Longreads Best of 2016: Our 25 Most Popular Exclusives of the Year

Thanks to funding from Longreads Members and a generous match from WordPress.com, we were able to publish another fantastic year of original reporting, essays, book excerpts, and exclusives in partnership with other publishers and some of our favorite writers. If you like what we do and want to support us, considering becoming a Longreads Member today.

Below are the 25 most popular exclusives we published this year. You can see all of our stories here

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1. Your Phone Was Made By Slaves: A Primer on the Secret Economy (Kevin Bales)

bales cover edit

On the new triangle trade, and the surprising connection between modern slavery and ecological disaster.

2. STAT: My Daughter’s MS Diagnosis and the Question My Doctors Couldn’t Answer (Maria Bustillos)

"Nearly 24 years later and still just that crazy about my kid." Photos courtesy of the author.

“Nearly 24 years later and still just that crazy about my kid.” Photos courtesy of the author.

Is there a dietary treatment for multiple sclerosis? And if so, why is the medical establishment ignoring published academic research that started in the 1950s proving it?

3. The Life and Murder of Stella Walsh, Intersex Olympic Champion (Rob Tannenbaum)

Stella Walsh, training in Cleveland, April 1, 1932 for the Olympic games. (AP Photo)

Stella Walsh, training in Cleveland, April 1, 1932 for the Olympic games. (AP Photo)

Eighty years ago, in Berlin, Stella Walsh won her second Olympic medal. Decades later, Walsh’s murder and subsequent autopsy threw the legacy of track’s first female superstar into turmoil.

4. Borges and $: The Parable of the Literary Master and the Coin (Elizabeth Hyde Stevens)

Thirty years ago, the world lost a great literary mind—the Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. Today, Elizabeth Hyde Stevens revisits the financial conditions that produced this life of pure literature, finding unexpected hope in the darkest period of Borges’ forgotten past.

5. Truther Love (Sabine Heinlein)

Illustration by: Kjell Reigstad

Illustration by: Kjell Reigstad

Uncovering the dating habits of conspiracy theorists and the challenges they face.

6. My Dinner With Rasputin (Teffi)

Writing in 1924, Teffi, a Russian writer in exile known for her wit, recalls a series of humorous (but increasingly ominous) encounters with the trusted friend of the last Tsar of Russia.

7. Playing with History: What Sid Meier’s Video Game Empire Got Right and Wrong About ‘Civilization’ (Kanishk Tharoor and Kill Screen)

civilization-vi-distant-view

Twenty-five years ago, Meier turned human history into a video game, and sold 33 million copies along the way. With the launch of Civilization VI, Kanishk Tharoor takes a closer look at its impact.

8. Women Were Included in the Civil Rights Act as a Joke (Gillian Thomas)

Airline advertisements give a general idea of women's role in the workplace in the 1960s. Via Flickr.

Airline advertisements give a general idea of women’s role in the workplace in the 1960s. Via Flickr.

And a racist joke, at that. But working women and black civil rights lawyers had the last laugh when they brought women’s workplace rights to the courts and won.

9. A Loaded Gun: The Real Emily Dickinson (Jerome Charyn)

She was less like a recluse, more like a bomb going off.

10. Mass Extinction: The Early Years (Ashley Dawson)

American bison skulls, mid-1870s. Via Wikimedia Commons.

American bison skulls, mid-1870s. Via Wikimedia Commons.

A quick rundown of the ecocidal empires that came before us.

11. “BRAAAM!”: The Sound that Invaded the Hollywood Soundtrack (Adrian Daub)

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad.

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad.

How Inception changed the way we listen to movies.

12. Home Is Where the Fraud Is (David Dayen)

Banksy. Crayon House Foreclosure, East Los Angeles. Via Occupy.com

Banksy. Crayon House Foreclosure, East Los Angeles. Via Occupy.com

At the height of the housing crisis, one woman’s bureaucratic odyssey to discover who really owns her home leads her to startling revelations about the housing market.

