The year—and the decade—is wrapping up, and what a hectic year it’s been. The government shutdown. Natural disasters. The 2020 presidential race heating up. And the news circling back to one place: the White House.
While the headlines could often make it seem like the world was an ever-growing vortex of chaos, Slate’s most popular stories of 2019 are far from uniformly bleak. Our top stories include a mix of styles—reported features, news analyses, in-depth internet sleuthing (hi, Pierre)—and subjects. Many entries on this list present fresh perspectives on some of society’s most pressing issues—technology’s unexpected impact on our culture, unfairness in the criminal justice system, religion’s changing role in Americans’ lives, and the twisty way that politics bleeds into online life.
What follows is a list of our 15 most popular stories, based on the total amount of time readers spent with them. Happy reading!
1. You Have a Moral Obligation to Claim Your $125 From Equifax
“Consider it a part of your civic duty: driving up the costs of data breaches for corporations so they have an incentive to invest more heavily in security.”
By Josephine Wolff, July 26.
2. Rachel Held Evans, the Hugely Popular Christian Writer Who Challenged the Evangelical Establishment, Is Dead at 37
Evans, a progressive Christian writer who wrote about social and political issues in the church, was a leading critic of mainstream evangelical culture.
By Ruth Graham, May 4.
3. This Sure Looks Like Mitt Romney’s Secret Twitter Account (Update: It Is)
A deep dive into the online habits of Twitter user @qaws9876, aka Pierre Delecto, aka Sen. Mitt Romney.
By Ashley Feinberg, Oct. 20.
4. How Joe Rogan’s Hugely Popular Podcast Became an Essential Platform for “Freethinkers” Who Hate the Left
“How did Rogan—the Fear Factor guy!—become the Larry King of the Intellectual Dark Web?”
By Justin Peters, March 21.
5. How Herpes Became a Sexual Boogeyman
In the 1970s and ’80s, American society was consumed by fears of genital herpes. In many ways, it still is. The hysteria can tell us a lot about societal anxiety over sex, morality, and health.
By L.V. Anderson, Dec. 2.
6. The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven Changed Christian Publishing Forever. It Also Tore a Family Apart.
The controversy over a Christian bestseller has largely overlooked the roiling family drama at the center of the case.
By Ruth Graham, July 9.
7. Knotweed Can’t Be Killed. But Can It Be Stopped?
A gardening horror story: a seemingly indestructible plant, quietly hellbent on taking over our backyards.
By Henry Grabar, May 8.
8. The Lines of Code That Changed Everything
Thirty-six pieces of software that have radically changed our daily lives in ways big and small—from the first email system to computerized racial profiling.
By Various Authors, Oct. 14.
9. What Happens if Trump Won’t Step Down?
An interview with a national security expert about how we should handle this potential constitutional crisis.
By Dahlia Lithwick, Sept. 13.
10. The 50 Best Nonfiction Books of the Past 25 Years
Slate’s books team presents an eclectic canon of memoir, reporting, and argument.
By Dan Kois and Laura Miller, Nov. 18.
11. The Pee Tape Is Real, but It’s Fake
We can’t adequately sum up this wild rabbit hole investigation of the infamous and elusive “pee tape”—you just have to read it for yourself.
By Ashley Feinberg, Sept. 25.
12. The Supreme Court Just Struck a Huge, Unanimous Blow Against Policing for Profit
“Rarely does the court hand down a ruling of such constitutional magnitude—and seldom do all nine justices agree to restrict the power that police and prosecutors exert over individuals.”
By Mark Joseph Stern, Feb. 20.
13. Scorsese’s Netflix Movie Bets Big on the Confessions of a Mafia “Hitman” Who Made It All Up
Frank Sheeran’s story of carrying out high-profile mafia slayings seemed too good to be true. Was it?
By Bill Tonelli, Aug. 7.
14. Twenty Years Ago, I Helped Convict Two Men of Murder. I’ve Regretted It Ever Since.
“When we describe our criminal justice system as an enormous machine—one designed to convey young black men into prisons and keep them there—it is Dominic’s story we’re talking about.”
By Seth Stevenson, March 5.
15. John Roberts Won’t Let Mitch McConnell Derail a Trump Impeachment Trial
What will the Senate impeachment trial look like? This is one theory of how things might be run.
By Bruce Ackerman, Oct. 21.