Here are the top stories of 2023

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2023 has been a wild year, and with it we’ve had some truly wild stories. We’ve learned the truth about Fireball, survived some TikTok trends, seen a woman saved by a dead rabbit, honored incredible lives and learned more about aliens.

The news cycle feels more frenetic than ever, which can make it hard to remember everything that’s happened this year.

Here’s a look back at the top stories that captured readers’ attention in 2023 from NPR.org and across the NPR Network.

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The 10 most popular stories on NPR.org

There’s no whiskey in bottles of Fireball Cinnamon, so customers are suing for fraud (Published Jan. 27, 2023). How do you sell mini bottles in places that don’t sell liquor? Don’t put liquor in the bottle.

Tucker Carlson ousted at Fox News following network’s $787 million settlement (Published April 24, 2023). In his final show, Carlson wished viewers the “best weekend,” saying he’d be back on Monday.

A remarkable new view of the Titanic shipwreck is here, thanks to deep-sea mappers (Published May 20, 2023). Massive amounts of data and 715,000 still images bring the most detailed view yet of the 1912 wreck.

Baby bison euthanized after being handled by a Yellowstone guest, rejected by herd (Published May 24, 2023). A visitor from Hawaii was apparently trying to help the newborn animal rejoin its mother.

Coastal biomedical labs are bleeding more horseshoe crabs with little accountability (Published June 10, 2023). The prehistoric animals have strikingly blue blood. Since the 1960s, companies have been using it to detect bacterial toxins.

U.S. recovered non-human ‘biologics’ from UFO crash sites, former intel official says (Published July 27, 2023). A back-and-forth with Congress members offers titillating details about unexplained phenomena.

Remembering Olympic gold medalist Florence ‘Flo-Jo’ Griffith Joyner (Published Sept. 21, 2023). To this day, no woman has run the 100 meters as fast as the U.S. track star. But she didn’t live to be 40.

These American birds and dozens more will be renamed, to remove human monikers (Published Nov. 1, 2023). As an expert told NPR, “It’s an exciting opportunity to give these birds names that celebrate them.”

An Alabama mayor ended his life after a website showed pictures of him cross-dressing (Published Nov. 7, 2023). Bubba Copeland was an effective city leader and a pastor. Then a news site turned his life upside down.

She lived in a New York hotel for more than 40 years. But her life was a mystery (Published Nov. 15, 2023). Beyond her handwritten notes, her neighbors knew little about the woman who lived in Manhattan’s theater district.


The NPR Network is made up of over 200 local newsrooms at Member Stations across the country sharing local reporting with their communities. In an increasingly interconnected world, sometimes a story that starts close to home can captivate people all over the world.

Here are the stories that did just that this year.

Stories from across the NPR Network that hit home

A dead snowshoe hare saved this Alaskan woman after she fell through the ice (Published Jan. 17, 2023). As KBBI reports, when 29-year old Kelsey Haas, an experienced adventurer, fell through a patch of thin ice last winter while skating in Homer, Alaska, she had to get creative to survive.

What if you could design a house that on a cold day in January would stay 70 degrees inside (Published Jan. 25, 2023). Without running the furnace? Or even having a furnace? As Maine Public explains, this family in Hope, Maine, is doing just that.

Sarah Romanelli’s grandmother died at home, just as she wanted. But it cost $145,000 (Published Feb. 8, 2023). As she explains in her piece for WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog, the comfort of dying at home could cost you a fortune.

A new study found this widely used artificial sweetener might be causing heart problems (Published April 17, 2023). As KERA in Dallas reports, Erythritol can be found in artificial sweeteners like Equal, Stevia and Truvia.

With her children’s book “Are you with me?” she said she wanted to help children deal with grief, after seeing how her kids handled her husband’s death (Published May 8, 2023). A few weeks later, Kouri Richins was charged with her husband’s murder. The wild story from KPCW in Park City, Utah, got national attention as we soon learned Richins had been cut out of her late husband’s will after she allegedly poisoned him with fentanyl.

60,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate went missing, triggering four separate investigations (Published May 16, 2023). The explosive chemical went missing during a train ride somewhere between Cheyenne, Wyo., and the Mojave Desert, KQED reported earlier this year.

She worked 365 days a year and made minimum wage. In June, a judge awarded her almost $850,000 (Published June 15, 2023). Aleta Ayotold Colorado Public Radio caring for residents in an assisted living facility was hard but rewarding work, where she was the lone employee expected to staff the facility 24/7.

There are lobster-like crustaceans in the Chicago River, and they’re not supposed to be there (Published August 10, 2023). Bright red and 5 inches long, as WBEZ Chicago shared in August, the red swamp crayfish look like mini lobsters, and scientists want them gone.

Florida law enforcement agencies scrambled to find solutions to a TikTok trend that exposed Hyundai and Kia’s lackluster security software (Published Aug. 11, 2023). WFSU in Florida found over half a million cars in the Sunshine State need their software updated.

The perennials

These stories were published in years past, but found new resonance in 2023:

Read Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in its entirety (Originally published Jan. 18, 2010). Back in 2010, NPR aired the full audio of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech, delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Each January, the transcript we shared of his remarks attracts renewed attention.

Take the ACE quiz — and learn what it does and doesn’t mean (Originally published March 2, 2015). An ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other hallmarks of a rough childhood. Back in 2015, the Shots blog shared a test to allow you to calculate your individual score.

A guide to gender identity terms (Originally published June 2, 2021). When this piece was first published, issues of equality and acceptance of transgender and nonbinary people — along with challenges to their rights had become a major topic in the headlines. Throughout 2023, it attracted renewed attention as many of those challenges have persisted.

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