Two stories dominated 2021, the Trump administration’s calamitous finale and the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s no surprise that those topics are heavily represented on this list of Intelligencer’s most-read stories of the year, measured by audience engagement time. Readers also gravitated toward pieces that explored seismic power shifts, from Andrew Cuomo losing his grip on New York politics to redditors banding together to terrorize Wall Street. And they made time for offbeat topics, too, including the Pentagon (sort of) revealing what it knows about UFOs and what it’s like to become a millionaire overnight.
This list is just a small sample of the work New York puts out each day in print, across its six digital sites — Intelligencer, the Cut, Vulture, Grub Street, the Strategist, and Curbed — and in its growing portfolio of newsletters. For more of our coverage, be sure to sign up for Intelligencer’s daily newsletter and to subscribe.
20. Confessions of an Overnight Millionaire
“I constantly ask myself, Do I deserve this money?” Read the story ➼
19. The U.K.’s Delta Surge Is Collapsing. Will Ours?
Why the variant’s spread may be less pervasive than expected. Read the story ➼
18. 4 Minutes With Jill Biden
Grieving with the First Family. Read the story ➼
17. How the West Lost COVID
How did so many rich countries get it so wrong? How did others get it so right? Read the story ➼
The Truth is in Here
16. What’s Inside the Pentagon’s Long-Awaited UFO Report
A guide to the government’s unclassified report on unidentified flying objects. Read the story ➼
FOLLOWING THE SCIENCE
15. The Science of Masking Kids at School Remains Uncertain
A large, groundbreaking study suggesting no clear benefit from school mask mandates has many experts questioning the policy. Read the story ➼
14. My Penis, Myself
I didn’t need a penis to be a man. But I needed one to be me. Read the story ➼
13. Donald Trump’s January 6
The view from inside the Oval Office. Read the story ➼
12. Rudy Giuliani Is (Probably) Screwed
Former prosecutors say he is in an excruciating legal predicament — and could very well flip. Read the story ➼
11. Don’t Panic, But Breakthrough Cases May Be a Bigger Problem Than You’ve Been Told
Current public-health messaging may understate the scale and risk. Read the story ➼
10. The Murders Down the Hall
393 Powell Street was a peaceful home until residents started dying in brutal, mysterious ways. Read the story ➼
9. Gina. Rosanne. Guy.
What do you do the day after you storm the Capitol? Read the story ➼
8. The Political Life of Dr. Oz
His campaign to be the next Republican senator from Pennsylvania is facing one major problem: Republicans in Pennsylvania. Read the story ➼
The National Interest
7. An Ex-KGB Agent Says Trump Was a Russian Asset Since 1987. Does It Matter?
Revisiting the Trump-Russia mystery in light of recent revelations. Read the story ➼
6. Abuse and Power
Andrew Cuomo’s governorship was defined by cruelty that disguised chronic mismanagement. Why was that celebrated for so long? Read the story ➼
5. The Tiger Mom and the Hornet’s Nest
For two decades, Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld were Yale Law power brokers. A new generation wants to see them exiled. Read the story ➼
4. Trump Is on the Verge of Losing Everything
A broken president leaves the White House twice impeached, on the brink of bankruptcy, and criminally exposed. Read the story ➼
The National Interest
3. Tom Brady Joins Biden to Laugh at Trump in Worst Day of Trump’s Life
The sum of all Trump fears. Read the story ➼
2. Senior Trump Official: We Were Wrong, He’s a ‘Fascist’
“The legacy of the Trump administration is going to be that the president sparked an insurrection and people died.” Read the story ➼
1. The Lab-Leak Hypothesis
For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one. But what if …? Read the story ➼
This piece has been updated.