The 10 Most Popular Narratively Stories of 2019

From professional fake shoppers to plus-size male models to controversial kratom kingpins and beyond, these are the stories that most enraptured our readers this year.

The 10 Most Popular Narratively Stories of 2019

1. The Man With the Golden Airline Ticket

Story by Caroline Rothstein

Illustration by Hokyoung Kim

My dad was one of the only people with a good-for-life, go-anywhere American Airlines pass. Then they took it away.

2. The Curious Case of the Socialite Who Sterilized Her Daughter

Story by Audrey Clare Farley

Artwork by Yunuen Bonaparte

Did Maryon Cooper Hewitt want to suppress “bad genes” or steal her child’s inheritance?

3. The Curse of the Ship of Gold

Story by Dylan Taylor-Lehman

Illustration by Ryan Johnson

How a brilliant scientist went from discovering a mother lode of treasure at the bottom of the sea to fleeing from authorities with suitcases full of cash.

4. The Real Story of Black Martha’s Vineyard

Story by Genelle Levy

Photos by Christine Sargologos

Beyond the beautiful beaches and glitzy galas, Oak Bluffs is a complex community that elite families, working-class locals and social-climbing summerers all claim as their own.

5. America’s Next Top Male Model Wears a Size XXXXL

Story by Jordan Daniels

Photo by Julio Lopez

Ady del Valle grew up idolizing the fashion industry, but never saw anyone in it who looked like him. He decided to change that.

6. The Plot Against the Principality of Sealand

Story by Dylan Taylor-Lehman

Photo courtesy Diversion Books

How the world’s quirkiest micro-nation got pulled into one of history’s most epic intercontinental frauds.

7. Confessions of a Professional Fake Shopper

Story by Sam Dunnington

Illustration by Jennifer Xiao

When desperate storeowners want to convince passersby to stop in, they hire fun, happy people to pose as shoppers. They’re actually out-of-work actors, retirees, and me.

8. The Rapid Rise and Sudden Fall of a Kratom Kingpin

Story by Evan Haddad

Illustration by Charlotte Ager

He built at $60,000-a-month business selling opioid alternatives out of his apartment. His clients say he saves lives. The government wants to shut him down.

9. My Secret Life as a Mysterious Multimillionaire’s Personal Assistant

Story by DW McKinney

Illustration by Julie Benbassat

It started with a simple Craigslist ad. Before long I was being sent on sketchy tasks, pocketing wads of cash, and trying not to think about where his money came from.

10. The Portly Victorian Undertaker Who Launched the World’s First Low-Carb Craze

Story by Betsy Golden Kellem

Illustration by Ben Nadler

William Banting tried every 19th century weight-loss fad, from caustic laxatives to vapor shampoos. Polite society was shocked when he unveiled the method that finally worked.

Want more “Best of Narratively” for 2019? Check out this year’s Editors’ Picks.