13. A Fish So Coveted People Have Smuggled, Kidnapped, and Killed For It (Emily Voigt)

Photo: Qian Hu

Photo: Qian Hu

The Asian arowana or “dragon fish” is protected by the Endangered Species Act and illegal to own in the U.S. But the tropical fish’s status symbol among wealthy buyers has made it the object of a thriving black market.

14. On Female Friendship and the Sisters We Choose for Ourselves (Chloe Caldwell)

(Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives)

(Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives)

Essayist Chloe Caldwell on the “sisters” we choose for ourselves, and her close relationship with her surrogate younger sister, Cheryl Strayed’s daughter Bobbi.

15. Can an Outsider Ever Truly Become Amish? (Kelsey Osgood and Atlas Obscura)

Two sisters in their traditional, everyday, Lancaster County Amish attire. Photo: Tessa Smucker

Two sisters in their traditional, everyday, Lancaster County Amish attire. Photo: Tessa Smucker

One of the rarest religious experiences you can have in America is to join the Plain.

16. What Ever Happened to ‘The Most Liberated Woman in America’? (Alex Mar and Atlas Obscura)

All Illustrations by Michael Tunk

All Illustrations by Michael Tunk

Barbara Williamson co-founded one of the most famous radical sex experiments in America. Then she got wild.

17. Why I Hate My Dog (Richard Gilbert)

Photo (and all photos below) courtesy of Richard Gilbert

Photo (and all photos below) courtesy of Richard Gilbert

In this lighthearted portrait of his family’s rescue dog, author Richard Gilbert explores the larger bond between human and animal.

18. The Secret Nazi Attempt to Breed the Perfect Horse (Elizabeth Letts)

Commemorative stamp for the Olympic summer games in Berlin. Via  Wikimedia Commons

Commemorative stamp for the Olympic summer games in Berlin. Via
Wikimedia Commons

The bestselling author of ‘The Eighty Dollar Champion’ describes the Nazis’ secret stud farm, where dubious visionaries imagined a breed of perfect (and perfectly white) horse.

19. What Ever Happened to Planet Vulcan? (Thomas Leveson)

An orrery, or mechanical model of the solar system. Via Wikimedia Commons.

An orrery, or mechanical model of the solar system. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The story of the planet closest to our sun, aptly named Vulcan, which accidentally existed for half a century.

20. Our Well-Regulated Militia (Alexander Chee)

Illustration by: Kjell Reigstad

Illustration by: Kjell Reigstad

Is the conversation around guns in this country really about the right to bear arms? Author Alexander Chee interrogates the proliferation of firearms and growing gun culture in the U.S., the complicated, polarized politics around gun control—and the notion that with more guns, we are somehow safer.

21. The Invisible Forces Behind All of Our Decision-Making (Jessica Gross)

Photo: Deborah Feingold

Photo: Deborah Feingold

Author Jonah Berger explains when and why we follow the herd.

22. When the Messiah Came to America, She Was a Woman (Chris Jennings)

Robert Owen's vision of New Harmony, Indiana.  Via  Wikimedia Commons.

Robert Owen’s vision of New Harmony, Indiana. Via Wikimedia Commons.

On the rise and fall of American utopia.

23. The Mystery of Carl Miller (Sarah Miller)

roland miller, 1945_ (1)

What if your last name is just the word that comes after your first name?

24. A Conversation With Dan Ariely About What Shapes Our Motivations (Jessica Gross)

Photo Credit: May R.

Photo Credit: May R.

Dan Ariely on building an understanding of how humans behave from the ground up.

25. Kidnapping a Nazi General: Patrick Leigh Fermor’s Perfect Heist

W. Stanley Moss's drawing of the Kreipe abduction. Via Wikimedia Commons .

W. Stanley Moss’s drawing of the Kreipe abduction. Via Wikimedia Commons .

Travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor recalls his most dangerous journey.


See more from our Best of 2016 series