The past year has been a tumultuous one — the headlines that gripped online readers ranged from a devastating tsunami in Japan to a violent post-Stanley Cup loss riot in downtown Vancouver.

CBCNews.ca readers were also drawn to stories about pivotal shifts in the Canadian political landscape, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper winning a majority and the New Democrats securing a landmark number of seats to become the official Opposition.

But the most-viewed piece of 2011 wasn't written by a journalist: It was NDP Leader Jack Layton's last letter to Canadians, written days before his death on Aug. 22, and released shortly after. A story about the 61-year-old Official Opposition head's death after a battle with cancer was also the fourth most-read story of the year on CBCNews.ca.

"Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair," he wrote in his letter. "So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world."

Top 10 stories of 2011 on CBCNews.ca:

January:

February:

March:

April:

May:

June:

July:

August:

September:

October:

November:

December (first week):