At least some readers may remember my former blog at which I wrote for 17 years. Every December, I posted a list of my favorite books, movies, TV shows, and albums that I’d discovered over the past year. When I moved to WordPress, there was little question in my mind about whether to continue this long tradition. I love year-end lists, and I have a lot of fun making my own. They’re numbered, but I haven’t purposely ranked them.
1. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – A young woman named Alex takes on a special position of keeping the magical secret societies at Yale University in line, but of course things go wrong. This had elements of mystery and horror and I’m looking forward to the sequel that comes out next year.
2. Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman – Burkeman’s approach to time management is 90 degrees out from how most books approach the subject. Basically, he says, we should actually loosen our attempts to control time and instead flow a bit more with what happens. This is probably my top book of the year.
3. Jesus and John Wayne by Kristin Kobes Du Mez – Du Mez analyzes evangelical subculture’s obsession with a “strong” masculinity. She not only provides a comprehensive history of the movement but also shows its affects on evangelicalism as a political movement up to the present day.
4. The Sentence by Louise Erdrich – This novel about indigenous bookstore workers combines a mystery with contemporary justice issues such as Black Lives Matter and the oppression of indigenous people. It’s also a love letter to books and the people who read them.
5. Trains, Jesus, and Murder by Richard Beck – This offers a great look at how Johnny Cash’s music depicts faith issues, including the darker parts of life, politics, and church. It has a lot of great insights into his life and songs.
Honorable Mention: Wayward by Chuck Wendig
1. CODA – Out of all of this year’s Best Picture nominees, I put this near the top of my own list, too. It depicts a young woman weighing her own musical dreams vs. how she provides important support for her family as the only member who isn’t deaf. It’s such a good balance of humor and heart.
2. Drive My Car – This was my other top Oscar pick. A theatre director who experiences tremendous loss slowly begins to find healing by taking on a show with a diverse cast. It’s a wonderful story of what art can do in times of heartache.
3. Everything Everywhere All At Once – Michelle Yeoh stars as a wife and mom pulled into a strange multiverse martial arts adventure that forces her to confront truths about her family. This was one of the most surreal, funny, and touching movies I’ve seen in a while.
4. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – As a new threat from the sea named Namor appears, T’Challa’s family and nation must process their grief while figuring out how to fend him off. This was an excellent follow-up, and dealt very well with the loss of Chadwick Boseman while also paying tribute to him.
5. TÁR – Cate Blanchett stars as a well-regarded conductor who has to reckon with allegations about improper behavior. It’s a fantastic character study that includes an exploration of power dynamics, and yet there’s also a supernatural and psychological element that I don’t yet understand and will be thinking about for a long time to come.
Honorable Mention: NOPE
1. Ozark – The conclusion of the series sees the Byrd family continue to walk the tightrope of what they owe to others while seeking their freedom. The end is a combination of reckoning, tragedy, and people fully living into what they were long becoming.
2. Euphoria – This high school drama could sometimes be a lot, but so much of it is driven by the characters figuring out who they are, often by stumbling and bumbling and hurting each other along the way.
3. The Sandman – I love the comics and was glad to see this finally make it to the screen in some form. It’s a fantastic adaptation, faithful to the stories while taking appropriate liberties when needed.
4. Succession – Hardly any character on this show is likable. But the story of a family constantly maneuvering to take over a media empire via cover-ups, back-stabbing, side deals, alliances, and individual pathology was too compelling for me to stop watching.
5. Andor – This prequel to Rogue One is what I hope more Star Wars shows can be. Rather than rely on the flashiness of lightsaber battles or cameos by well-known characters, this show explored the underside of rebellion, as heartbreaking and demanding and unromantic as it can be most of the time.
Honorable Mention: Arcane League of Legends
1. White Bee, Psychedelic Flight Attendant – I saw a clip from this progressive jazz group in Instagram and was instantly hooked by their song “Aquarius.” This album is one to which I’ve frequently turned when wanting to mellow out. Besides “Aquarius,” other favorites are “Borough of Churches” and “Antihistamine.”
2. Marian Hill, Why Can’t We Just Pretend? – Fans had the benefit of them releasing a few songs over the past year leading up to this release. This duo continues to provide a slinky, sexy electronic sound. Favorites include “little bit,” “visions of you,” and “oOo that’s my type.”
3. Arcane League of Legends Soundtrack – A big reason why I liked this show so much was its music. It’s such an eclectic collection of hip-hop, rock, and soul. Favorites include “Dirty Little Animals” by BONES UK, “Misfit Toys” by Pusha T and Mako, and “What Could Have Been” by Sting and Ray Chen.
4. beabadoobee, Beatopia – I really liked her last album, which had an upbeat pop-rock sound that had a certain ’90s callback to it. She’s still doing some of that on here but also using more acoustic and string arrangements. Favorites include “Sunny day,” “the perfect pair,” and “See you Soon.”
5. Electric Callboy, TEKKNO – This German band’s combination of techno dance music and death metal is really chaotic and really fun. Clearly their approach is very tongue-in-cheek, and that makes it even better. Favorites include “Pump It,” “We Got the Moves,” and “Hurrikan.”
Honorable Mention: The Vindys, Keep Going
My 2022 Playlist (listen here)
Noel Wells, “Lovely Day”
ONR, Sara Barthel, Phantogram, “Must Stop (Falling in Love)”
We Are KING, “Space Oddity”
Pixey, “Free to Live in Colour”
Kathleen, “San Andreas’ Fault”
Tamar Aphek, “Show Me Your Pretty Side”
Wig Wam, “Do Ya Wanna Taste It”
Adele, “Oh My God”
Foreign Air, “Monsters”
Meg Myers, K.Flay, “The Underground (K.Flay Remix)”
sim fera, “11/8”
Jim James, “Here In Spirit”
Great Time, “Rah’n Tah’n Kregg”
White Bee, “Aquarius”
nilu, “Are You With Me”
Our Last Night, “Surface Pressure”
Marian Hill, GASHI, “little bit”
Sting, Ray Chen, “What Could Have Been”
O.N.E. the Duo, “Stuck in the Middle”
The Vindys, “Morning Light”
Cinnamon Babe, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is Black”
beabadoobee, “the perfect pair”
King Princess, “Little Bother”
Delta Rae, “The Beast”
Electric Callboy, “We Got the Moves”
Nicholas Britell, “Succession (Main Title Theme)”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Burning”