Every week, Longreads sends out an email with our Top 5 story picks—so here it is, every single story that was chosen as No. 1 this year. If you like these, you can sign up to receive our free Top 5 email every Friday.
Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie
Stephen Rodrick | The New York Times Magazine | January 10, 2013 | 31 minutes (7,752 words)
Director Paul Schrader and writer Bret Easton Ellis attempt to make a film with Lindsay Lohan and porn star James Deen—with a budget of $250,000.
Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax
Timothy Burke, Jack Dickey | Deadspin | January 16, 2013 | 15 minutes (3,763 words)
A college football star learns about the death of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day. Inspirational stories from major media outlets follow. But there’s a problem: His girlfriend never existed.
The Price of a Stolen Childhood
Emily Bazelon | The New York Times Magazine | January 24, 2013 | 31 minutes (7,952 words)
Victims of child pornography seek restitution, sometimes from hundreds of separate cases.
Simon Rich | The New Yorker | January 29, 2013 | 20 minutes (18,824 words)
A serialized novella about a pickle maker from the early 1900s who is transported to modern-day Brooklyn.
Justin Peters | Slate | February 8, 2013 | 58 minutes (14,749 words)
Recounting the life and work of Aaron Swartz.
Phil Bronstein | Center for Investigative Reporting, Esquire | February 11, 2013 | 61 minutes (15,479 words)
The man who killed Osama bin Laden leaves the Navy and returns home to an uncertain future.
Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us
Steven Brill | Time | February 20, 2013 | 102 minutes (25,502 words)
An investigation into the complicated and costly world of medical billing in the U.S.
The Rape of Petty Officer Blumer
Sabrina Rubin Erdely | Rolling Stone | February 27, 2013 | 28 minutes (7,041 words)
A Navy intelligence analyst reports a rape and finds herself ostracized. She’s not the only one, and the U.S. military still has not taken serious steps to address a culture that condones sex abuse.
Nora Ephron’s Final Act
Jacob Bernstein | New York Times Magazine | March 6, 2013 | 22 minutes (5,681 words)
Nora Ephron’s son Jacob on his mother’s last days, and the play she was working on that helped her understand her own sickness and impending death.
Kevin Charles Redmon | Washingtonian | March 8, 2013 | 28 minutes (7,039 words)
A man helps his friends during a killing spree in Southeast Washington D.C., leaving five young people dead. He then decides to testify against them in court.
Ladies’ Night—Circling the Bases on Okinawa
Akemi Johnson | Kyoto Journal | March 19, 2013 | 11 minutes (2,782 words)
The clash of cultures on the Japanese prefecture, where locals interact with thousands of U.S. service members.
Marc Fisher | The New Yorker | March 26, 2013 | 51 minutes (12,758 words)
At Horace Mann—the prestigious Bronx private school rocked by allegations of sexual abuse from the 1960s into the 1990s—former students recall a pattern of abuse from one eccentric English teacher.
The Meaning of White
Emily Urquhart | Walrus Magazine | March 20, 2013 | 22 minutes (5,690 words)
After her daughter is born with albinism, a mother looks to folklore for meaning and comfort.
The Re-Education of Chris Copeland
Flinder Boyd | SB Nation | April 11, 2013 | 24 minutes (6,198 words)
How Copeland went from European basketball unknown to 29-year-old rookie for the New York Knicks.
The Hell of American Day Care
Jonathan Cohn | The New Republic | April 15, 2013 | 23 minutes (5,884 words)
An investigation into the abysmal state of child care in the United States.
Inside America’s Dirty Wars
Jeremy Scahill | The Nation | April 23, 2013 | 20 minutes (5,050 words)
An investigation of the drone strikes that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old American-born son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki.
Schizophrenic. Killer. My Cousin.
Mac McClelland | Mother Jones | April 29, 2013 | 33 minutes (8,317 words)
Deinstitutionalization moved thousands of mentally ill people out of hospitals and into the prison system. States are cutting mental-health funding. A look at America’s mental health care crisis.
Depression, Part Two
Allie Brosh | Hyperbole and a Half | May 9, 2013 | 8 minutes (2,000 words)
An illustrated personal essay on what it feels like to suffer from depression.
Katherine Eban | Fortune | May 15, 2013 | 39 minutes (9,759 words)
The inside story of Ranbaxy, a generic drug maker that committed criminal fraud by fabricating data to win FDA approvals.
