Tuesday, 31 December 2019
Every year I like to post a summary of the various media I have consumed over the last twelve months, whether that be books, music, television or film. It’s a nice opportunity to remember what I liked or disliked, and to see which things stayed with me … or were instantly forgettable.
This is the first year that I started using Letterboxd for every film I watched; I think I only really started from the middle of the year, so there are probably some missing entries in early 2019. Next year will definitely be more complete.
I like to split up my reading list into fiction, non-fiction, and comics, mainly because it almost always surprises me how much non-fiction I read each year.
- Drunken Baker (Barney Farmer)
- Doomsday Book (Connie Willis)
- Tales of Ordinary Madness (Charles Bukowski)
- Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
- Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
- Sailing to Sarantium (Guy Gavriel Kay)
- Lord Of Emperors (Guy Gavriel Kay)
- A Little Life (Hanya Yanagihara)
- The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (H.P. Lovecraft)
- Un Lun Dun (China Miéville)
- The Traitor (Seth Dickinson)
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (David Mitchell)
- Ellery Queen’s Awards: Tenth Series (Various)
- Postcards from the Edge (Carrie Fisher)
- The Paris Wife (Paula McLain)
- Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)
- The Magus (John Fowles)
- The Girl in the Spider’s Web (David Lagercrantz)
- I, Partridge (Rob Gibbons)
- How to Stop Time (Matt Haig)
- Methuselah’s Children (Robert A. Heinlein)
- Genevieve Undead (Jack Yeovil)
- Drachenfels (Jack Yeovil)
I feel like I re-read more old favourites this year than I have in recent years, including some stories that I hadn’t read since I was a teenager (Drachenfels and The Magus, which were both as good as my memory said they would be). There were also some completely forgettable books—I don’t even remember reading the fourth Girl with the Dragon Tattoo book, it was that memorable—and some classics that were decidedly underwhelming (Blood Meridian in particular, although Mrs Dalloway was also more than a little pedestrian).
At the more positive end of the scale, Doomsday Book was excellent, if a little long; The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet was well-constructed and meticulously researched, although I found the ending predictable; and A Little Life was heartbreaking and kept me up late at night, turning the pages in the hope of some relief for the tortured protagonist (hint: there wasn’t any).
- Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History (Kyle Newman et al)
- Once a Runner (John L. Parker Jr.)
- The Making of Swallows and Amazons (Sophie Neville)
- Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman)
- How To Be Right in a World Gone Wrong (James O’Brien)
- Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets (David Simon)
- Creativity, Inc. (Ed Catmull)
- The Basketball Diaries (Jim Carroll)
- Travels With Fortune: An African Adventure (Christina Dodwell)
- React Design Patterns and Best Practices (Michele Bertoli)
- A Walk In The Woods (Bill Bryson)
On the non-fiction side, I revisited another very old favourite, Christina Dodwell, whose travel and survival books I devoured as a teenager. Travels With Fortune, her first book, details the experiences that laid the groundwork for all those later works. I also finally got around to reading Leaves of Grass (which was totally different to what I was expecting) and David “The Wire” Simon’s riveting book detailing his time with Baltimore’s murder police.
- From Hell (Alan Moore)
- Buddy Buys A Dump (Peter Bagge)
Nothing of note here, just a couple of re-reads. I always seem to have the same problem with re-reading Alan Moore—it’s so mind-blowing the first time you read it that, by the time you return for a second time, your expectations are so high that it’s inevitably a let-down.
While I could easily just list my favourite albums released over the last year, I prefer to look back at my actual consumption, both new and old. Sometimes it reflects a stronger than usual roster of new artists and album releases; more often it just shows how long your favourite music and musicians stay with you.
Top 10 artists in 2019
- The Wildhearts
- Bon Iver
- Neil Diamond
- Led Zeppelin
- Billie Eilish
- Afghan Whigs
- Better Oblivion Community Center
- Tegan and Sara
- James Blake
The Wildhearts reclaim their top spot through a combination of a new album release and, well, being my favourite band of all time. Out of the rest of the list, only five (Bon Iver, Billie Eilish, Better Oblivion Community Center, Tegan and Sara, and James Blake) actually released a new album this year, and of those the latter two weren’t even that good, if I’m being honest. I’m not sure why Led Zep managed to chart so highly, either—probably because when I listen to them, it’s usually the epic twin album Remasters from beginning to end.
Top 10 albums in 2019
- WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? - Billie Eilish
- Better Oblivion Community Center - Better Oblivion Community Center
- i,i - Bon Iver
- In Search of the Miraculous - Desperate Journalist
- All My Heroes Are Cornballs - JPEGMAFIA
- Any Human Friend - Marika Hackman
- Renaissance Men - The Wildhearts
- HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM - Beyoncé
- Nowhere Now Here - Mono
- STRENGTH IN NUMB333RS - FEVER 333
Now this is more like it. All these albums came out in 2019; Billie Eilish probably edged it simply by being something that everyone in the family was happy to listen to (which is not something you could say about JPEGMAFIA or FEVER 333). I really liked the Better Oblivion Community Center, Desperate Journalist, Marika Hackman, and Mono albums; the Beyoncé Netflix show was amazing; and FEVER 333 would appear to be a worthy successor to RATM in the political rap-metal genre.
I’m not going to list every film I watched this year, but here are a few notable entries:
- The Favourite
- Alita: Battle Angel
- Bohemian Rhapsody
- Captain Marvel
- The Dirt
- Blade Runner 2049
- Phantom Thread
- Avengers: Endgame
- I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Any More
- Cloud Atlas
- Can You Ever Forgive Me?
- The Wife
- Wet Hot American Summer
- Spider-Man: Far From Home
- A Star Is Born
- Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood
- Midnight Express
- Stan & Ollie
- Brittany Runs a Marathon
- Welcome to Marwen
For all that it feels like we never get to go to the cinema any more, I actually saw quite a few new releases this year. The Favourite was probably the weirdest of those; Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood probably the most enjoyable, although Endgame was pretty good too. The rest are a combination of Netflix, Amazon Prime, or visits to Amsterdam’s CitizenM hotel, which boasts a great selection of free movies. It was there I saw Phantom Thread (disappointing, even as a huge fan of PT Anderson) and Can You Ever Forgive Me? (brilliant, understated black comedy).
Favourite book: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Favourite album: Better Oblivion Community Center by Better Oblivion Community Center
Favourite film: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)