Slate published more than 14,000 articles in 2014, and we’ve already shown you our most popular pieces and our most social pieces. But many staffers fondly remember pieces that express some great aspect of what Slate means to us, whether they were blockbusters or not. Slate Plus asked staffers to share their personal favorites of 2014.
Dan Kois, culture editor, picks “The Secret Rules of Adjective Order” by Katy Waldman
I loved this long fascinating article—or is it a fascinating long article?!?!—on the mysteries of adjective order by Slate’s words correspondent Katy Waldman. I edit Katy, so I’m biased, but I found everything about this piece delightful and supremely Slate-y. My favorite Slate mode is the deep dive into something you didn’t even realize you had a strong opinion on until you started reading it (like so), and this was 2014’s best example, I thought.
David Haglund, senior editor, picks “The Year of Outrage” created by Allison Benedikt, Dan Kois, and Chris Kirk
I remember when Allison and Dan first suggested keeping track of all the daily outrages that bubbled up online and then presenting them in some kind of interactive review at the end of the year. I was sure they’d do a good job with the project but had no idea how good: Their outrage package was not only elegant and eminently user-friendly, it raised crucial questions about how we react to things online—and it provided a genuinely useful look back at the things that really deserved to get our blood boiling and those we never should have bothered with in the first place. Here’s hoping it has a real effect on how people respond to news in 2015. I think it could.
Laura Helmuth, science and health editor, picks “If It Happened There: America Awaits Royal Baby” by Joshua Keating
My favorite Slate story of the year was Joshua Keating’s If It Happened There on how the U.S. media would cover the Clintons if they were in a different country. The whole series is brilliant—it shows how myopic, xenophobic, and superior most mainstream media coverage is of other countries. But this one was my favorite, in part because it describes the United States as “the world’s second-largest democracy.”
Jamelle Bouie, staff writer, picks “Stand Your Ground Nation” by Dahlia Lithwick
My favorite piece of 2014 was Dahlia Lithwick’s February column on America as “Stand Your Ground” nation. Part of this is the sheer power of the argument—marshaling legal and social analysis to show how the United States is becoming a place where citizens don’t have a duty to retreat—and part of it is the prose. The kicker—“The only thing more terrifying than the prospect of becoming a nation of Trayvon Martins is the possibility that we are unconsciously morphing into a nation of George Zimmermans”—is just so, so good.
Katy Waldman, words correspondent, picks “My Dementia” by Gerda Saunders
I really fell in love with Gerda Saunders’ gorgeous and amazing seven-part odyssey through the narrator’s diagnosis and gradual, then rapid, loss of mental functioning. The piece is lyrical and learned, pulling from sources as varied as Don Quixote, the “Billy Goats Gruff,” and the latest Alzheimer research. And it’s chilling. It uses language to expose the unraveling of thought in a way that almost makes words the enemy. I’ve never read anything quite like it, neither in terms of suffering nor virtuosity.
Dahlia Lithwick, Supreme Court correspondent, picks “Why Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death Is So Scary” by Seth Mnookin
My favorite piece of 2014 was Seth Mnookin’s reflection on Philip Seymour Hoffman’s relapse and tragic death. It was an extraordinary reminder that addiction affects so many more people than we’d care to believe and that strength and frailty are just a breath apart.
Joshua Keating, staff writer, picks “Totally Obsessed: The New Age of Cultural Manias” by Willa Paskin
This is one of those articles that perfectly identifies a phenomenon I’ve felt to be true for a while but couldn’t quite explain. The Internet, a medium that was supposed to benefit niche markets and micro-cultures, instead seems perfectly designed to promote zeitgeist feeding frenzies around whatever cultural product—Girls, True Detective, Serial, Taylor Swift—is anointed in any particular week.
Chris Kirk, interactives editor, picks “The ‘How Does Stephen Colbert Work?’ Edition” of Working by David Plotz
My favorite Slate story of the year was the first installment of David Plotz’s Working podcast, which covered the workday of Stephen Colbert. The Colbert Report may be over, but, if you just can’t let it go, the episode is a rare opportunity to learn from the real Stephen Colbert about the painstaking process that went into The Colbert Report’s 1,447 episodes.
Allison Benedikt, senior editor, picks “Lean In: The Movie” by Amanda Hess
Hard to believe, but it was almost a year ago when we all got word that Sheryl Sandberg’s advice book for professional women, Lean In, might become a major motion picture. In January 2014, Slate’s Amanda Hess, too impatient to wait for the actual movie to get made, wrote her own script—and it is FUNNY. Very, very funny. Amanda’s Lean In: The Movie stars Rachel McAdams as Becky, “a gorgeous genius who secretly believes she is garbage,” who goes to work for a tech company called GooBookIn and, pre–Lean In, negotiates her salary down from $100,000 to $50,000. Things start to change for Becky when she meets GooBookIn COO Beryl Bossberg (Sigourney Weaver), who, in the words of Amanda, “wears a MASCULINE, yet FEMININE suit” and “flashes a WARM, yet FIRM smile.” I won’t give away any more plot than that! Just read the piece. And, if you think it’s as funny as I did, you’ll skip the book.
Miriam Krule, assistant editor, picks “Grandmaster Clash” by Seth Stevenson
This Seth Stevenson story has everything: a good-looking champion, an Italian underdog, and a president who was abducted by aliens in yellow costumes—supposedly. Oh, and it’s about a chess tournament. It’s the most riveting, and amusing, thing you’ll read all year.