‘Children Are Dying’
Alexandra Robbins | Washingtonian | May 22, 2013 | 30 minutes (7,538 words)
Hospitals nationwide are experiencing drug shortages, including critical nutrients needed to keep premature babies and other patients alive. Are drug manufacturers and the FDA both at fault?
In the Crosshairs
Nicholas Schmidle | The New Yorker | May 27, 2013 | 52 minutes (13,235 words)
The story of Chris Kyle, a decorated sniper who wrote a best-selling memoir about his life as a SEAL. Kyle’s attempt to help a troubled veteran ended in tragedy.
Jhumpa Lahiri | The New Yorker | June 3, 2013 | 56 minutes (14,192 words)
Two brothers begin to drift apart in India during the late ’60s after one decides to study in the U.S. and the other becomes a Naxalite.
After Newtown shooting, mourning parents enter into the lonely quiet
Eli Saslow | Washington Post | June 9, 2013 | 25 minutes (6,433 words)
Nearly six months after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, the family of one of the victims, 7-year-old Daniel Barden, grapples with what’s next.
Missing Michael Hastings
Ben Smith | BuzzFeed | June 18, 2013 | 8 minutes (2,014 words)
The editor of BuzzFeed remembers a friend, colleague and fearless journalist. Hastings died Tuesday in a car crash in Los Angeles, at age 33.
You Listen to This Man Every Day
Andrew Romano | Newsweek | June 26, 2013 | 21 minutes (5,406 words)
Rick Rubin has produced some of the biggest hits of the past 30 years, from LL Cool J to Black Sabbath. He explains the secret of the creative process.
The Rules of Grieving: They Are Still Boys
John Faherty | Cincinnati Enquirer | June 9, 2013 | 34 minutes (8,504 words)
Grief counselors at Archbishop Moeller High School, an all-boys school, work with teens who have lost loved ones.
‘Why did you shoot me? I was reading a book’
Radley Balko | Salon | July 8, 2013 | 30 minutes (7,500 words)
An excerpt from Radley Balko’s new book Rise of the Warrior Cop, on the militarization of U.S. police forces and the reasons SWAT teams have been able to conduct raids for seemingly minor alleged crimes.
A Life-or-Death Situation
Robin Marantz Henig | The New York Times | July 18, 2013 | 30 minutes (7,557 words)
Margaret Pabst Battin, an expert in bioethics and right-to-die issues, comes to grips with the same questions in her own life, when her husband Brooke Hopkins is in a bicycling accident that leaves him quadriplegic.
The Last Days of Big Law: You can’t imagine the terror when the money dries up
Noam Scheiber | The New Republic | July 22, 2013 | 28 minutes (7,164 words)
The story that will make you reconsider law school. Scheiber goes deep inside a big Chicago law firm, Mayer Brown, to examine the problems plaguing the legal profession—including consolidation, cost-cutting, layoffs, infighting, and further degradation of quality of life.
The Serial Killer Has Second Thoughts: The Confessions of Thomas Quick
Chris Heath | GQ | July 29, 2013 | 43 minutes (10,820 words)
Sture Bergwall, known in Sweden as Thomas Quick, has confessed to more than 30 murders, eight of which resulted in convictions. Heath comes face-to-face with Bergwall as he prepares to make another startling confession.
Taken: The Use and Abuse of Civil Forfeiture
Sarah Stillman | The New Yorker | Aug 5, 2013 | 45 minutes (11405 words)
Now happening in America: Police are using civil forfeiture laws to take money and property from people who haven’t been charged with a crime—and police even allegedly threatened to take their children away if they didn’t comply. In the Texas town of Tenaha, police pulled over drivers and used the roadside seizures to fund an assortment of unrelated items.
Taken: The Coldest Case Ever Solved
Ann O’Neill | CNN | Aug. 12, 2013 | 96 minutes (24,200 words)
In 1957, a 7-year-old girl named Maria Ridulph was kidnapped from her neighborhood in Sycamore, Ill. and later found murdered. No one was convicted of the crime until 55 years later when new evidence, some of it hearsay, was brought into a courtroom before a judge. An investigation into “the nation’s oldest cold case to go to trial.”
Murder by Craigslist
Hanna Rosin | The Atlantic | Aug. 14, 2013 | 39 minutes (9,933 words)
A killer enlists the help of a high school student to target unemployed, middle-aged men by luring them with a job listing on Craigslist.
Rah, Rah, Cheers, Queers
Terry Castle | London Review of Books | Aug. 23, 2013 | 18 minutes (4,517 words)
“I feel dizzy, exalted: recognized.” Terry Castle begins to make peace with her mother and finds joy in the experience of being married in a country where it is finally legal.
