Today we’re bringing you a special edition of the Briefing, which looks back at 2019 with the help of you, our readers. We’re revisiting some of your favorite articles and features, and highlighting some that you might have missed.
Here’s what you wanted to know
One of our goals is to get you up to speed quickly, recapping the biggest headlines and offering a look ahead to the major stories that we’re covering that day.
But some of the most popular pieces in the Briefing this year weren’t part of the daily news cycle. They were human-interest articles, especially those with a hint of mystery. For instance:
Visualizing the news: The Briefing provides the basics, but readers are often interested in digging deeper. Among our most popular features are maps, such as the one showing the extent of wildfires in California and another tracking the path of Hurricane Dorian through the Caribbean and along the Eastern U.S.
A craving for context: With a major investigation or an update to a long-running, complicated news story, we frequently publish a separate collection of takeaways. Like the Briefing itself, the takeaways distill a story down to its key points. Last month’s analysis of President Trump’s Twitter habits, our interview with him in January, and Robert Mueller’s testimony in July were all the subjects of well-read takeaways.
What do you know? Readers love to test their knowledge of the world (and of themselves). In addition to our regular news quiz, you were also curious to know:
See for yourself: Here’s a look at the year in pictures.
The lives they lived
The Times draws on extraordinary writers to chronicle lives from around the world that shape history in ways large and small. Here are five of this year’s best-read obituaries:
The British mathematician Alan Turing helped the Allies win World War II and gave birth to the computer age. But with his accomplishments still secret, he died as a criminal in 1954, having been convicted under Victorian laws as a homosexual. A London-based Times veteran, Alan Cowell wrote his obituary as part of our Overlooked series.
Independent Zimbabwe’s first leader, Robert Mugabe was a complex tyrant who won praise from African nationalists for confronting white minority rule, yet was often viewed in the West as a pariah. Mr. Cowell, who had covered him as a foreign correspondent, wrote the obituary.
Toni Morrison, the best-selling novelist whose luminous prose explored black identity in America and blended flights of surrealism with everyday verities, was the first African-American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Margalit Fox, who was on our Obituaries desk from 2004 to 2018, had written the obituary in advance; she left The Times just weeks before Ms. Morrison died.
The life of the New York society heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, who built a fashion empire with her own grit against a background of tragedy, was captured by our Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Robert McFadden.
And a few months before the Brooklyn-based editor and writer Josie Rubio died, she published a disarming — and hugely popular — Times essay about dating with terminal cancer. “The truth is,” she wrote, “I was prepared to die instead of date again.”
The year in recipes
News isn’t the only thing our readers were hungry for. We heard from many of you about how much you love the NYTCooking recipes we include each day.
Among this year’s most popular:
And if you haven’t already, browse through our 50 Best Recipes of 2019.
And on a lighter note …
Readers often write in about articles that reshape their thinking about others, follow an underdog or just bring a smile — brights, in news jargon.
And your minds drifted far, far away. What does a black hole look like? Astronomers captured the first picture of one of the most secretive entities in the cosmos.
The Times even does dog stories — in our way. Love is what makes dogs special, not smarts, a researcher found this year. One couple didn’t give up on finding their dog: She quit her job, he got night goggles and they searched a rural Montana community for 57 days. Welcome home, Katie.
We’ll leave you with a laugh: the Best Comedy of 2019.
That’s it for our special edition. We’re off Friday, so see you on Monday.
Chris Stanford, Mike Ives, Melina Delkic and Remy Tumin wrote today’s Briefing, with help from Dan Wakin, on the Obituaries desk, and Jessica Anderson, on the newsletter team. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.