(Illustration by Jen Reel)

Best of the Observer 2014


Patrick Michels


Settle in this holiday season with a few of our staff-selected greatest hits from 2014.

Turn the PageForgetting How to Read? Stop Reading Online
By Michael Agresta
Published October 13, 2014

If we want to maintain the kind of thoughtful, reflective, curious minds that engineered the Internet in the first place, it’s time to face up to what reading online is doing to our brains.





Barred CareBarred Care
By Emily DePrang
Published January 13, 2014

Harris County is Texas’ largest mental hospital. Many Texans can get better mental health treatment inside the jail than out of it.





Jeffrey HollimanInto the Pines
By Patrick Michels
Published February 5, 2014

After months of burglaries, a terrorized East Texas town discovers the culprit is one of their own, a survivalist watching them from the woods.






Sen. Dan PatrickThe Texas GOP Swings Further to the Right
By Christopher Hooks

The Ascendancy of Dan Patrick
Published March 5, 2014
Backs to the Future: The 2014 GOP Convention
Published June 7, 2014
Lawman, Lawbreaker: Ken Paxton and the Problem with One-Party Rule
Published August 1, 2014



Prison Chaplain Larry Hart leads guards and inmate trusties in prayer during a burial at TDCJ’s Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville.Laid to Rest in Huntsville
By Robyn Ross
Published March 11, 2014

Of the roughly 450 inmates who die in Texas prisons each year, about 100 are laid to rest in Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville.





Charles GilbertA Texas Border Militiaman Reconsiders the Mission
By Forrest Wilder
Published October 15, 2014

Militiaman Charles Gilbert joined the Texas Border Volunteers to “kick some ass,” but the group’s tactics forced him to do some soul-searching.





MegaChurchjoelosteenGimme Shelter
By Emily DePrang
Published July 8, 2014

Are megachurch-goers looking for sanctuary in all the wrong places?






clinic_texas_final2Texas’ New Abortion Law is Driving Women to Extremes
By Carolyn Jones
Published February 25, 2014

A woman must pawn her wedding ring and flee to Arkansas to terminate her pregnancy because of Texas’ new 20-week abortion ban.







Matagorda County District Attorney Steven Reis outside the courthouse in Bay City.To Kill? Or Not to Kill?
By Maurice Chammah
Published April 23, 2014

As executions decline in Texas, a small-town prosecutor decides whether to seek the death penalty.






A backpack found on the Cage Ranch in Brooks County.Beyond the Border
By Melissa del Bosque
Published August 6, 2014

Our four-part series, produced in collaboration with The Guardian, examines migrant deaths in South Texas.