The Social Life of Genes
David Dobbs | Pacific Standard | Sept. 3, 2013 | 24 minutes (6,182 words)
How our environment, our sense of support, and our feelings of loneliness can activate or turn off specific genes in our bodies that affect things like how we fight or heal wounds. An examination of the “social science of genetics.”
The Child Exchange
Megan Twohey | Reuters | Sept. 9, 2013 | 91 minutes (22,903 words)
An investigation into America’s underground market for adopted children. Using online forums like Yahoo and Facebook groups, parents often advertise their unwanted children—who have a tendency to have been adopted abroad and have special needs—and give custody rights to strangers in a practice called “private re-homing,” which has little or no government regulation.
19: The True Story of the Yarnell Fire
Kyle Dickman | Outside | Sept. 17, 2013 | 39 minutes (9,851 words)
Kyle Dickman, Outside magazine’s associate editor and a former hotshot firefighter, pieces together the final hours of Prescott, Arizona’s Granite Mountain Hotshots, the elite team of firefighters who battled the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013. Nineteen of the crew’s 20 members would perish.
Voice and Hammer
Jeff Sharlet | VQR | Oct. 2, 2013 | 33 minutes (8,283 words)
The story of Harry Belafonte.
Failure is Not an Option
Mimi Swartz | Texas Monthly | Oct. 3, 2013 | 52 minutes (13,126 words)
As head coach for women’s track and field at the University of Texas, Bev Kearney won six NCAA championships and coached athletes who later competed at the Olympics. An affair with a student forced her to resign and her legacy is being tarnished.
20 Minutes at Rucker Park
Flinder Boyd | SB Nation | Oct. 16, 2013 | 31 minutes (7,805 words)
Thomas “TJ” Webster Jr. is a 24-year-old kid from Sacramento who quit his job as a janitor at a Greyhound bus station for a chance to drive across country and play basketball at Harlem’s legendary Rucker Park.
Now We Are Five
David Sedaris | The New Yorker | Oct. 21, 2013 | 17 minutes (4,277 words)
David Sedaris and his family gather at a beach house in North Carolina, for the first time since his sister’s suicide.
The Girl in the Closet
Scott Farwell | The Dallas Morning News | Oct. 21, 2013 | 78 minutes (19,583 words)
The story of Lauren Kavanaugh, who was locked up, starved and tortured for six years by her birth mother and stepfather when she was barely two years old. Kavanaugh, now 20, is still figuring out how to live on.
The A-Team Killings
Matthieu Aikins | Rolling Stone | Nov. 6, 2013 | 33 minutes (8,309 words)
Did U.S. Special Forces commit war crimes in Afghanistan? Matthieu Aikins investigates the discovery of 10 missing Afghan villagers who had been buried outside a U.S. base. Officials say a translator was solely responsible, but he and other witnesses say there’s more to the story.
Thanksgiving in Mongolia
Ariel Levy | The New Yorker | Nov. 11, 2013 | 15 minutes (3,906 words)
Ariel Levy’s devastating personal essay on losing her baby.
The Dream Boat
Luke Mogelson | The New York Times | Nov. 16, 2013 | 40 minutes (10,160 words)
Mogelson and photographer Joel Van Houdt go undercover on a boat taking refugees from Indonesia to Christmas Island in Australian territory. They find a desperate situation, and disbelief from refugees that the place they are trying to reach is not what they hope it will be.
Animals Were Harmed
Gary Baum | The Hollywood Reporter | Nov. 26, 2013 | 28 minutes (7,075 words)
An investigation reveals that the “No Animals Were Harmed” credit at the end of movies has come to mean almost nothing, and the American Humane Association has faced complaints about its lack of oversight.
The Big Sleep
Ian Parker | The New Yorker | Dec. 2, 2013 | 42 minutes (10,598 words)
With suvorexant, Merck thinks it has created a better sleeping pill—one that could supplant Ambien as the drug of choice for insomniacs. But getting it to market is a long slog, and then there’s the question of dosage.
Invisible Child: Dasani’s Homeless Life
Andrea Elliott | The New York Times | Dec. 9, 2013 | 112 minutes (28,000 words)
An incredible story about the system failing our children—through the eyes of one of New York’s 22,000 homeless children.
The Manhunt for Christopher Dorner
Kurt Streeter, Christopher Goffard, Joel Rubin | Los Angeles Times | Dec. 15, 2013 | 82 minutes (20,731 words)
On the trail of a disgraced ex-LAPD officer who went on a murder rampage after being fired.