Our 35 Most Popular Stories of 2019

Damir Khabirov/iStock via Getty Images
Damir Khabirov/iStock via Getty Images

Mental Floss readers are a curious bunch. Need proof? Look no further than our list of the year's most popular stories, which covered everything from how much those Beanie Babies gathering dust in your attic might be worth to the life and legacy of Rosa Parks.

1. The 10 Most Valuable Beanie Babies That Could Be Hiding in Your Attic

Emmanuel Morales, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Beanie Babies like the purple Princess Diana bear are listed for $600,000 on eBay, but how much money are the nostalgic toys really worth? We dug into the details.

2. Why Do Dogs Kick Their Feet After They Poop?

Dogs that dig into the ground after relieving themselves aren't trying to bury their waste. They're leaving a fecal message for other dogs.

3. The 25 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time Worldwide

Shortly after grossing $2 billion in record time, Avengers: Endgame officially became the highest-grossing movie of all time—knocking James Cameron's Avatar, which had held the top spot for a full 10 years, to runner-up status.

4. 10 Examples of the Mandela Effect

Tom Cruise stars in Risky Business (1983).Warner Home Video

Did Tom Cruise really dance in his underwear and a pair of Ray-Bans in Risky Business? If you answered “yes,” you might be suffering from the Mandela Effect.

5. If You Can Correctly Pronounce Every Word in This 1920s Poem, You’re Among the English-Speaking Elite

English is a tricky language to learn. Native speakers may take this for granted, failing to realize how intricate—and inconsistent—many of its pronunciation rules are. But how good are you?

6. 6 Conspiracy Theories That Turned Out to Be True

Humans love conspiracy theories, and always have (there’s even evidence that ancient Romans had a few). But with the advent of the internet, they seem to be everywhere—and some of them are actually true.

7. McDonald’s Happy Meals Now Come With Roald Dahl Books Instead of Toys in New Zealand

Would you like a Matilda or BFG to go with your burger and fries? If you're a young Kiwi, you just might have gotten your wish in 2019.

8. The 35 Best-Selling Albums in American History

iStock

What albums are most beloved by Americans? Well, a lot of us seem to own the Eagles's Greatest Hits.

9. Why You Should Never Rinse Your Dishes Before Putting Them in the Dishwasher

If you give your plates and bowls a quick rinse before sticking them in the dishwasher, you may be surprised (and disgusted) to learn that it doesn’t make them any cleaner.

10. 10 Highest-Grossing Movie Franchises of All Time

Star Wars has a long way to go to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

11. 10 Bizarre Documentaries That Are Stranger Than Fiction

Top Knot Films

If these were fictional stories, you'd have a hard time swallowing them.

12. The Right Way to Pet a Dog, According to Veterinarians

Much like humans, dogs are complex creatures with a wide range of personalities.

13. 45 Amazing Facts About All 44 American Presidents

Discover which American president wanted to be a concert violinist, which carried a dictionary around in his pocket, and who burned his official White House portrait.

14. Why You Should Always Leave the Cap on a Plastic Bottle Before You Recycle It

Many of us were taught to crush plastic bottles and leave the cap off. As it turns out, that isn't the best approach.

15. The 100 Most Popular Baby Names of 2019

ideabug/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re looking for a baby name that sounds cool or unique, Posie and Milo could be a good place to start.

16. You've Been Assembling Your Hard-Shell Tacos all wrong

There's a simple trick for preventing your crunchy hard-shell taco from breaking apart in your hand.

17. 30 Hilarious German Insults You Should Start Using Immediately

Some of these insults are amusingly innocent-sounding, while others are pretty devastating—so let’s hope you don’t wind up on the receiving end of one of those.

18. The Classic Novel That Is Most Often Abandoned By Readers

Just because you buy or borrow a book doesn’t necessarily mean that you'll actually finish—or even start—reading it. Though tracking which books don’t get finished is not an exact science, people have tried to figure it out.

