I thought about doing a “19 things from ’19” post, but 19 things is a lot of things to talk about in a forum in which those things might be seen as “recommendations” as opposed to “things that pressed one or more of my very specific buttons and that I would be horrified to learn an acquaintance explored because I mentioned it.” A normal thing to think and worry about!
Anyway so instead here are 10 things I liked in 2019 that I do more or less recommend if any of them sound interesting!
The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World by Amy Reed. Amy Reed is one of my favorite writers both because I love her sentences and because I love her protagonists and the things they want and the things they’re afraid of and how well-articulated and carefully explored those things are. This book is contemporary young adult, but there’s also a light speculative/supernatural angle. It’s about friendship and grief and surviving Big Things and small, personal things. It’s beautiful.
Christian nonfiction. I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, and I’ve read some real gems this year, some in my small group and some on my own. My favorite author I “discovered” in this genre in 2019 was Peter Enns, but I also enjoyed Nadia Bolz-Weber, Brian Zahnd, and John Pavlovitz. Special shout out to Sarah Bessey; not a recent find but she killed it last year.
Mysteries. This is kind of cheating because I’ve loved mysteries since I was frankly much too young to be reading them, but in 2019 I really leaned into reading as many of them as I wanted without worrying about balancing them with other genres I felt like I should be reading more of. Again, a normal thing to think!!! Anyway, my favorite mystery author of the moment is Louise Penny, and as of this writing you can get her first book as an e-book for I think $3 on Amazon. Technically standalones, but for maximum feelings, read in order. I also really enjoyed the first of Ann Cleeves’s Shetland series, a recent standalone by Laura Lippman, and Tiffany D. Jackson’s latest (though her first is better).
Aladdin. Whatever!!! It was my favorite when I was a kid and I had a very happy experience seeing the remake in the theater. Did it correct the ~problematic elements of the original? No. Did it make them worse? Also no. Was Aladdin a cutie? Absolutely yes. Also, people complained but there was nothing to do but go in a completely different direction for Genie in the absence of Robin Williams, and Will Smith had a great time, and I can’t remember the last time I’d felt pure frothy joy like I felt during “Prince Ali.” Presumably you can watch this on Disney+.
Eighth Grade. Not new in 2019, but new to me as a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law. I can’t believe I didn’t watch this movie when it came out and then a dozen times since then. It was made for me. I felt my heart melting in my chest from start to finish. I’m pretty sure this one is free to stream on Amazon Prime right now.
Leslie Odom Jr.’s Mr. Y’all know Hamilton? If yes, you know Aaron Burr? If yes, you know how you and I and everyone was in love with him and his silky smooth voice? If yes, you will also love Mr. If no to any of the above but you think “ooh, I like a silky smooth voice” and also like vocal jazz albums, you will probably love Mr. It’s fun, it’s smart, he sounds so good.
Sara Bareilles’s Amidst the Chaos. This is not the Sara B album I love the most, but it is the album I loved the most in 2019, and it feels like 2019 in ways I don’t have space for here. It’s songs about anxiety and human connection and hope and holding out for and/or paying attention to magic. And some that are a little sillier than that. The music video for “Fire” is a must if you were once obsessed with Travis Wall/So You Think You Can Dance. And of course, she, too, sounds so good.
Gravity Falls. I’ve written about this show before a little bit. It’s a two-season cartoon that also lives on Disney+ now but if you can watch it, you absolutely should, and not in the kind of shrug-y apologetic way I think you should watch Aladdin.
Mad Men. Obviously not new in 2019 to almost anyone but me; kept putting it off because historical stuff is not really my thing especially when it’s decade-specific American nostalgia and, like, “men” is right in the title, but we binged it this year and it is objectively really great TV. A friend recently very graciously didn’t correct me when I cited Joan Holloway-Harris as what I most loved about it, and she is, but alas my heart also beats for sad-but-bad men and so I also loved Roger an absurd amount (and, yes, Don a slightly lesser amount). Special shout outs also to Peggy, who had such a good arc, and Lane, a sweet spirit without whom the show got worse. Netflix.
About half of Battlestar Galactica. Another not-new cultural zeitgeist show I figured it was time to try. On paper this is totally my thing!!! In reality I absolutely resent that the writers of this show went in with absolutely no plan despite the big concepts they were going for and questions they were trying to ask, especially when “they have a plan” was a HUGE part of the INTRO of every episode of the show. Come on!!! Irresponsible storytelling!!! Anyway much of this show was complete nonsense and almost every single character deserved better, but the parts that weren’t nonsense (and, sure, some of the parts that were) were SO cool and compelling. I would be happy to talk much more about this with anyone at any time. Amazon Prime. Sorry this barely counts as a good thing and now the post is over!