Although “best of” season has more-or-less come and gone, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites from the year that has ended from a few different categories.
Obviously I read a lot of books, which you all know. On Table of (mal)Contents, I shared a short list of my favorite reads of the past year—that is, some of the books I enjoyed reading most. In addition to those, though, I had a few others that really stood out.
- The High Divide by Lin Enger. I started and finished this one over my Christmas vacation, and oh my goodness, is it ever terrific. Set in 1886 and intersecting with the Hornaday Expedition, The High Divide is, in many ways, a book about the destructive power of secrets and shame as Ulysses Pope leaves his family to face the consequences of a terrible sin he committed 17 years earlier. Pick this one up, and don’t put it down until you’re finished.
- The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. This was one of the most thought-provoking books I engaged with all year, engaging the three great “untruths” that are shaping modern culture: fragility (what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker), emotional reasoning (always trust your feelings), and us vs. them (life is a batter between good and bad people).
- Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill-Perry. I reviewed this for LifeWay Books a few months back, so check that out for my thoughts.
As a lover of this particular art form, I wanted to specifically call it out a couple of titles in addition to those I mentioned in the podcast:
- Batman: The Wedding by Tom King. King’s Batman has been a fascinating read throughout the entire run. Despite the ire that this storyline in particular inspired, it’s been a worthwhile investment. I’m looking forward to seeing how it concludes over the next 18 months or so (as he wraps up his 100-issue story).
- Superman: Bizarroverse by Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. The final volume of Tomasi and Gleason’s series, Bizarroverse, was recently released, and it’s a fitting conclusion to a very consistent and worthwhile run on the character. While it’s a shame that they’re done on Superman, they left the character in a much better position than they found him.
- Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man: Into the Twilight by Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert. Spider-Man is known for being a quippy character, to an almost annoying degree at times. That’s actually what I enjoyed most about this volume: Zdarsky gives a Spider-Man that has such a terrible sense of humor that you can’t help but laugh as he irritates every other character.
I rarely talk about the movies I watch, not because I don’t watch them, but because it doesn’t occur to me to. Nevertheless, there were a few I really enjoyed this year:
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. My son said this is the best Spider-Man movie he’s ever seen. It is definitely in the top two for me as well. Creative, hilarious, and appropriately affecting.
- Avengers: Infinity War. This is a movie that, frankly, shouldn’t have been as good as it is, given that it’s got somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 characters playing key roles. Complex and compelling is not easy to pull off on this scale, but the Russos managed it well. (The score is a bit blah, but that’s not atypical for a Marvel film.)
- Foo Fighters: Back and Forth. Emily and I watched this a few months ago on Netflix, and it was excellent. I really appreciated the sense of down-to-earth-ness that comes through in the film; that, despite this being a band that’s played some of the biggest concert venues in the world, it’s made up of pretty normal guys, and I dig that. I’m sure that there’s a great deal of pretension in reality, but the filmmakers did a great job.
I don’t talk a lot about music, because I don’t actively listen to a lot of music (and particularly not a lot of music written and performed by Christians). Still, there are some songs and albums that I took notice of this year:
- Black River by The Tea Party. This is a single that was released near the end of the year, but it’s an excellent straight-up rock and roll song. I really dig it.
- Resurrection Letters vol. 1 by Andrew Peterson. Thoughtful, well-executed music that’s well worth listening to and singing in your church.
- Where I Started by Wide Mouth Mason. This album has been out for 20 years, and I had a copy back in college, but it’s one I only recently re-discovered. Really great stuff from a solid Canadian band.
And, finally, three of my favorite podcasts right now (aside from the two I co-host):
- The Happy Rant. Because it’s fun.
- Stuff You Should Know. Sometimes it’s hit or miss, specifically related to language, but Emily and I consistently enjoy this one.
- Ridiculous History. This one, again, can be a bit sketchy at least in terms of language, but it’s great fun (and you always end up learning something new).