19. 10 Surprising Facts About Animal Sex

iStock/Dias Studio

When the filmmakers behind Jurassic Park wanted to create velociraptor sounds, they used recordings of tortoises getting it on.

20. Robert Downey Jr. Improvised One of Iron Man's Most Memorable Lines

Though Iron Man made it seem as if Tony Stark was the role Robert Downey Jr. was born to play, Marvel actively rooted against casting him.

21. 11 Secrets of Target Employees

Target employees, or “team members,” adhere to a company policy of going out of their way to make sure customers leave happy. A number of current and former associates told us about life under the bull's-eye.

22. What's the Difference Between a Possum and an Opossum?

Possum and opossum are sometimes synonyms—but sometimes they refer to different animals. (Also, there's a chance you've been pronouncing opossum wrong all along.)

23. The Best Bookstores in All 50 States

Robert Kim, Getty Images

From their resident cats to that old book smell, there's something about wandering up and down the aisles of a brick-and-mortar bookstore that online merchants could never replicate.

24. The Ingenious Reason Medieval Castle Staircases Were Built Clockwise

If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or medieval programs in general, you’re probably familiar with action-packed battle scenes during which soldiers storm castles, dodge arrows, and dash up spiral staircases. And, while those spiral staircases might not necessarily ascend clockwise in every television show or movie you’ve watched, they usually did in real life.

25. 8 Inspiring Facts About Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks's historic arrest isn’t the only thing she should be remembered for.

26. The Reason Behind Those Brightly Colored Balls Along Power Lines

If you've ever driven past those colorful balls strung up along a power line, you might have wondered about what purpose they serve—a thought that usually disappears as soon as the balls have faded from your rearview mirror.

27. The Reason Why Your Car Window Is Edged With Tiny Black Dots

Those little polka dots circling your windshield might be easy to miss, but they actually serve a few crucial functions.

28. 25 Amazing Books by African-American Writers You Need to Read

Background: iStock. Book Covers for "Invisible Man" and "The Underground Railroad": Amazon. Book Cover for "The Hate U Give": HARPERCOLLINS.

From literary icons to fresh, buzzworthy talent, we highlighted 25 books by African-American authors you should add to your reading list today.

29. Why Marvel Didn't Want to Cast Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man

Further proof that Tony Stark is the role Downey was born to play.

30. The True Story Behind Gentleman Jack: 10 Facts About Anne Lister

Anne Lister was a businesswoman, a mountaineer, a world traveler, and a science enthusiast. But it’s her love life that she’s mainly remembered for today.

31. This Test Will Tell You How Many Books You Can Read in a Year

The average person in the U.S. reads about 12 books per year—but that number won't help you if you read at a different pace than the average American.

32. 10 VHS Tapes That Are Worth Money (No, Really)

iStock.com/axeiz77

Normally relegated to junk bins, some VHS tapes are in demand by collectors due to their scarcity, nostalgia value, or cool box art.

33. 8 Facts About the Animals of Chernobyl

Researchers thought the site of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was unable to support life. But a bunch of wolves, deer, wild boars, bears, foxes, and dogs disagreed.

34. 50 Things Turning 50 in 2019

From the first manned Moon landing to Monty Python, here are 50 things that marked a half-century on this planet (and beyond) in 2019.

35. 12 Surprising Facts About Emilia Clarke

Larry Busacca, Getty Images

Emilia Clarke became a household name playing Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, but she still goes largely unrecognized in public.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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The 10 Best Holiday Gifts $25 and Under

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Whether you're shopping on a budget or looking for gifts for the person in your life who's halfway between acquaintance and friend, this list of great presents for small prices should do the trick. Fun and silly, thoughtful and serious, useful and frivolous, this group of gifts is filled with old favorites and new delights. Fair warning: You may end up buying two of whatever you pick.

