The 10 Most Impactful Things I Read This Year

Louise Matsakis
4 min readDec 28, 2018

I spent most of 2018 shoving garbage into my brain, but I also consumed a number of exceedingly good stories, which often made me cry on the subway or gasp at my desk. Reading the work of these journalists kept me sane and brought me joy. If you haven’t read these pieces already, I hope they bring you some semblance of happiness, too.

This is a two-part list. The first ten stories don’t fall into the category of “technology journalism,” whereas the last ten do. They are not in any particular order; I just pulled each piece from the Pocket app. That means number 8 is not necessarily any worse than number 2, please read them all!

  1. Washington Monthly — Bloom and Bust by Phillip Longman

New York and San Francisco are not inherently more wealthy than places like Kansas City or Detroit. This is the only coherent explanation I’ve ever read for regional inequality in the United States.

2. InStyle — How Britney Spears Built a Billion-Dollar Business Without Selling a Single Record by Rachel Syme

This story has two of my favorite elements: It focuses on something I rarely think about (perfume) and takes seriously a person that few writers have (Britney Spears). I hope more fashion and lifestyle writing is like this in 2019.

3. ProPublica & Time Magazine—Unprotected By Finlay Young

Finlay and his editors should be given every journalism award for this story. It’s complicated, devastating, and concerns some of the most neglected subjects in western media: female children of color who live in the developing world. It’s not parachute journalism; Finlay took the time to actually listen to the people he met, and uncovered that an American charity was horrifically corrupt.

4. The New Yorker—The Myth of Whiteness in Classical Sculpture by Margaret Talbot

Everything I thought knew about Greek and Roman art before I read this article was completely wrong. The marble statues that have become iconic symbols of European excellence were once painted in vivid colors; they were not originally pure white. But ideas about the supremacy of western culture have buried that reality.

5. The Huffington Post—Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong by Michael Hobbes

Society is still horribly cruel to fat people, in part because inaccurate myths about obesity continue to persist. Michael handled this topic with incredible grace, and his work made me cry.

6. The New York Times—How Goop’s Haters Made Gwyneth Paltrow’s Company Worth $250 Million By Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Taffy is an amazing profiler. This is the best thing written about Gwyneth Paltrow, ever.

7. The New Yorker—How a Young Woman Lost Her Identity

I continue to think about this story at least once a day.

8. Vice News—A Slaughter in Silence by Nick Turse

There are 13 million Congolese in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, the same number as in Syria. Nick is one of the only reporters who took the time to tell their story in a thoughtful, sensitive way.

9. New York Magazine—I Started the Media Men List by Moira Donegan

Moira helped me (and countless other women) realize we weren’t alone.

10. The New Yorker—Why Paper Jams Persist by Joshua Rothman

Please click on this long form story about paper jams, it’s very good!

Here are 10 more stories I loved, this time all about technology:

  1. Logic Magazine—My Stepdad’s Huge Dataset by Gustavo Turner
  2. The Root—The Wildly Unregulated Practice of Undercover Cops Friending People on Facebook by Kashmir Hill
  3. The Guardian—How TripAdvisor Changed Travel by Linda Kinstler
  4. The Atlantic—The Strange Infinities of e-Commerce by Alexis Madrigal
  5. The New Yorker—Did Uber Steal Google’s Intellectual Property? by Charles Duhigg
  6. The Outline—The Rise and Fall of the Company Behind ‘Reader Rabbit’ and All Your Favorite Educational Games by Abigail Cain
  7. Gizmodo—The Magic Leap Con by Brian Merchant
  8. Wired—Captive Audience: How Companies Make Millions Charging Prisoners to Send an Email by Victoria Law (I work at Wired, but I promise this piece is amazing.)
  9. The New Yorker—Why Do We Care So Much About Privacy? by Louis Menand
  10. Gizmodo—On Amazon’s Time by Bryan Menegus

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