Longform Best of 2015

We recommended 1,453 articles this year, from 1,210 writers and 360 publications. They were read nearly 20 million times.

These were our favorites.

Top 10

1

An earthquake will destroy a sizable portion of the coastal Northwest. The question is when.

2

An isolated Sunday school teacher living with her grandparents makes a new group of friends online.

3

A 23-year-old living in Chile was suddenly attacked by her mysterious roommate. She later learned she wasn’t his first victim. Or his last.

4

Two pairs of identical twins mismatched in a hospital happen upon each other more than 20 years later.

5

A broke agent hustles on the extreme fringe of pro basketball.

6

When he was 2, Strider was severely beaten by his mother’s boyfriend. Today, at 6, Strider lives with his grandparents in rural Maine, in and out of poverty, trying to make it.

7

Thirty-three years ago, a Chicago man was sentenced to death for murder. In 1999, another man confessed to the crime. Today, they are both free.

8

The disappearing women were impossible to miss, even as the country succumbed to one of the worst AIDS crises in Africa. But where were their missing body parts ending up?

9

How the woman who brought Westboro Baptist to Twitter came to question the church’s beliefs.

10

In 1948, a man was found on a beach in South Australia. The mysterious circumstances of his death have captivated generations of true-crime fanatics. Today, one amateur sleuth has come close to solving the case — and upended his life in the process.

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Arts & Culture

1

The Runaways, their manager Kim Fowley, and the rape of the band’s bassist, long kept a secret.

2

Discussions of character with the new Late Show host.

4

The many lives of Josh Tillman, who on the way to releasing one of the year’s best albums was “a defiant child of God, a broke dishwasher, a successful drummer, a Dionysian shaman, a failed poet, a drug-hoovering spiritualist, and a gleeful prankster.”

5

“I probably am mellowing. I’m happy about that. I was a pretty angry young man, but if I were angry now, it’d be like, What the fuck is my problem? I’ve got a really terrific life. It’s so rare to be an artist in my position.”

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Business

1

Thirty-year-old payment processing CEO Dan Price made an audacious decision and was rewarded with viral stardom. But what were his real motivations?

2

The price of nice nails.

3

Activist investor Bill Ackman set out to destroy the multilevel marketing company. But did he wind up helping it succeed instead?

4

When it comes to sweatshops and child labor, your $7 H&M gym shorts aren’t really the problem (or the solution).

5

Pubs are closing all over London. The Golden Lion decided to fight.

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Crime

1

How a 24-year-old nurse discovered Vegas, high-stakes gambling, and serial bank robbery.

2

Her parents wanted Jennifer to be successful. The pressure may have led her to plot their murder.

3

Thirty years ago, Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering fell in love as freshman at the University of Virginia. It was the same year Haysom’s parents were brutally murdered. Each says the other committed the crime.

4

The truncated, violent lives of Richard Matt and David Sweat before their prison escape.

5

She was a Canadian student whose travels brought her to the cheap hotel on Skid Row. The only clue in her disappearance was a strange elevator video in which she peeks and then gestures with her hands down an unseen hallway.

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Essays

1

How the author’s father wrote over 400 pieces of “pirate porn, ghost porn, science-fiction porn, vampire porn, historical porn, time-travel porn, secret-agent porn, thriller porn, zombie porn and Atlantis porn.”

3

“What I had going for me was teen rage, contempt impervious to offers of compromise; the power of the mask capable of turning ice to marshmallow, and all the time in the world, all the ability to sustain it without surrendering.”

4

On the stupid things people say to the elderly.

5

Memories of Outkast and Grandmas and black Southern love.

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Food

1

A minute-by-minute account of what it takes to run a restaurant.

2

The ridiculousness of trying to rank the best restaurants in the world.

3

The most coveted items on the prison menu are salt and pepper packets.

4

It takes a gallon of water to grow a single almond. Yet in drought-ravaged California, hedge funds are racing to plant as many new trees as they can.

5

A map of the Queen of Cookbooks’ rise to power.

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History

1

Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, denies that he was ever in the IRA. The murder of Jean McConville threatened to expose him as a liar.

2

On old Texas newspapers and a pair of men who shaped the story of civil rights.

3

The construction of a modern American myth.

4

An essay on the history and future during a present when “gayness, we are told, is over.”

5

He was one of Israel’s greatest spies. Then he brought his own country to the brink of war.

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Media

1
He leans in, big warm smile, not wanting to correct me, but needing to: “Sorbette,” he says, like a news anchor. “It’s pronounced sorbette.”
2

A series of essays on the rapidly changing media business.

3

Mike Bloomberg goes back to work.

4

Why The Undefeated, a site announced more than two years ago, still hasn’t launched.

5

Critics call it “the radio of pimps and vagina-sellers.” But a popular new call-in show is helping a generation of Afghans navigate a battlefield full of strife and confusion and fear: modern love.

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Sports

1

A beaten man tries to come back from purgatory.

2

An essay on Floyd Mayweather Jr. before the most lucrative fight of his career.

3
4

How three generations of a Brazilian family evangelized for and fought over the sport of Gracie jiu-jitsu as it moved from the Amazon to Hollywood to the UFC.

5

What Gregg Popovich, 5-time NBA champion coach, looks for in players.

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Tech

1

An investigation into a Russian troll farm.

3

High school dropouts are descending on San Francisco with nothing more than a backpacks full of clothes and ideas.

4

The transcript of chats between Silk Road boss Ross Ulbricht and a man he believed to be a Hell’s Angel who agreed to supply “hitters” to carry out 5 assassinations.

5

A profile of the world’s best League of Legends player, a 19-year-old Korean kid whose nickname is God.

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World

1

The story of September 26, 2014, the day 43 Mexican students went missing.

2

A trip to Papua New Guinea, “an island caught between the ancient world and 2015.”

3

A nation strips 210,000 of citizenship and sets the stage for mass deportations.

4

Working on the high seas is always dangerous, but the Dona Liberta has a particularly bad reputation.

5

The musicians of Mali find themselves in the middle of a civil war.

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Fiction

1

On the eve of their daughter’s wedding, a divorced couple is confused by old feelings despite sexual identities.

2

A new neighbor’s arrival highlights old and quiet problems.

3

A group buys the city of Detroit with lottery winnings.

4

Interactions and complications ensue at a Seattle wedding.

5

A story of the very complicated demographics of small-town life.

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Readers' Poll

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Most Clicked

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