Longform Best of 2014

We recommended 1,642 articles this year, from 1,364 writers and 417 publishers. Collectively, they were read over 10 million times.

These are our favorites.

You can read every article on this list in the totally free Longform App. Download it today.

Top Ten

1

Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.

2

On the trail of two women who changed American music, then vanished.

3

In the summer of 1982, three Waco teenagers were savagely murdered. Four men were ultimately charged with the crime. One was executed, two others were given life sentences, and a fourth was sent to death row. They all may have been innocent.

4

How the world’s most notorious drug lord was captured.

5

On medical acting and real pain.

6

Love, loss, and life at 93.

7

Twenty-three ISIS hostages shared months of brutal captivity before some were ransomed and some were executed.

8

What really happened in the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion?

9

The controversy-filled world of shipping pallets.

10

A triple homicide, the alleged involvement of a Boston Marathon bombing suspect, and those caught up in the FBI’s ongoing investigation.

Back to Top

Most Clicked

1

“‘Why does my dad have duct tape by his pillow?’”

3

Nancy and Frank Howard were happily married for three decades. Then he fell in love with another woman, embezzled $30 million, and hired a parade of inept hit men to kill his wife.

4

Tom Monaghan started Domino’s. Mike Ilitch started Little Caesers. Both became billionaires, both live in Detroit, both are now over 75. They’ve made very different decisions about how to spend their fortunes.

5

Bernie Kerik and Jack Abramoff on “Club Fed.”

6

A fifteen-year-old Russian has a shorter life expectancy than a peer in Bangladesh, Cambodia, or Yemen.

8

What do you do when you think a family member is a murderer? Step one: stop eating her food.

9

What happened to McDonald’s?

10

A report from Owsley County, Ky., the poorest county in America.

Back to Top

Most Entertaining

What do you do when you think a family member is a murderer? Step one: stop eating meals at her house.

Followers of Harun Yahya wear drag make-up and practice a “sexed-up, Disney version of Islam.” They also help promote conservative Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s vision of a modern, Muslim Turkey.

How a lawyer from the Valley created a gossip empire.

“Everyone on the boat is racist and nice. Including me.”

Making vision boards with rap’s strangest fallen star.

A trip to The Villages, a booming retiremement community outside Orlando, where the golf is free, casual sex is everywhere, and there is no cemetery.

Britney Spears works Vegas.

John Aldridge fell overboard in the middle of the night, 40 miles from shore, and the Coast Guard was looking in the wrong place. How did he survive?

Tom Cruise did not, in fact, jump up and down on Oprah’s couch.

What it’s like to be the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the Internet.

Back to Top

Arts & Culture

How the midwestern songwriter behind Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. descended into dipsomania.

A profile of the internet’s poet, Patricia Lockwood.

On Let's Be Cops, cop movies, and Ferguson.

An interview with Lorde.

Back to Top

Business

The inside story of Stephen A. Cohen and the biggest hedge-fund scandal of all time.

Shai Agassi had nearly $1 billion in funding and a dream to replace gas guzzlers with electric cars. All he was missing was a plan.

A profile of the highest-paid female executive in America, who was born male.

The anatomy of a collapse.

What the gospel of innovation gets wrong.

Back to Top

Crime

Nancy and Frank Howard were happily married for three decades. Then he fell in love with another woman, embezzled $30 million, and hired a parade of inept hit men to kill his wife.

Sixteen-year-old Kalief Browder was accused of taking a backpack. He spent the next three years on Rikers Island, without trial.

Scott Catt was a single dad trying to make ends meet, so he started robbing banks. Then he needed accomplices, so he asked his kids.

The story of Rick Wershe, an infamous teenage drug dealer in 1980s Detroit who flew in kilos of cocaine and was arrested at 17. Still incarcerated, Wershe now claims he was working with the FBI all along. Was one of Detroit’s most notorious criminals also one of the feds’ most valuable informants?

Available free in the Longform App or with a subscription to The Atavist.

Back to Top

Essays

The author visits the 9/11 Memorial Museum 13 years after his sister’s death.

In the aftermath of rape, a transition from prey to predator.

How Owen came to communicate again.

“I write this with a baseball bat by the bed.”

A grandmother’s tale of the night her first love had to leave town.

Back to Top

Politics

How the GOP took control of state politics in Alabama, leaving black lawmakers — and their constituents — powerless.

A profile of the most powerful woman in the world.

Over the course of twenty-five years, he’s repeatedly toyed with the idea of running for president. With all but his closest apostles finally tired of the charade, even the Donald himself has to ask, what’s the point?

Adriaan Vlok, a former apartheid leader, seeks redemption.

The undoing of Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who resigned in January amidst multiple scandals.

Back to Top

Science

The postscript to a miracle.

When a child has a condition that’s new to science.

What it’s like to be struck by lightning.

Gabrielle Williams is nine years old. She weighs just twelve pounds. The mystery of “syndrome x” and the girls who never age.

Elon Musk’s dreams of colonizing Mars.

Back to Top

Sports

A profile of Chuck Blazer, “the man who built — and bilked — American soccer.”

A profile of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The story of imprisoned boxer James Scott, who contended for the light heavyweight title by staging fights inside Rahway prison.

Tonya Harding, Nancy Kerrigan, and the “why me?” misheard around the world.

On domestic violence and the NFL.

Back to Top

Travel

Along for one of the last elephant hunts in Botswana, where foreigners spend $60,000 for the privilege of killing an animal.

A sumo wrestling tournament. A failed coup ending in seppuku. A search for a forgotten man. How the author’s trip to Japan became a journey through oblivion.

A turn in the orgy dome, half a hit of German-engineered acid, and more adventures on the Playa.

A trip to Turkey for a soccer game between bitter rivals.

A rare vacation in the Yemeni capital, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.

Back to Top

Tech

The dark side of startup life in Silicon Valley.

How violent threats made online go unchecked.

On Stewart Butterfield, the founder of Flickr and now Slack, a wildly popular, difficult-to-describe messaging service designed to kill email.

Behind the nation’s closed doors, with YouTube.

The grim world of outsourced content moderation.

Back to Top

World

Exorcising spirits in the haunted aftermath of disaster in Japan.

Ruth Thalí became an overnight sensation on a game show. Then she disappeared.

The coordinated government attack on queer Russia.

On the coast of Abu Dhabi, gilded outposts of the Louvre, the Guggenheim, and New York University are being built by foreign workers who cannot leave and are paid half of what they were promised.

A fifteen-year-old Russian has a shorter life expectancy than a peer in Bangladesh, Cambodia, or Yemen.

Back to Top

War

When American and Iraqi soldiers were exposed to leftover chemical munitions from Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran, the Pentagon kept silent.

Seven days with Syria’s first responders.

A conversation with one of Russia’s “little green men”: a twenty-four-year-old recruited to fight in Eastern Ukraine.

On the interpreters who worked alongside American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their fates once their services were no longer needed.

How divisions between Nigeria’s Muslim north and Christian south resulted in the birth of terror’s most ruthless movement.

Back to Top