As editors, we're always churning out, reading and, let's be honest, sometimes skimming stories, it can be hard to remember what we read last week, much less in the spring. We post articles -- from HuffPost and elsewhere -- to Facebook, share them on Twitter and email them to friends, and then we keep moving through the constant stream profiles, essays and blog posts being published across the Web all day, every day.
Still, amid that endless flow, there are some stories that are so hilarious, so thought-provoking, so well-crafted or deeply resonant that they pause the whole machine, however briefly, and we marvel a little. This happened multiple times this year. There were so many stories written in 2012 that deserve a life much longer than daily news cycle and much, much longer than the few seconds it takes your Twitter feed to refresh.
That's why the editors of HuffPost Women dug deep into our collective memories (and individual inboxes) to bring back some of the best articles of the year, the ones we think should be required reading for women. There were two rules: (1) The article had to be available online and (2) it had to be published in 2012. Some of the pieces on our final list became part of the national conversation, like Anne-Marie Slaughter's “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” and others just made us really happy, like the Rev. Dr. Amy Richter's "The Ripped, Bikini-Clad Reverend," but they all stood out both for their content and for the quality of the writing.
If you missed these stories the first time around, we highly recommend reading them now. If you read them back then, you might be surprised by how much you get out of a second look. Bookmark this page and return to it as you have time. Or print out the stories and take them on your flight over the holidays. Happy reading!
"Transformation and Transcendence: The Power of Female Friendship"
Emily Rapp, The Rumpus
Rapp learned that friendships with women are more than just nice supplements to the "real" relationships in our lives and that the views we have in our early 20s may change over time.
"At the Pinnacle of Hillary Clinton’s Career"
Rachael Combe, ELLE
Before Texts From Hillary, before the beer drinking in Cartagena, before the dancing in Malawi, this article pointed out something the world was finally starting to realize: Hillary Clinton is pretty awesome.
"Ashley Judd Slaps the Media in the Face of Her 'Puffy' Appearance"
Ashley Judd, The Daily Beast
The actress and activist could have ignored the speculation about her face. Instead, she seized the opportunity to talk about the persistent objectification of women and why it needs to stop.
"All the Weddings I Have Ever Been To, as I Remember Them"
Jen Doll, The Hairpin
Those of us who feel like singles on a wedding-go-round could relate to Doll's experiences as a frequent, if imperfect, guest. She said the reaction to the piece convinced her to write a book on the topic.
"The Ripped, Bikini-Clad Reverend"
The Rev. Dr. Amy Richter, New York Times Magazine
How many of us would put on a two-piece swimsuit and participate in a fitness pageant for "personal enrichment"? This Episcopal priest -- yes, a priest -- did.
"It’s Different for 'Girls'"
Emily Nussbaum, New York Magazine
Nussbaum told us "Girls" was worth watching. She told us Lena Dunham was talented, insightful and brilliant. She was right on both counts.
"Being Mean to Fat People Is Pointless: A Good Old-Fashioned Plea for Civility"
Lindy West, Jezebel
Fed up with the way Americans talk about obesity and the shame tactics used against the overweight, West provided a lesson in humanity and a reminder that "fat people are people."
"I Know Why the Fat Lady Sings"
Caitlin Moran, Wall Street Journal
If you've never really thought about overeating as the "addiction of choice" for women, it may because no one's talking about it. The author of "How to Be a Woman" suggests it's time to change that.
"Why Women Still Can’t Have It All"
Anne-Marie Slaughter, The Atlantic
The Princeton professor and former State Department official sparked a nationwide discussion about work-life balance and what needs to be done to make it a reality.
"Can Modern Women 'Have It All'"?
Rebecca Traister, Salon
Slaughter's piece provoked responses across the Web, but Traister's was one of the best. The writer called for an end to the phrase "have it all," calling it a trap that sets women up for failure.
"Seeing Nora Everywhere"
Lena Dunham, The New Yorker
In a moving tribute that was also one of the best pieces of writing we read this year, Dunham revealed the way in which Ephron reached out to, befriended and encouraged younger writers. "Her advice was unparalleled," Dunham wrote.
"Ann Bauer Looks Beyond the Mirror"
Ann Bauer, ELLE
In this candid essay, Bauer opened up about what it was like growing up "ugly" -- and how she was finally able to think differently about her appearance.
"Dear Sugar, I Could Really Use Your Help Here"
Anna Holmes, New York Times
It takes a brave writer to review a book in the very beloved, very distinct style of its author. Holmes did it for her very first New York Times book review -- and she did it beautifully.
“I'm Letting Go of My Pregnancy Dreams”
Emily McCombs, XO Jane
McCombs reminded us that having a baby isn't the only way to have a family.
"Why Photoshop Isn't As Big Of A Deal As Everyone Makes It Out To Be"
Amy Odell, Buzzfeed Shift
Body positive activists get worked up over retouching in magazines, but Odell suggested that "Photoshop has become a scapegoat for — and distraction from — the thin-obsessed culture that's become part of daily life for millions of women across the country." Don't miss the last line.
"Mothers, Sisters, Daughters, Wives"
Mimi Swartz, Texas Monthly
With some of the best reporting of the year, Swartz gave us a comprehensive look at the battles waged over health care in Texas and what they may mean for women around the country.
(Registration required, but it’s free and worth it.)
“Numbers About My Mother”
Melissa Chandler, The Hairpin
It couldn't have been an easy piece to write, but Chandler's retelling of the days following her mother's suicide attempt is powerful and heartbreaking.
"Boys on the Side"
Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic
The author of "The End of Men" argued that women are hardly victims of "hookup culture." Instead, they're proponents of it -- and for good reason.
"The Mom Stays in the Picture"
Allison Tate, HuffPost Parents
When Tate wrote about her realization that she needed to appear in family photos no matter how she felt about her body, she clearly struck a nerve: More than 2,200 moms sent in photos with their kids.
"How to Be Friends With a Congresswoman"
Erin Gloria Ryan, Jezebel
This piece about the bond between Gabrielle Giffords and Debbie Wasserman Schultz brought the site's commenters to tears.
"The F Word"
Jennifer Weiner, Allure
When Weiner's daughter called another girl fat, it brought up memories of her lifelong struggle with her own weight. The author's doubts about how she handled the situation make the piece even more relatable, and the end will break your heart.
"Free to Be"
Dan Kois, Slate
In this three-part series on the 40th anniversary on Marlo Thomas' famous album, Kois reflected on how it influenced him and the way he is raising his two daughters and spoke to the people who created it.
"I Once Was Obese"
Shannon Chamberlain, Slate
After "confessing" that she once weighed over 300 pounds, Chamberlain made a compelling case for ending our obsession with the before and after of weight loss.
"The Great Pretender"
Jenny Zhang, Rookie
Zhang's admission that her childhood habit of lying carried over into adulthood spoke to the ways we present ourselves to -- and protect ourselves from -- the outside world.
"She Who Dies With the Most 'Likes' Wins?"
Jessica Valenti, The Nation
"The truth is that we don’t need everyone to like us, we need a few people to love us." The whole piece is this good.
Which articles would be on your must-read list for 2012? Tell us in the comments.