Best of 2021: The Stories We Missed

The pieces we didn’t get to — until now.

Since we started the #longreads hashtag in 2009 to share great reads on Twitter, curation has been the beating heart of Longreads. We highlight our favorite stories in our weekly Longreads Top 5, and at year’s end — in what is now a decade-long tradition — we revisit and reflect on the pieces we loved most. Today, though, we’re celebrating some of the best stories we missed. It happens — there’s a lot out there to read, and only a few editors here combing through as much as we can. Thankfully, we’ve got our community of readers (that’s you!) and the authors honored in our Best of 2021 lists to fill in the gaps. 

Nuclear Cats, Vivian Blaxell, Meanjin Quarterly, September 2021

Exceptional essays often form around the connections a writer can make from their particular place in the world. In “Nuclear Cats, Vivian Blaxell connects life experience in legal and health systems with wild and domestic animals, the function of language, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the nature of consciousness…. And its funny. Blaxells voice is addictive!

—Author Briohny Doyle, honored in Best of 2021: Personal Essays

Call Me a Traitor, Kerry Howley, New York, July 20, 2021

Nobody writes more beautifully about the horrors of our world than my New York colleague Kerry Howley. Her story on drone war whistleblower Daniel Hale is the piece I’ll remember most from this year.

—Author Reeves Wiedeman, honored in Best of 2021: Investigative Reporting

High-Rise Syndrome, Sally Wen Mao, The Believer, May 29, 2021

From the piece: “When cats fall out the windows of tall buildings, the worst injuries result from falling out the first to the sixth stories. Cats that fall from higher stories (i.e. the tenth or twentieth floors) sustain less serious injuries. In other words, the closer you are to the ground, the more you reckon with your death, the less time you have to bend your body against the terminal velocity. This is called high-rise syndrome. It is science, not metaphor.“

—Recommended by author Vanessa Angelica Villarreal, honored in Best of 2021: Profiles

He Thought What He Was Doing Was Good for People,’ Chris Outcalt, The Atlantic, August 13, 2021

I generally defer to the expertise of physicians, especially when it comes to the medical decisions made by my elderly parents. Reading this story, I could imagine myself as the protagonist, Marian Simmons, going along, trusting, believing my life was at risk. This story changed my mind by showing me how vulnerable we all are to unnecessary medical procedures in the U.S. health-care system.

—Reader Mya Frazier

Teaching Poetry in the Palestinian Apocalypse, George Abraham, Guernica, September 27, 2021

From the piece: “Maybe it’s not a universal Capital-A-Apocalypse I want to excavate language for, but a lowercase-a-apocalypse that colonialism has imposed on Indigenous and dispossessed peoples since the beginning of the settler project. The tired apocalypse. The assumed apocalypse. An apocalypse that keeps (a notion of) their world alive, at the expense of (a notion of) our own.“

—Recommended by reader Vesna Jaksic Lowe

Explore our Best of 2021 collection