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.


War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.


It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Use Facebook to Reconnect With Old Friends, Share Photos, and Serve People With Legal Papers

  News & Politics
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM Why Is Autumn the Only Season With Two Names?
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?