Geoff Van Dyke is the editorial director of 5280 Magazine in Denver, Colorado. His writing has appeared in Outside, Men’s Journal, and The New York Times.

These are the stories that I emailed, posted, and tweeted the most this past year (and filed away in the digital filing cabinet for further reading). They are all remarkably reported, artfully written, and help us make sense of living in what feels like an increasingly crazy time.

“The Long Road to Theater 9,” by Brady Dennis, The Washington Post 

For a story about a mass shooting, “The Long Road” is remarkably hopeful. That it was reported and written just days after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, makes the work itself that much more impressive.

“The Innocent Man, Parts 1 and 2,” by Pamela Colloff, Texas Monthly  

I know everyone already picked this. I don’t care. Colloff’s massive two-parter is stunning in its ability to so smartly and compassionately tell this complicated story of crime, punishment, and exoneration without out being overwrought or preachy or sentimental.

“A Ring of One’s Own,” by Ariel Levy, The New Yorker  

My favorite profile of the year; like all great portraits, this one is actually much more: it’s about sports, gender, sexuality, family, race, and America.

“Cocaine Incorporated,” by Patrick Radden Keefe, The New York Times Magazine

I’m a sucker for a good business story. But it’s especially hard to resist a “business” piece that details the workings of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel and includes lines like: “As a mirror image of a legal commodities business, the Sinaloa cartel brings to mind that old line about Ginger Rogers doing all the same moves as Fred Astaire, only backward and in heels.”

“‘Is he coming? Is he? Oh God, I think he is.’” by Sean Flynn, GQ

Spare, cinematic, brutal.

Read more guest picks from Longreads Best of 2012.