We Picked Our 11 Favorite Slate Stories of 2013

The inner workings of Slate.
Dec. 23 2013 11:46 PM

Our 11 Favorite Slate Stories of 2013

Some funny, some obsessive, some important.

Slate Favorites of 2013
Clockwise from upper left: an undated photo of Mohamedou Ould Slahi taken at Guantánamo, Linda Taylor circa 1970, an illustration from Eduard Pernkopf's Atlas of Topographical and Applied Human Anatomy, one-strap backpack wearers from Clueless, and a stock image of women toasting with alcoholic beverages.

Graphic by Slate

In the last 12 months, Slate has published approximately 18,000 articles, blog posts, photo galleries, videos, cartoons, interactive games, maps, and podcasts. If I had to guess, 6,000 of them were excellent, 10,000 of them were solid, 1,850 of them were mediocre, and 100 of them were absolutely dreadful. (No, I’m not telling you which ones.)

David Plotz David Plotz

David Plotz is Slate's editor at large. He's the author of The Genius Factory and Good Book.

And then there are the remaining 50 stories, the fabulous 50. Even cynical Slate editors who spend their off days drowning kittens smile when they read these stories. Slate commenters suspend their usual disappointment for these stories, and offer a grudging “Not bad.”

Fifty is too many for a year-end list, so here are 11 staff favorites instead. We haven’t crammed the list with those long stories you felt guilty about skipping the first time. The lineup mixes long and short, funny and angry and heartfelt. Here they are, in chronological order.  


1. The Guantánamo Memoirs of Mohamedou Ould Slahi
By Mohamedou Ould Slahi, May 2

The only first-person account of life at Gitmo ever published by a current prisoner.

2. You Won’t Finish This Article
By Farhad Manjoo, June 6

But you got this far, didn’t you?

3. Don’t Say Goodbye When You Leave a Party. Just Ghost.
By Seth Stevenson, July 3

Do you feel awkward whenever you leave a party? Read this.

4. I Picked My Daughter up at the Camp I Went to 36 Years Ago. Camp’s the Same, She’s Changed.
By John Dickerson, July 22

Dickerson is our chief political correspondent. Where does he get off writing so beautifully about his family? This is about what happened when he picked his daughter up at camp. That’s all. You’ll probably cry. 

5. How Fast Can You Put These Ridiculously Gerrymandered Congressional Districts Back Together?
By Chris Kirk, Aug. 21

Usually gerrymandering is a worthy but dull topic. Not when it’s a jigsaw puzzle!

6. If It Happened There ... the Government Shutdown
By Josh Keating, Sept. 30

How the U.S. media would have reported on the government shutdown if it had happened in another country. The first in a series: The follow-up about how the U.S. media would report on Thanksgiving if it happened elsewhere might be even funnier.

7. Juan Linz’s Bad News for America
By Matt Yglesias, Oct. 2

This piece about why the American system of government is heading for collapse ran right as the government shut down in October. It’s incredibly smart. Also incredibly depressing.

8. The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting So Wasted
By Emily Yoffe, Oct. 15

This piece made readers angrier than anything else we published in 2013.

9. The Eternal Backpack Question, Answered: Is It Cooler to Two-Strap or to One-Strap?
By Forrest Wickman, Oct. 31

From 1965 until 1995, all cool kids carried their backpacks with one strap. Then, overnight, it changed. What happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? For sheer crazy obsessive brilliance, nothing in Slate topped this Forrest Wickman story. 

10. Nazi Science Is Still Haunting Anatomy and Fueling Conservatives’ Worst Anti-Abortion Arguments
By Emily Bazelon, Nov. 6

How did some American abortion opponents develop their bizarre theories about rape and pregnancy? Emily Bazelon follows a dark and winding path back to loathsome Nazi doctors and their horrid experiments.

11. The Real Story of Linda Taylor, America’s Original Welfare Queen
By Josh Levin, Dec. 19

The stranger-than-true story of Linda Taylor, a notorious symbol of '70s welfare fraud who went on to greater, and more heinous crimes.



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.