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.


The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?


“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.


Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.