I started reading longform journalism in high school, and it’s one of the reasons I decided I wanted to be a journalist. That didn’t pan out, but I still love a good story. The year isn’t over yet, but I wanted to share my best longform articles of 2023 rankings with y’all — I’ll be sure to update with anything significant published between now and December. If you’re looking for a place to source articles, I love Longreads. It’s updated regularly and always has a vast range of stories.
The 19 Best Longform Articles of 2023
The Delphi murders were a local tragedy. Then they became “true crime.” Vox
I used to say I was into true crime, but I’ve recently grown uneasy with the genre. While some podcasts and subreddits strike a respectful tone that raises awareness, others cross a line and sensationalize. The Delphi murders are an unsolved mystery that is often discussed in true crime communities. This is a really great look at what it means for a story to be embraced by true crime aficionados.
Her baby has a deadly diagnosis. Her Florida doctors refused an abortion., The Washington Post
This story has stuck with me since I first read it months ago. As a woman living in Florida who has my own experience with deadly fetal diagnoses, the cruelty of our state’s laws struck me. I feel lucky that if I’m ever again in a situation with an unviable fetus, I’ll have the option of leaving the state — but that isn’t the case for everyone.
“What Price Was My Father’s Life Worth?”, Time
Remember the news about people taking ivermectin to treat COVID? It mainly served as a punchline when making jokes about right-wing conspiracy theorists but had devastating real-world effects. This article follows a woman who lost her dad after he insisted on treating the virus with ivermectin, and it’s a tragic story.
What Was Twitter, Anyway?, The New York Times Magazine
Is Twitter dead? I suppose it depends on who you ask. I’ve stuck it out on the site and still find value, but it’s not as great as pre-Elon Musk. This piece could easily be described as an obituary for the platform, and I found it entertaining. As someone who’s been on Twitter since 2008, I’m always down to reflect on the website and what it means to us.
What Happened to Heather Mayer?, The Star Tribune
Heather Mayer was failed by the police officers who were supposed to investigate her death — this is an undeniable fact after digesting this article. It’s a harrowing reading, with graphic images and descriptors of sexual assault, but it paints a picture of women who weren’t taken seriously because they engaged in BDSM.
True Crime, True Faith: The Serial Killer and the Texas Mom Who Stopped Him, Vanity Fair
This story is…wild. There’s no other way to describe it because the twists and turns are like something from a made-for-TV movie. Essentially, a woman is kidnapped and gets away from her abductor by praying aloud for him. Again, it sounds like the kind of evangelical movie I would’ve watched as a kid, but it’s real.
What Happens to All the Stuff We Return?, The New Yorker
I am guilty of impulse buying and deciding to return a package — I think most of us are. I’ve gotten so accustomed to free returns that I’m leery of businesses that ask customers to pay a return fee. But this article from the New Yorker has me thinking twice, especially learning that returned goods are rarely put back on the shelf and sold again.
How Columbia Ignored Women, Undermined Prosecutors and Protected a Predator For More Than 20 Years, ProPublica
This story made me viscerally angry, and you’ll likely walk away with the same reaction. It explores how a prestigious institution protected a predatory OB-GYN and still refuses to fully cooperate to help his victims. Women who reported his behavior were ignored. I’ll add that there are detailed descriptions of sexual assault, so I’d avoid this story if that’s triggering for you.
The Great Zelle Pool Scam, Insider
Based on the blurb for this story — a guy loses $31,000 in a Zelle scam while trying to build a pool — I wasn’t sure whether I’d find the narrator particularly likable. But he’s well aware that there are more significant problems in the world, which makes it a delightful read. The level of detail about the man they buy the pool from leads to several laugh-out-loud moments, too.
My Brain Doesn’t Picture Things, Nautilus
Fun fact: I always assumed that “picture this” was nothing more than a phrase people used. I wasn’t an adult until I discovered other people could see things when they closed their eyes to imagine things. Like the author, I have aphantasia. While I’ve learned to live with it, this piece is an excellent look at what it’s like.
The Mercy Workers, The Marshall Project
Before reading this article, I’d never heard of mitigation specialists. The piece gives a fascinating look at a group that helps save people from death row by examining their childhood traumas and providing information to a jury about what may have motivated them to commit a crime.
The Club No School Principal Wants to Join, Men’s Health
After a mass shooting, we focus on the number of fatalities and injuries. What often goes undiscussed is the trauma that survivors endure. This piece focuses on the heartbreaking reality of school shootings in America and how affected principals from across the country lean on each other for support.
60 Days to Find a Job or Leave The Country, Rest of World
This has been a brutal year for tech layoffs. While losing your job isn’t fun, the stakes are way higher for H-1B visa holders in the U.S. because of a company sponsor. They have 60 days to find a new job after a layoff or firing or to return to their home countries. This article follows H-1B workers searching for new work, leaving me thinking about our country’s immigration system.
Police Killed His Son. Prosecutors Charged the Teen’s Friends With His Murder, The Appeal
This is one of my best longform articles of 2023 because it taught me about a legal strategy that I didn’t know existed. A teenager died after a cop shot him, and three of the 19-year-old’s friends were charged with felony murder — even though they didn’t kill him. The article follows a father’s search for justice.
He’s The Trans Son Of An Anti-Trans Influencer. It’s His Turn To Speak., HuffPost
I often wonder what the family members of people who spew hate speech think about them. I guess I assume that most of their loved ones agree, which isn’t always the case. This profile follows a trans man whose mother is a far-right activist. It’s an unflinching look at the human toll of hateful rhetoric.
How Social Media Apps Could Be Fueling Homicides Among Young Americans, ProPublica
Youth homicide rates are on the rise, and social media could play a role in the increase. This investigative piece delves into how young people use Instagram, Facebook, and other social sites to goad their rivals. Too often, these spats get taken offline and lead to tragic gun violence.
They Lost Their Kids to Fortnite, Maclean’s
Who’s to blame when a child becomes addicted to a video game? If I’m being honest, my answer before reading this article would be the kid’s parents. But learning how some video games are designed changed my mind — kids don’t stand a chance if a video game is meant to get them to spend hours playing.
The Making of Tom Wambsgans, The Ringer
I had to end on this one for my fellow Succession fiends. If you’re still mourning that the show is over, this article is just what you need. Matthew Macfadyen explains Tom’s power, making me remember why I love the show so much. No spoilers here, but his character always kept me guessing.
Have you made your own list of best longform articles of 2023? If so, I’d love to know what I missed!