Michael Kruse, an award-winning staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times who also contributes to ESPN’s Grantland, this year gave a TEDx talk and had a story make the anthology Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.  

1. Chris Jones on the animals in Ohio. What a way to start: The horses knew first. And want to know how to make people keep reading? End paragraphs and sections with sentences like this: He saw what was unmistakably a bear, giving chase. And: Then Kopchak saw the lion. And: Next she called 911. And: … and they knew that they didn’t have enough time or tranquilizers to stop what was coming.

2. Michael Mooney’s Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever. Because of the question. Will he or won’t he? I had to know. But also because Mooney made me care about Bill Fong. He could’ve taken me anywhere. I would’ve read forever. And because come on—who doesn’t love a well-told tale with a twist at the end?

3. Kelley Benham’s Never Let Go. Granted, Kelley’s cubicle’s not too far from my cubicle, so maybe I’m not too impartial, but I feel like this is a fact: This story is one of the best things that ran in a newspaper in America in the last 12 months. Three parts. One miracle. Life.

4. Caballo Blanco’s Last Run by Barry Bearak. Classic quest story. Looking for True. Also, in print, it was beautifully designed. Which matters.

5. Patrick Radden Keefe’s Cocaine Incorporated. Details. Details like the ghostwriter composing letters to the mistress. Like the dope-stuffed submersibles floating down the Amazon. The Sinaloa pot farm … on U.S. National Forest land … in the remote North Woods of Wisconsin … surrounded by Mexican farmers with AK-47’s. The catapult! The chili-pepper business! The air-conditioned tunnels with trolley lines! Surprises are such intoxicants. Oh, and this sentence: In the trippy semiotics of the drug war, the cops dress like bandits, and the bandits dress like cops.

Read more guest picks from Longreads Best of 2012.