1. Anker Power Bank; $22

Amazon

Need a little extra boost? Tired of looking down at the Low Power Mode warning? This incredibly light on-the-go charger is a tiny powerhouse that will keep your phone at 100 percent and keep you from scrambling to find a wall outlet at the airport. It also comes with its own travel pouch and an 18-month warranty, but the cable is sold separately. It's a solid one-for-me-one-for-them gift.

Buy it: Amazon

2. FYC Wool Socks; $13

Amazon

For the friend in your life with feet, consider these thick, stylish socks that evoke a vintage design while keeping toes toasty (and sweat-free). They're made of a blend of cotton, wool, and polyester, so you get the best of all worlds: comfortable, warm, and breathable. Plus, they're versatile enough to go with pajamas, your hiking gear, or Zoom-ready business casual.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Zulay Kitchen Stovetop Espresso Maker; $17

Amazon

This sturdy, classic brewer is perfect for the person in your life who is interested in upping their cup game. It's simple and sleek, but it also comes with a pressure valve (couldn't we all use one?) to boost caffeine extraction, and the design allows for espresso, crema, foam emulsions, and more. Best of all, clean up is easy, so you don't have to worry about grimy boiled bean build-up.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Meriwool Beanie; $21

Amazon

Need a great gift that everyone can appreciate? No sweat! Meriwool's wool beanie comes in nine different colors and will look great on anyone hoping for something soft to hug their cranium. Made with 100 percent all natural superfine 18.5-micron Merino wool, it's not a head-scratcher, and the material is naturally moisture-wicking.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Bob Ross Coloring Book; $7

Amazon

No one is going to judge you for using paintbrushes on this coloring book. Or crayons, markers, pencils, or your fingers. The beauty of this official coloring book celebrating the art of American icon Bob Ross is that it gives you a rough image to project your own designs on. It's far from paint-by-numbers, and it'll be a welcomed gift for anyone in your life who needs to destress with a little creativity.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Jim from The Office Funko; $9

Amazon

Six days since our last nonsense seems ambitious, but fans of the hit workplace comedy will appreciate having an adorable version of Jim Halpert to sardonically stare at them from behind their keyboard. Naturally, there's also figures of Michael, Pam, Dwight, and the whole Office gang in case you've got someone with a growing collection on your list. Plus, there's always the rabbit hole of Funkos that should satisfy fans of everything from Anime to Zombie flicks.

Buy it: Amazon

7. The Godfather Family Album; $25

Amazon

It's almost criminal that this book is so inexpensive. This 512-page hardcover gem showcases Steve Shapiro's iconic on-set photography of the immortalized mob film. Striking, unique images of Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, and the rest of the cast of The Godfather sit alongside the sharp film writing of historian Paul Duncan, making this a definitive tome that belongs on every fan's coffee table.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Star wars The Child Monopoly; $20

Amazon

There are hundreds of different versions of the classic game about buying rectangles and charging outrageous prices for landing on the wrong ones, but for those who are loving The Mandalorian, this version drops you right into the series' adventures. The only problem is that everyone will call dibs on the Hoverpram piece. This is the way.

Buy it: Amazon

9. British Chocolate Bar Selection; $20

Amazon

Give someone the ability to travel to Britain from the comfort of wherever they can unwrap a wrapper. Crunchie, Bounty, and Fry's Peppermint Cream are just a few of the offerings in this Global Treats pack that can remind someone of home or share a piece of the UK with your favorite anglophile. Don't worry—no fun size here. They're all full size and delicious.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Stanley travel mug; $25

Amazon

Stanley has over a hundred years of quality craftsmanship under its toolbelt. This sturdy, cup-holder-ready mug benefits from that experience and boasts double-wall vacuum insulation to keep piping coffee hot for seven hours and chilly lemonade cold for up to 10. Toss in some ice cubes, and whatever you're sipping stays cold for up to 30! It comes with a trigger action lid for one-handed, leak-proof use, making it perfect for the exercise bike or the office. Everyone could use another way of transporting their drink of choice, and this might just replace what they've already got.

Buy it: Amazon