As part of Best of Longreads, our annual labor of love, we pored over all the stories we’ve picked in 2022 to create these year-end lists. The following features all embody the strong voice and excellent writing that made us fall in love with narrative journalism. Sweeping, hard-hitting, and emotional, each immerses us in a time and a place, introducing us to a fascinating set of characters that make for unforgettable stories.

Similar to last year, we asked our featured authors to share their favorite stories across categories. You’ll see their recommendations alongside ours in this list and others to come this month. Enjoy!

Endless Exile

Annie Hylton | The Walrus | February 28, 2022 | 8,160 words

Ayoob Mohammed, an Uyghur man, left his family in Xinjiang to find a better life. While waiting for a U.S. visa in Pakistan in September 2001, he traveled into Afghanistan — and found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sold to the U.S. for bounty as an alleged terrorist, he was held in Guantánamo Bay for four years, and then exonerated. He and a few other Uyghur detainees resettled in Albania, the only country that offered to take them. But 16 years later, he is still trying to prove he’s innocent, and is unable to reunite with his wife and children in Montreal as Canada continues to reject his application for permanent residency. Annie Hylton weaves an intimate story detailing Mohammed’s journey into a larger piece about the complex global politics among nations and the “invisible forces” that move people like pawns. For most of us, family separation and love across borders are abstract ideas, but Hylton’s narrative of one man’s life, told with precision and empathy, makes for an emotional and devastating read. —Cheri Lucas Rowlands

The Assassination of Drakeo the Ruler

Jeff Weiss | Los Angeles Magazine | Jan 13, 2022 | 6,842 words

Categorizing a piece like this can feel like an impossible compromise. Jeff Weiss’ gut punch of a story about the killing of Los Angeles rapper Drakeo spills across nearly every journalistic genre imaginable. It’s deeply reported and essayistic, a nearly inescapable combination when the reporter in question is also an eyewitness. It’s a dispassionate profile written from within the clinch of a genuine years-long friendship. But ultimately, only the word “feature” can accommodate the many ways it plumbs facts and grief with equal acuity. When Drakeo rose to prominence in the city that put gangsta rap on the map, it was because he was the herald of something unapologetically new. But when 113 people ambushed him backstage at an outdoor music festival last December, it was because of something much, much larger. “To begin to understand why it happened,” Weiss writes, “is to grapple with the most corrosive aspects of humanity: the need for revenge and hatred of the other; our capacity for rage, ego, and jealousy. It is the boomerang of racism, police corruption, and the worship of violence. Yet it is also a condition of the spiritual and material poverty that infects most aspects of modern American life. Only here, under a deranged spell of nihilism, greed, and lust for fame, can all the codes and compasses that once governed us become meaningless.” This story won’t make you feel good. It certainly won’t restore your faith in human nature. It might, though, help you understand why an artist like Drakeo moved the way he did. Why he refused to stop fighting, even while marked for death by both the state and the street. Why he stepped out of the car that cold December night, knowing what awaited him — if not immediately, then still far too soon. —Peter Rubin

Two Fathers

Mitch Moxley | Esquire | June 2, 2022 | 5,756 words

Humboldt is a farm town of about 5,900 in central Saskatchewan, Canada. In Humboldt, hockey is a religion. In Humboldt, everyone is proud of The Broncos, the junior hockey team. It was on April 6, 2018, that a lorry crashed into the Broncos’ team bus, killing 14, and leaving the close-knit town devasted. In this essay, Mitch Moxley, while still telling the story of the day of the crash, focuses on what happened in the years afterward: A community left in shock, families grieving, and a high-profile court case where the driver of the lorry, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, is charged with 29 counts of dangerous driving. It’s a heartwrenching read, but Moxley is careful and compassionate in his portrayal of the different paths grief can take you down. One father who lost a son advocates for Sidhu to be deported to his home country of India after his prison sentence. Another father forgives him, writing letters to support his stay in Canada. Moxley’s description of Sidhu meeting the man who forgave him — down on one knee, sobbing — will make your emotions somersault. There is no clear right or wrong here, whether to forgive or not. Grief has no clear answers. A powerful essay that looks beneath the surface of a tragedy, examining the complicated tangle of issues beneath: forgiveness, family, community, immigration, unfair work practices, and tremendous loss. —Carolyn Wells

Gazawood Dreams

Paul Fischer | Hidden Compass | January 11, 2022 | 4,985 words

It’s the rich, cinematic detail in Paul Fischer’s “Gazawood Dreams” that draws you in and holds you captivated. It’s the story of two Palestinian brothers who, despite ongoing violence around their home in the Gaza Strip, just want to make films. Fischer introduces us to Tarzan and Arab within the ruins of Gaza City’s al-Nasr movie theatre, the site where the brothers’ cinematic dreams were born. It’s been shut down since 1987. “They called their studio Gazawood. Its walls plastered in collages of images, Gazawood was like a psychological and emotional bunker, sheltering them from the fighter jets roaring overhead, the whipcrack of rockets firing in the distance, the sectarian arguments in the febrile streets.” Fischer paints more than just a portrait of two brothers trying to make films in a war zone, taking us from hardship to hope and from Gaza to Cannes as Tarzan and Arab persevere, despite violence and overwhelming government oppression. —Krista Stevens

Paul Fischer recommends three pieces that moved him in 2022:

Does My Son Know You” by Jonathan Tjarks for The Ringer

Jonathan Tjarks was dying when he wrote this. We were more or less the same age. He had a young child, I have a young child. I loved reading him, and I loved listening to him — on podcasts and elsewhere. This is a final story about the author’s own death, his fatherhood, his faith.

The Death Cheaters” by Courtney Shea for Toronto Life 

I am fascinated by the death-and-ageing-avoidance grifter industry, and I like anything that sounds like a pitch for a Yorgos Lanthimos movie.

The Dirt on Pig-Pen” by Elif Batuman for Astra

Peanuts is foundational to me and many, many other. This excavates and illuminates the strip’s depth and beauty, in such an intelligent, insightful, precise way.

The Price of Admission

Rachel Aviv | The New Yorker | March 28, 2022 | 10,600 words

When I think about what connects Rachel Aviv’s diverse body of writing, one word comes to mind: complexity. She isn’t afraid of it. She confronts the knotty, the nuanced, and the murky through reporting and language. To my mind, this is what it means to do a story justice. Aviv was true to form with this feature about a teenager who escapes an abusive parent, gets a full ride to an Ivy League school, and eventually wins a Rhodes Scholarship — only to have her success and resilience challenged by the very entities that had celebrated her. The story shines a glaring light on the ways that powerful institutions define, use, and abuse individual suffering. Calling it thought-provoking is putting it too mildly: This story is infuriating. —Seyward Darby

Rachel Aviv recommends a piece that made her think:

How To Recover from a Happy Childhood” by Rivka Galchen for The New Yorker is an extraordinary essay about childhood, grief, nostalgia, and replicating the ways of our parents. In a mysterious and delicate way, the essay made me feel (without making any claims to be providing advice) that I had a better grasp on what it means to be a good parent.”

You can also browse all of our year-end collections since 2011 in one place.