Copiapó mining accident.

 

Ghosts of Greenwood (July 11)

Nikole Hannah-Jones | ProPublica | July 8, 2014 | 27 minutes (6,891 words)

“Freedom Summer baptized Mississippi as part of the nation,” Moses said. “It was no longer a rule unto itself.” On Mississippi, race and civil rights—then and now.

 

Wrong Answer (July 18)

Rachel Aviv | The New Yorker | July 14, 2014 | 35 minutes (8,962 words)

Facing increased pressure to perform on standardized tests, a group of Atlanta teachers begin cheating.

 

Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing (July 25)

Meredith Broussard | The Atlantic | July 21, 2014 | 12 minutes (3,091 words)

A data journalism professor’s experiment reveals a very big problem with standardized tests at the schools in Philadelphia.

 

The New Face of Richard Norris (Aug. 1)

Jeanne Marie Laskas | GQ | July 28, 2014 | 34 minutes (8,518 words)

Richard Norris became disfigured after he accidentally shot himself in the face when he was 22. He successfully received a full face transplant with the help of Eduardo Rodriguez, a Baltimore reconstructive facial surgeon, but life after the surgery has brought up some unexpected burdens.

 

The Abortion Ministry of Dr. Willie Parker (Aug. 8)

John H. Richardson | Esquire | July 30, 2014 | 33 minutes (8,280 words)

A profile of Dr. Willie Parker, who tends to the needs of women at the one abortion clinic open in Mississippi. Last week a federal appeals panel voted to block a Mississippi law that would have shut down the clinic.

 

You’re 16. You’re a Pedophile. You Don’t Want to Hurt Anyone. What Do You Do Now? (Aug. 15)

Luke Malone | Matter | Aug. 11, 2014 | 331 minutes (7,911 words)

Reporter Luke Malone talks to a teenager who, after realizing he is a pedophile, seeks help and starts a support group for people like him. “I asked them if they knew anyone like that, and a few weeks later I received an email. ‘My name is Adam,’ it read. ‘I’m 18 and non-exclusively attracted to boys and girls of all ages (particularly very young ones). I am the leader of a support group for non-offending pedophiles around my age… I would be very happy to talk with you.’” Warning: This story includes graphic details of child abuse.

 

The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit (Aug. 22)

Michael Finkel | GQ | August 20, 2014 | 30 minutes (7,500 words)

Finkel tracks down the man known as the North Pond Hermit: Christopher Thomas Knight lived for nearly 30 years in a secret camp in the woods of Central Maine, stealing food and supplies from nearby homes. “I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.”

 

The Boy with Half a Brain (Aug. 29)

Michael Rubino | Indianapolis Monthly | Aug. 26, 2014 | 19 minutes (4,866 words)

Jeff and Tiernae Buttars made a difficult decision to have a portion of their son’s brain surgically removed to eliminate his seizures. The decision changed all of their lives.

 

A Diagnosis (Sept. 5)

Jenny Diski | London Review of Books | Sept. 1, 2014 | 16 minutes (4,133 words)

“I’m a writer. I’ve got cancer. Am I going to write about it? How am I not?”

 

The Trans-Everything CEO (Sept. 12)

Lisa Miller | New York magazine | Sept. 7, 2014 | 28 minutes (7,016 words)

A profile of futurist, entrepreneur, and philosopher Martine Rothblatt, the highest-paid female executive in America, who was born male.

 

Whoever Saves a Life (Sept. 19)

Matthieu Aikins | Matter | Sept. 15, 2014 | 37 minutes (9,338 words)

Aikins follows an urban rescue team in Syria: “The members of Civil Defense were attendants to the city’s trauma, one of the few first responders left to care for the civilians caught on the front lines in Syria’s largest city. They evacuated the injured, cleaned up the bodies, and fought fires. But what they were best known for — what they had become famous for in Syria and abroad — were the dramatic rescues, the lives they pulled from under the rubble.”

 

The Secret Life of Max Stern (Sept. 26)

Sara Angel | The Walrus | Sept. 22, 2014 | 21 minutes (5,272 words)

The Nazis stole his family’s paintings. He emigrated to Canada and became one of the country’s foremost gallery owners. And now, twenty years after his death, he is changing the rules of restitution.

 

Before the Law (Oct. 3)

Jennifer Gonnerman | The New Yorker | Sept. 29, 2014 | 28 minutes (7,016 words)

A story about a crippled legal system: Sixteen-year-old Kalief Browder spent three years imprisoned on Rikers Island on robbery charges with shaky evidence. His case never went to trial.

 

Jackie’s Goodbye (Oct. 10)

Tiffany Stanley | National Journal | Oct. 7, 2014 | 40 minutes (10,103 words)

A heartbreaking account of the emotional and financial toll of Alzheimer’s, from the perspective of a woman who must care for her aunt.

 

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons (Oct. 17)

C.J. Chivers | The New York Times | Oct. 14, 2014 | 40 minutes (10,046 words)

A New York Times investigation into the chemical weapons found in Iraq, and the U.S.’s failure to care for soldiers who were exposed to it.

 

By Noon They’d Both Be in Heaven (Oct. 24)

Hanna Rosin | New York Magazine | Oct. 19, 2014 | 30 minutes (7,708 words)

The story of Kelli Stapleton, who attempted to kill her autistic daughter.

 

The Horror Before the Beheadings (Oct. 31)

Rukmini Callimachi | The New York Times | October 25, 2014 | 20 minutes (5,247 words)

What ISIS hostages endured in Syria.

 

The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare (Nov. 7)

Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone | Nov. 6, 2014 | 24 minutes (6,027 words)

Whistleblower Alayne Fleischmann wants JPMorgan Chase held accountable for massive securities fraud. She says Chase and the Justice Department have taken actions to silence her.

 

Dear Kate (Nov. 14)

Nancy Comiskey | Indianapolis Monthly | November 14, 2014| 26 minutes (6,625 words)

A parent’s lessons on living with grief, 10 years after her daughter died.

 

A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA (Nov. 21)

Sabrina Rubin Erdely | Rolling Stone | Nov. 21, 2014 | 37 minutes (9,296 words)

A freshman at University of Virginia is brutally assaulted by seven men at a frat party. When she tries to report it, she discovers a culture that is complicit in covering it up. Update: Rolling Stone’s editors are now raising questions about events described in this story—but exactly which parts remains unclear.

 

The Disgrace of Our Criminal Justice (Nov. 28)

David Cole | The New York Review of Books | November 28, 2014 | 15 minutes (3,770 words)

Cole examines three books that highlight what is wrong with America’s justice system, and why incarceration rates are so high.

 

My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK (Dec. 5)

Kiese Laymon | Gawker | November 29, 2014 | 11 minutes (2,939 words)

A college professor on race, prejudice and making his way in the world.

 

Giving Away ‘Anatoly Z.’ (Dec. 12)

Lisa Belkin | Yahoo News | Dec. 10, 2014 | 30 minutes (7,625 words)

The story of a boy’s un-adoption. The original family struggles with whether it made the right decision, while a new family tries to succeed in helping him.

 

The Samantha Power Doctrine (Dec. 19)

Evan Osnos | New Yorker | Dec. 14, 2014 | 51 minutes (12,752 words)

Can UN Ambassador Samantha Power reconcile her ardent human-rights interventionism with the pragmatism necessary to guide American policy?