Medium employees, by and large, are readers. It’s one of the reasons, if not the reason, we work here. The idea of building a platform that helps deepen people’s understanding of the world through quality writing — lyrical, literary, journalistic, practical, technical, personal, and pretty much any other kind you can think of — isn’t just a job. It’s also, if you’ll forgive the blatant earnestness, a labor of love.
You may have heard of something called Artificial Intelligence. There was a headline or two about it this year. How the benefits and costs of that technology will play out remains to be seen. But here’s something 200,000 years of the history of our species has already proven beyond a doubt: Human intelligence is pretty cool.
With that in mind, and with the current human year drawing to a close, we asked Medium staffers to share their favorite stories of 2023. Here, in alphabetical order by last name, are their responses:
I usually read stories related to my job, but I stumbled upon this story. It is about grief as a parent. As it is time to reflect on my reads and pick the best one, I don’t see any other topping it as it is the most sincere and touching piece I can think of.
— Sophie Aguado, Product Designer
Fascinating piece detailing how Netflix turned around its declining numbers last year to become the most profitable streaming service. How did they do it? International diversifications (that’s why I’ve been seeing so many foreign movies!), having a mix of original and licensed shows and other tactics mentioned in this story.
— Nouf Aljowaysir, Product Designer
Marlon takes us into his world as he describes his experience starting the first Black-owned investment firm in Arkansas. He maintains his grit and perseverance despite facing entrepreneurial struggles, racism, and becoming the primary suspect in an international money-laundering investigation. His storytelling is riveting, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days.
— CJ Baker, Senior Accountant
There were many thousands of stories about ChatGPT this year but this humorous series of single panel comics invented by ChatGPT and illustrated by Chaz Hutton captured both the fast progress of AI and the uncanny valley it has yet to cross. Might need an update now that it can draw, though.
— Buster Benson, Product Manager
I loved this story about the experience of losing a parent. When my dad died, it felt like hitting the fast-forward button on life. Growing up is realizing there’s no plan laid out for you. You have to navigate a chaotic world and figure things out. But it’s okay for that to feel confusing and hard. That part of the story especially resonated with me, and I’m sure many other readers. I’m always inspired when people share vulnerable stories about things that are universal in human life. Pretty cool that it happens so much on Medium.
— Alex Benzer, Director, Product
A straightforward article about migrating a large codebase from Dagger to Hilt with clear samples and based on a real experience. (Actually this article saved me, like, a week of work.)
— Alexandre Bruneau, Android Engineer
A very interesting deep dive into psychology and how video games as a medium are a unique storytelling device.
— Adrian Castillejos, Staff Software Engineer
This article is about the release of Pandas 2.0, and it dives into the nitty-gritty of why it’s a big deal. Medium’s a go-to for tech know-how, especially in data science, always serving up fresh, deep-dive content that’s engaging and practical for folks in the field.
— gustavo [Chavez], Senior Data Scientist
Parenting is very important because it has such a direct effect on children as they grow and develop. After I read this article, I realized how much the way we parent really matters. I try to do parenting my best without even knowing my styles and what’s missing. The author has done good research on different parenting styles and has valuable insights.
— Anusha Chenreddy, Senior Software Engineer
A thorough and personal reflection on the living world inside the rectangles we all stare at every day. This piece captures a lot of my own feelings of nostalgia about the handmade web and ends with the nascent optimism I too share for us all to care more about it.
— Jason Combs, Brand Designer
Smith & Diction, a design studio creating thoughtful brand work, wrote about how they gave perplexity.ai a refreshed brand look and feel. They shared a lot of great thinking and detailed work in their story.
— Greg Dougherty, Principal Product Designer
A great writeup about Leonard Cohen, his final album, and his final song.
— Luke Esterkyn, User Services
“Ask vs Guess Culture,” by Jean Hsu
There is a wide spectrum of personalities and of understanding why people do or say things, and this is a good starting point in thinking about all of the nuances in how people think, act, and communicate.
— Elvina Fan, Content Operations
When I think about good writing, I think about writing that makes you feel less alone in the world. Writing that puts words to feelings you’ve always had at the edge of your consciousness but couldn’t pin down. Writing that teaches you something you’ve actually known all along. This essay is the closest thing I’ve read that matches my own experience with my mom’s death and has evolved my processing of it. It’s a hard, brutal read — in the same way that true catharsis requires processing hard, brutal truths in order to achieve it.
— Carly Rose Gillis, Content Operations
As a lifelong high-key summer person, who never met a week off he didn’t try to overplan, frequently to the dismay of his wife and children, I loved the idea that doing less can be more. It didn’t just give me the idea to not be such a Type-A freak. It gave me permission.
