Highlights from our first half-decade of publishing

It’s hard for us to believe, but it was almost exactly five years ago that The Atavist Magazine emerged out of the digital ether, at the end of January 2011. Fifty-six issues, millions of readers, eight National Magazine Award nominations (and one win), two Emmy nominations, and a dozen in-progress Hollywood projects later, there’s barely time to pause as we prepare for the next story launch. But we took a moment to ask some of our contributors to pick a favorite story—other than their own, of course—that captures what The Atavist Magazine is all about.

Deborah Blum, author of “Angel Killer

I love Matthew Shaer’s “The Sinking of the Bounty,” which is not just the story of a doomed ship but a haunting tale of human mistakes, of grief and loss, and of astonishing courage and determination.

David Dobbs, author of “My Mother’s Lover

The ingredients in “Agent Zapata seem almost too rich and varied to gel, but Mary Cuddehe mixes and bakes them to perfection: a murder on a remote Mexican highway that hinges on an automotive safety feature; unsettling unpeelings of how drug cartels work and US gun laws help arm the cartel’s killers; and an ending that, astutely foregoing the genre’s neat, one-more-thing kickers, left me slowly lifting my head in horror at what would forever remain missing from this story.

Brooke Jarvis, author of “When We Are Called To Part

I’ve never cared a bit about baseball, yet Abe Streep’s “The Legends of Last Place,” which drops you into a world of hot summer storms and earnest, still-hopeful, 40-year-old ballplayers slogging it out in “empirically speaking, the worst professional baseball team in America,” not only made me feel things about the sport but has stuck with me for years.

Brendan I. Koerner, author of “Piano Demon

The Dead Zoo Gang,” Charles Homans’s saga of silver-tongued Irish crooks and their eerily insular culture is infused with an hallucinogenic intensity that will leave you giddy and astonished in equal measure.

Gary Rivlin, author of “Stray Bullet

Cris Beam’s “Mother, Stranger” is the story that first made me fall in love with The Atavist: a daughter flees her mother’s home at age 14, her mother responds by telling the world that her daughter has died; two decades later, upon her mother’s death, Beam bravely dives down into her past to deliver an intimate, harrowing tale growing up with a real life “Sybil” who suffered from multiple personalities.

And for those who love horserace coverage, we tallied up the most-read stories from each year of of our existence.

A heartfelt thank you to all the readers who spent their time with these stories and others, and to the writers, photographers, videographers, animators, and illustrators who made them possible. Here’s to five more years!