The 18 (Really Good) Stories That Moved Us in 2018
Medium editors share their favorite stories of the year
Medium’s had a big year. We’ve found different ways to work with writers. We’ve invested aggressively in editorial. And we’ve bridged the gap between platform and publisher.
Tens of thousands of pieces are published on Medium every day. We also commission hundreds every month. And every month, we also work with hundreds of Medium native writers on their work. All of that is reflected here.
Picking favorites is never easy. Read on for a small selection of the pieces that inspired us, moved us, and amused us — and sometimes managed to do all three. Many of them even went viral, which, if you look at the list, should make you feel good about our readers, about the internet, and maybe even the world.
Thanks for being here.
I almost missed my flight home when the first draft of this piece turned up in my inbox. In a sweeping, brave personal essay, Daum chronicles how her search for political nuance in an obnoxiously polarized era led her to a handful of thinkers — disdained within her progressive social circle — known as the intellectual dark web. At the same time, she was mourning the end of her marriage and the loss of her intellectual sparring partner. The result is a smart, searching look at Daum’s personal and political evolution. It’s something we can all learn from in these fractured times. It will give you chills, if not make you cry, and it’s why we’re going to be working more closely with this important writer starting in January.
— Siobhan O'Connor, vice president, editorial
Rob Delaney’s essay about the illness and death of his son Henry haunts me months after I first read it. Delaney so deftly captures the love a parent has for a child — and the unimaginable, excruciating agony of seeing that child suffer. This is a piece that deserves to be read and remembered. Read it for Henry.
— Katie Drummond, deputy editor
Paul Flannery is a great sportswriter who has long struggled with depression. In his early forties, after things came to a head, he started trail running, and he kept trail running. In doing so, Flannery discovered a community of people who have responded to midlife crises by tackling increasingly intense physical challenges. The result is a deeply felt and eye-opening piece.
— Joe Keohane, features director
Rushkoff was a techno-utopian before it was cool. He’s also ahead of the curve on seeing how the heady high-tech fantasies we’ve embraced since the beginning of the digital age may curdle into nightmares if we’re not careful. In this piece, which justly went viral, he notes how the Silicon Valley billionaires we’ve been counting on to lead us into the promised land are already making preparations to leave us behind.
— Aaron Gell, contributing editor
This is the most fascinating story about data servers I’ve ever read. It is scientifically, psychologically, politically, and emotionally profound.
— Bethany Heck, head of design
The Cognition Crisis by Adam Gazzaley MD, PhD; with illustrations by Maria Medem
The story itself is fascinating and important, and it was an honor to match it with terrific art. Seeing as I’m on the art side of things, I was delighted that Maria Medem’s work added another dimension to the written story; it’s beautifully figurative and visually arresting, and it feels like it might contain a story all unto itself. Of all of the great art we’ve commissioned this year, this has to be my favorite.
— Ryan Hubbard, art director
I’m not sure anyone could say what “patriotism” should mean today, in an era defined by divisive rhetoric, a surge in white nationalist violence, so many shootings we could have avoided but didn’t, widening economic inequality — let’s not continue. In this essay, writer Sophie Kleeman probes with refreshing honesty her decision to become a U.S. citizen in 2018 and helps us understand why we keep pressing on. Beneath so much pain, maybe we can see a little hope shine through.
— Damon Beres, senior editor, tech
There are many ways to exhibit bravery, though some are more celebrated than others. Firefighters? Brave. “The other woman”? Not at first blush. But while women in Haukka’s position are rarely recognized as brave — let alone sympathetic — these apologies to her husband’s ex-wife are honest, vulnerable, and, for this reader, haunting. This spin on an open letter is more than an apology; it’s a painful, public display of humility and regret, a woman eating her curdled just-desserts. Or maybe it’s a modern parable: not on the pitfalls of cheating, but on the consequences of lying to yourself in the name of love.
— Stephanie Georgopulos, lead, platform writers
Over the past two years, the U.S. Postal Service has become something of a political football in the ongoing battle between the Trump administration and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon. It’s hard to know who to root for. But Brendan O’Connor’s remarkable interview with an anonymous mail carrier cuts through that noise and offers a rare — and grim — glimpse into what it really means to deliver the millions of packages Americans increasingly depend on.
—Michael Zelenko, features editor
When my team first told me about this project, they prefaced it with: “Sorry, but this will give you a heart attack, Alex.” We had four weeks to spare, and as managing editor, my job is, at least in part, to make sure that good ideas work—and happen on a schedule. We powered through it: nine reporters, 46 teens, six artists. The most ardent tasks are often the most worthwhile. What we learned is that today’s teens are more fascinating, smarter, and more together than we give them credit for.
— Alex Vikmanis, managing editor
Plenty of satirists have something to say about tech culture, but this novel by a former Google executive has the benefit of insider knowledge. A send-up of a major tech company run by megalomaniacs and weirdos, The Big Disruption is both a love letter and a sharp critique of Silicon Valley — insightful in its complaints but also laugh-out-loud funny. It’s also the first book published by Medium, making it extra special to us here.
— Sarah Begley, senior editor, books
I enjoyed looking for creative ways to help illustrate this piece as our editorial team worked on it. I love the lighthearted tone and how the author intertwined personal moments while being able to give some, well, great advice about eating fruit.
— Eunice Park, assistant managing editor
This piece is a real feat in reporting and storytelling. Crisis pregnancy centers have been around for decades, but Kroth dug into how they’re becoming increasingly web savvy and sophisticated. She spent time in one of these clinics in Georgia—it’s hard to get inside these places—and the result is a nuanced picture of how tensions around abortion are playing out for rural Americans.
— Alexandra Sifferlin, senior editor, health
“The right side of history” doesn’t happen in history. It happens now, which becomes history. Twenty-three percent of Americans approved of the March on Washington in 1963. Martin Luther King Jr. died with a 75 percent disapproval rating. Today, we’re in the middle of a massive, messy, rapid social shift on misogyny and equality. Which side of now are you on?
— Matthew Savener, curation manager
A refreshing, wonderfully honest essay on the limits of ambition, the subjective definition of success, and not wanting the things you’re supposed to want. As we head into the goal-setting binge that typically accompanies the start of a new year, it’s a comforting read, and maybe even a quietly inspiring one.
— Cari Nazeer, service and advice editor
I mourned the loss of Anthony Bourdain with the rest of the world, but I didn’t fully process the meaning of his death — and his life — until I read this piece. Sara Benincasa’s essay is a eulogy, a meditation, and a searingly honest reflection on depression, suicide, and mental health. Read it when you need to feel less alone.
— Harris Sockel, editor, platform writers
Steph doesn’t just lament about what’s been taken from millennials (digital privacy, home ownership, etc.) or celebrate the strange flavor of freedom that arises with our coming of age in this era. She really gets at the nuanced silver lining that shines at the intersection of apathy, surveillance, political power, economics, hopelessness, and good old-fashioned self-care. It’s an inspiring read for any Millennial who might feel lost.
— Sophia Smith, editorial producer
For me, this essay from Roxane Gay offers a mirror, reflecting undiscovered pieces of myself that I have let go unnoticed or perhaps buried too deep. It helped me understand empathy and identity without ever using those words. This is about Roxane’s decision to have weight-loss surgery and her life inside an “unruly body,” but it is also about the emotional hunger of humanity.
— Matt Higginson, partnerships