— Jon Gluck, Editorial Director Special Projects
Because I’m the person compiling this list, I’m going to cheat and add a second choice. Jude Ellison Doyle consistently writes some of my favorite stories on Medium, and this one is no exception — a brilliant and beautifully written take on a subject you didn’t know you cared about until you did. No other writer I know of has such a reliably interesting mix of brains, courage, and heart.
— Jon Gluck, Editorial Director Special Projects
There is a new, Southern Gothic Literature movement being created right here under our noses, and it is outstanding.
— Lou Heneise [Lauren], Director, Finance
I’ve been getting really into the pop culture corners of Medium this year. I love reading movie reviews that have a point of view, help me better understand the film, and teach me something new. This is ostensibly a review for Nimona, an animated sci-fi adventure movie based on a graphic novel, but it’s also a timeline of establishment-defying shapeshifting heroines in fairy tales.
— Brittany Jezouit, Chief of Staff
This was an early January read but still one of my favorite pieces published this year. To me, it represents the best kind of Medium storytelling; real and raw, timely and with good humor but touching a serious topic. I first came across it on Twitter (still Twitter at the time!) and it’s always really nice for me to come across Medium stories in the wild. I also really enjoyed the community and conversation in the responses of the story.
— Breana Jones, Director, Product
This is super wonky and I feel like I’m still digesting its argument six months later, but I keep coming back to this piece by Shapiro, a former Turner Broadcasting executive, laying out the dynamics in cultural networks that drive bigger hits but hollow out the creative middle class.
— Scott Lamb, VP of Content
This is one of those “if you know you know” Seattle stories about the used clothing that’s sold by the pound by the Goodwill. While it might seem to be a story about extreme thrifting, it’s actually a sociocultural peek at the humans around the bins.
— Ariel Meadow Stallings, Product Manager
I loved stumbling across this post, and taking a few minutes of break on a busy day.
— Perrine [Mondo], Email Marketing Manager
An in-depth story from Airbnb about how they replaced Epoxy and UIKit with the latest Apple UI framework, SwiftUI.
— Thomas Ricouard, iOS Staff Engineer
One of my fav book series is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it seems that physicist Siegel clearly read the books too. His fun post here attempts to explain why the number 42 is the answer to “life, the universe and everything” — a fitting throw to fans of the books. But he takes the answer seriously and tries to formulate the questions that might derive such an answer. This results in nerdy, readable entertainment.
— Adrienne Gibbs, Director of Content
It’s human nature to want answers, but there’s also wisdom in knowing how and when to live in the question. This essay, by Medium staffer Harris Sockel, explores — and does — that with insight, honesty, and beautiful writing.
— Terrie Schweitzer, Director of Content Curation
Where else will you find a migration and demography expert nerding out on how many elves, dwarves, hobbits, and orcs inhabit J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth? Nowhere else, probably — and that’s one of the reasons I love Medium so much. It’s a platform that gives people permission to ask the important questions, like: What is the population density of the fantastical land we all know and love from Lord of the Rings?
— Harris Sockel, Content Lead
I’ve been thinking about how key diversity is to our goal of “deepening people’s understanding of the world.” On a topic like gender, which is core to my identity (and most people’s), it takes someone coming from a very different framework to bring a new lens to it.
— Tony Stubblebine, CEO
Around the time King Charles III was crowned, Erik Linstrum, an associate professor of history at University of Virginia, wrote this deep dive into why the soon-to-be regent’s new role demonstrates how he’s less of a modernizer than pop culture would have you believe. In the piece, Linstrum looks back to the end of Britain’s colonial era to show how Charles “embodies Britain’s ambivalent attitude toward the imperial past: unable to defend it yet unwilling to part with its glories, either.”
— Amy Widdowson, Vice President of Communications
Photographer David William Reeve has been publishing his series “Gladiator School” since 2017. The series documents the memories and photos of survivors and staff from the Heman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino, California, before it closed in 2010. I recommend the entire series for its vivid storytelling and the powerful use of photography.
— Chino Wong, VP, Design
A touching story about a grandpa who loves to draw… snot eaters. 😆
— Jon Wong, Product Designer
Michelle’s my favorite brand strategy writer on Medium. This case study on Van Leeuwen ice cream walks through many approaches to marketing your product outside of advertising.
— Helena Zhang, Design Director
Because I get to go last, I’m going to cheat, like Jon did, and give a second answer. In this post, Liza takes us on a delightful (and very visual) journey through the development of her drawing style and influences.
— Helena Zhang, Design Director
What were some of your favorite Medium stories of 2023? We’d like to know. Share them in the comments.