As 2012 draws to a close, CJR writers brainstormed the year’s best reads in their beats.

Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle — David Barstow’s extraordinary New York Times investigation exposed systemic corruption at Walmart’s Mexico operation and a coverup in Bentonville.

Playing With Fire: Chemical companies, Big Tobacco and the toxic products in your home — A tremendous Chicago Tribune investigation by Patricia Callahan, Sam Roe, and Michael Hawthorne showed how an unholy alliance between the chemical industry and Big Tobacco put toxic flame retardants in your mattresses and pillows—and your bloodstream.

Bad to the bone: A medical horror story — Mina Kimes’s Fortune probe unearthed an astounding story on how a medical-device giant illegally experimented on humans without their consent—and killed several of them—in a bid to expand its market.

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit — In The Baffler, David Graeber argues that financial capitalism and the decline of basic research helps explain why our Jetsons future never materialized.

Chesapeake and rival plotted to suppress land prices — In some of the finest corporate reporting of the year, Reuters, in a series led by Brian Grow, delved into the dark side of natural gas giant Chesapeake Energy. This story would spark a federal antitrust investigation.

The Sharp, Sudden Decline of America’s Middle Class — In some of the best reporting of the Great Recession, Rolling Stone contributor Jeff Tietz reports on some of the people who fell through the cracks.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.