A good interview gives us access to people and ideas that often stay behind the curtain. But it can do more than that: As British journalist Lynn Barber has said, that the best interviews “sing the strangeness and variety of the human race.” We certainly covered both this year, chatting up everyone from children’s author Phillip Pullman to adventurer Felicity Aston to rising star of comedy W. Kamau Bell. Here are 12 of our favorites from 2012, one for each month, with even more below. We hope you have as much fun exploring them as we had talking to these fascinating and talented people.
Project Runway‘s Top Gunn
Tim Gunn on revolutionary fashion, the “It Gets Better” campaign, and why you’re never too smart for style.
Interrogating the NY Times‘ Anthony Shadid
Just before his death, we spoke to the revered correspondent about sneaking into Syria, being kidnapped in Libya, and the cost of getting the story in a war zone.
Wendell Pierce Goes to Market
The actor from The Wire and Treme on launching supermarkets in New Orleans and why Americans avoid reality on TV.
The Woman Who Skied Antarctica Solo
Adventurer Felicity Aston on her 59 days amid ferocious wind storms, treacherous glaciers, and breathtaking white solitude.
Timothy Noah: Mind the Income Gap
The prize-winning author of The Great Divergence on why the middle class never gets a raise.
Lizz Winstead Has an Opinion on That!
The Daily Show co-creator on her new memoir, our worthless media, and how people keep trying to mess with her “crazy-ass uterus.”
What Regina Spektor Sees from the Cheap Seats
The pioneering pop songstress on invented sounds, gay rights as sci-fi, and how it feels to be labeled a weirdo.
Can Code for America Save Our Broke Cities?
Jen Pahlka on dumb bureaucracy, government as a vending machine, and Silicon Valley sexism.
Michael Chabon’s Vinyl Draft
The Pulitzer prize-winning novelist on race, procrastination, and his new book, Telegraph Avenue.
Some of W. Kamau Bell’s Best Jokes Are Black
The star of FX’s new, racially charged comedy show Totally Biased on his white baby—and how Chris Rock saved him from selling condoms.
His Grimm Materials: A Conversation With Philip Pullman
The best-selling author on his new fairy tale collection, writerly superstitions, and what his daemon would look like.
Van Jones on Obama: “Climate Is Going to Be the Issue He’s Judged On.”
The green-jobs guru thinks his former boss has an opportunity to tackle global warming. (But will he take it?)
Some others you don’t want to miss…
Portlandia star Fred Armisen
Musician and producer Brian Eno
Author and chef Tamar Adler
Electronic dance music pioneer Paul van Dyk
Journalist Elizabeth Weil
Sex columnist and gay-rights activist Dan Savage
Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch
The Shins’ James Mercer
The Wire actress Sonja Sohn
Actor and anti-fracking activist Mark Ruffalo
Jason Olberholtzer, co-creator of the I Love Charts Tumblr
Sportswriter and Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger
Graphic novelist and director Marjane Satrapi
tUnE-yArDs’ powerhouse Merrill Garbus
New media “inventor” Robin Sloan
Radio Ambulante creator and author Daniel Alarcón
You can peruse our entire archive of interviews here.