Favorite books, films, podcasts, articles and whatever else I encountered in the past year.
21 December 2018
I don’t keep up with enough brand-new books, films, etc. to make comprehensive best-of lists at the end of the year. But here’s a list of various things from 2018 that I liked. Some of these I’ve mentioned in my newsletter or on Twitter, but I tried specifically to highlight things I might not have talked about much. So maybe you’ll find some hidden gems in the bunch.
- I saw a lot of great films this year, but The Favourite was … well, you can figure it out.
- Other new films I loved: Can You Ever Forgive Me?, First Reformed, The Rider and Burning.
- Orson Welles’s unfinished final film had been in post-production purgatory for years, to the point most people assumed it would never be completed and released. And yet this year it was, thanks to… checks notes Netflix? I got to see this in a theater and beyond the basic thrill of seeing something I thought I’d never see, The Other Side of the Wind was complex and sly and bewildering and brilliant.
- If you’re among the few left to whom I have not yet recommened Madeline Miller’s mythological retelling Circe, consider it recommended.
- A fun and smart story with a young, spirited protagonist, Maureen Johnson’s Truly Devious reads like a love letter to all of us who love to read mysteries.
- Speaking of mysteries, I continue to be truly impressed by Kristen Lepionka, whose second book featuring her Columbus, Ohio-based bisexual detective Roxane Weary, What You Want To See, is well worth picking up.
- I never read the graphic novel that the miniseries The End of the F–ing World was based on but I loved this story about a budding psychopath, a dissatisfied teenage girl and their fucked-up road trip.
- One of my golden screen rules is “watch anything Ben Whishaw is in,” because even if the thing as a whole isn’t that great, he is always great himself. As it turns out, A Very English Scandal is pretty great as a whole, and Hugh Grant is tremendously good in it as well. It’s snappy and cheeky, and I suspect the fact that it’s not a ponderous-and-therefore-perceived-as-more-important history piece led it to get overlooked. But it’s worth watching.
- Sharp Objects was not overlooked, but it was fantastic.
- I made it a point to fill in some of my television gaps this past year, which included watching the entirety of Breaking Bad, which led to watching Better Call Saul—which I love. I haven’t even seen all of season four yet, but I’m mentioning it anyway because I love it.
- Another favorite television show from this past year is The Good Place. I’m not making a big deal of that here, because I barely shut up about it—but I will make a big a deal about the The Good Place podcast. It’s an unique look behind the scenes to not only this particular show but the process of making good television in general, and it’s wonderful.
- One of my favorite fiction podcasts, Alice Isn’t Dead, wrapped up its third season and entire storyline, and stayed spooky, conspiratorial and roadside-attraction-weird until the end.
- On the nonfiction podcast front, Disgraceland was my find of the year. True crime meets pop music history meets punk rock storytelling.
- One of my more general resolutions for 2018 was to see more local theater, and out of that endeavor, I discovered the delightful play She Kills Monsters, as produced by Prop Thtr earlier this year in Chicago. A tale of Dungeons and Dragons and geek culture and friends and sisters and making your own identity. Obviously this is difficult to seek out, but if by chance you see it being performed near you, go for it.
- Favorite albums, in no particular order: Florence + the Machine, High as Hope; Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer; Open Mike Eagle, What Happens When I Try to Relax; Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour; The Breeders, All Nerve.
- In notable longform, I appreciated reading Pamela Colloff on the Mickey Bryan murder for ProPublica.
- Taffy Brodesser-Akner on Tonya Harding for the New York Times was also great.
- And Zach Baron’s profile of Brendan Fraser for GQ stuck in my mind after reading it for a long time.
- In 2018 I started studying tarot as a storytelling/reflection tool. I’ve found that Jessica Dore’s Twitter account and daily tarot card interpretations to be lovely source of insight.
- I’ve mentioned before that in 2018 I deliberately started working my way through a “greatest films” list as a way to fill in some cinematic knowledge gaps. I watched twenty-eight films I hadn’t previously seen from the first hundred of that list and not only did I learn that a lot of those films are really good (who knew), it reactivated my love of watching films in a way I hadn’t known since I was much younger. And that is a good thing.