Brow Beat

The New Yorker Stories You Should Read Before the Paywall Goes Up

Yesterday, The New Yorker made all of its magazine pieces since 2007 freely available online for three months. After that time, everything will go behind a metered paywall, along the lines of what the New York Times has in place. So what should you read during this three-month free-for-all? We canvassed Slate staff for their favorite New Yorker articles, essays, profiles, and fiction from 2007 to the present. Our annotated list of 30 stories, divided semi-arbitrarily into seven categories, is below.


Perhaps once you’ve gotten through these, you’ll decide to shell out for a subscription and enjoy unlimited access even after this grace period is over.

Hellhole,” March 30, 2009. Atul Gawande provides a groundbreaking examination into whether solitary confinement in the United States constitutes torture.


Eight Days,” Sept. 21, 2009. This exhaustively reported story by James B. Stewart recounts the closed-door dealings that went down after Lehman Brothers imploded.

The Empty Chamber,” Aug. 9, 2010. George Packer offers a sobering take on the staggering dysfunction and obstructionist theatrics that prevent progress in the United States Senate.

Getting Bin Laden,” Aug. 8, 2011. This moment-by-moment account of the mission to get Osama Bin Laden, written by Nicholas Schmidle, is every bit as thrilling as Zero Dark Thirty, and much more rigorously fact-checked.


Netherland,” Dec. 10, 2012. Rachel Aviv delivers a powerful, shocking, and brilliant story on LGBTQ homeless youth.

Taken,” Aug. 12, 2013. Sarah Stillman’s reporting illuminates an appalling, pervasive practice that you won’t believe actually exists.

Master of Play,” Dec. 20, 2010. In this surprisingly rich profile of Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Super Mario Brothers and grandhomme of Nintendo, Nick Paumgarten explores what we seek out when we play.

The Apostate,” Feb. 14, 2011. Lawrence Wright’s heavily vetted and fact-checked reporting on the Church of Scientology, which later evolved into the book Going Clear, offers a rare look into the notoriously secretive organization.

How To Be Good,” Sept. 5, 2011. Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit addresses deep questions of morality, happiness, and suffering.


Dr. Don,” Sept. 26, 2011. Peter Hessler’s profile of a small-town druggist in Colorado is a story of place as well as simple humanity.

You Belong With Me,” Oct. 10, 2011. In Lizzie Widdicombe’s profile of Taylor Swift, the songstress comes off as a genius purveyor of teen-angst in tune form and an earnestly sensitive and precocious star.*

The Yankee Commandante,” May 28, 2012. David Grann profiles William Morgan, an American who fled to Cuba and fought alongside Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in the Revolution, only to be executed by firing squad under Castro’s orders.


Trial By Fire,” Sept. 7, 2009. David Grann’s gripping story demonstrated that by executing Cameron Todd Willingham for the murder of his family, the state of Texas may very well have killed an innocent man.


The Pink Panthers,” April 12, 2010. David Samuels’ account of a band of brazen jewel thieves from the Balkans reads like a sophisticated detective novel.

Iphegenia in Forest Hills,” May 3, 2010. Janet Malcolm turns a murder trial in Queens into a study of crime, the legal system, journalistic ethics, and insular immigrant communities. Like several pieces on this list, the story was later expanded into a book.


The Throwaways,” Sept. 3, 2012. Sarah Stillman provides a crucial exposé about the use of young offenders as confidential informants.

A Loaded Gun,” Feb. 11, 2013. In this thorough and troubling crime story, Patrick Radden Keefe examines the life of Amy Bishop, who killed six of her colleagues in a mass shooting, and 25 years ago, may have killed her brother, too.


Swingers,” July 30, 2007. This widely celebrated story by Ian Parker complicated the popular notion of the bonobo, a type of chimpanzee that had been hailed for its supposedly peaceful, sex-loving disposition.

The Itch,” June 30, 2008. Atul Gawande probes the fascinating medical mystery of a woman whose puzzling itch caused her to scratch all the way through to her brain. Warning: might make you itchy.

The Sixth Extinction?,” May 25, 2009. Elizabeth Kolbert’s consideration of the history of mass extinctions led to a book of the same name, published this year.

God Knows Where I Am,” May 30, 2011. Rachel Aviv’s look at mental health patients who reject their psychiatric diagnoses is smart and heartbreaking in equal measures.


The Running Novelist,” June 9, 2008. Translated from Japanese, this essay by Haruki Murakami chronicles the parallels between a career as a novelist and a passion for running.


Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” Nov. 18, 2013. Ariel Levy’s candid personal account of her brief but life-altering experience with motherhood is devastating.

The Unmothered,” May 9, 2014. Ruth Margalit tenderly captures her experience of grief after losing her mother to cancer, detailing the unexpected ways in which it unfolded.

Noble Savages,” Feb. 27, 2012. One Slate staffer recalled reading James Wood’s review of Edward St. Aubyn and “just thinking that it is impossible to write any better than that.” 

Danse Macabre,” March 18, 2013. David Remnick exposes the Bolshoi, once the jewel of Russian culture and favorite for political patronage from the Kremlin, as an organization struggling to retain its relevance, artistry, and prestige in modern times.*


Home Fires,” April 7, 2014. George Packer takes on the literature of war, the memoirs of veterans, and the power of the storytelling.

Them Old Cowboy Songs,” May 5, 2008. This melancholy story about a young couple on a homestead won a National Magazine Award and appeared in Annie Proulx’s collection Fine Just the Way It Is.

Midnight in Dostoevsky,” Nov. 30, 2009. This short story by Don DeLillo centers on a pair of college students taking a logic class together and wondering about a stranger they see around town.

Guy Walks Into a Bar,” by Simon Rich, Nov. 18, 2013. This Shouts & Murmurs piece this is the best 12-inch pianist joke of all time.

Correction, July 22, 2014: This post originally misspelled Lizzie Widdicombe’s last name and David Remnick’s first name.