My Favorite Books and Media of 2017

In 2017, I read 52 books (that’s 1 per week!) and watched 33 movies and TV series. Here are my top picks of the year:

TOP BOOKS

The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls, 2005
The Faraway Nearby, Rebecca Solnit, 2013
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders, 2017
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, 2016
The Circle, Dave Eggers, 2013

TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS & COMICS

March (Book 1-3), John Lewis,
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, Damian Duffy

TOP MOVIES

Lady Bird (2017)
Paris is Burning (1990)
Tickled (2016)
Obit. (2016)
Frances Ha (2012)

TOP TV

Ru Paul’s Drag Race (S9)
Black Mirror, San Junipero (S3: E4)
Stranger Things (S2)
Transparent (S4)
Chewing Gum (S1)

TOP PODCASTS

S-Town
Philosophize This!
Nancy
Up First
It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders

2017 IN SUMMARY 

Consuming media, especially reading books, can feel like a solitary experience. In 2017 I made a conscious effort to make media a shared and communal experience. From starting a free little library at my workplace, to joining book groups, seeking recommendations, attending author lectures and events, and even just watching current TV with other people… I really tried to use media as a way to connect this year. This  yielded mixed results. On the positive side, it broke me out of my comfort zone and got me to explore media that I might not otherwise seek out. I’ve come to appreciate the role of media preferences in one’s identity — mine and others — and the importance of media in fostering connections and making conversation.

But while I watched, read, and listened to some great stuff in 2017, I also consumed some things that I really didn’t enjoy. In some cases, I did it just to be in the know (like what happens in OITNB, even though I did not like this latest season) . In other cases, it was out of obligation (book groups, author lectures). Or I was attracted to the mystique of what it was about (The Lobster, Diary of An Oxygen Thief… ugh ugh). Compiling my “top” lists I got kind of bummed out about all the time I spent this year on stuff that I didn’t really care for. But, I suppose it’s important that I know what I don’t like as much as what I do like. But in 2018, I’m ready to dive back into some good stuff.

I also made a conscious effort this year to read and watch more from diverse authors and producers. And women writers, especially. Rebecca Solnit was my favorite find in 2017. I read three books by her this year, and all were amazing. And Greta Gerwig. So talented. Lady Bird and Frances Ha were two of my favorite films.

2017 was also the year of podcasts for me. I could’ve listed 2+ more of my favorites. I’ve come to rely on podcasts for keeping up with the news (another goal of 2017) and for interesting ideas and great storytelling. S-Town had me feeling all the feels.

I also had fun indulging in lots of queer media in 2017. Nancy. Drag Race. Yasss. I even (reluctantly) started watching the L Word. Bringing it back to that whole media-as-a-shared-experience goal.

Oh, and I self-published my first poetry chapbook in 2017! In 2018 I hope to balance more input and output. It’s time to start sharing!

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What I Read and Watched in October

Books:

Movies: 

TV:

Podcasts:

Thoughts & reflections:

  • Of the six books I finished, I saw two of their authors in person this month. That’s a confusing sentence, sorry. What I mean to say is that I saw Eileen Myles and Charlotte Gordon speak this October (separate occasions). Between the Boston Book Festival, the Ipswich Reads One Book event, and unplugging in a cabin for a week in Westhampton MA, I had a very bookish month.
  • I went to the movie theater, finally! Second time in 2017. Worth it. Blade Runner was awesome. Long, but awesome.
  • No, I’d never seen Hocus Pocus before. Sue me.
  • I’m finally slowing down on podcasts, though I listened to a lot of Philosophize This! in the car this month. Simone De Beauvoir is my new queen, though I need to learn more about her.
  • What better way to learn about a person than to read their private postmortem diaries like a creep, as I did with Susan Sontag. I’m not sure how I feel about reading folks’ real-life journals. It’s like voyeurism.
  • Stranger Things 2 came our on my birthday and I’m so, so pleased! I’m savoring the season. Not quite done yet.

Ideas for next month: 

  • I’m not sure. I’m in a lull. I tore through my to-read and to-finish pile this month, and I need to get to the library. There’s only 1 book I’ve committed to reading for a book club. Otherwise, I think this’ll be a “whim” month. Whatever strikes my fancy.
  • Maybe get back into audiobooks?

What I Read and Watched in September

philosophize this
Books:

Comics: 

Movies: 

TV:

Podcasts:

Thoughts & reflections:

  • So happy to have found the Philosophize This! podcast. I’m only 3 or 4 years behind, but I’m catching up and learning lots.
  • Also happy that Transparent is back! Season 4 wasn’t my favorite, but still compelling and certainly worth watching.
  • Frances Ha might be my most favorite movie I’ve seen so far this year, which is a pleasant surprise considering this year hasn’t been much for movie-watching.
  • It looks like I didn’t read much, but the majority of my reading time went into a 500+ page historical nonfiction tome that I didn’t quite finish in time for October. I’ll save it for next month’s log.

Ideas for next month: 

  • October is a busy month, but I’m going on a week-long “unplug” vacation which means lots of writing and reading. Can’t wait.
  • I might make a rare trip to the movie theater to see the Blade Runner sequel. Also can’t wait.

What I Read and Watched in August

Books:

Movies: 

TV:

Podcasts:

Thoughts & reflections:

  • I can’t even attempt to find a common thread between the media I consumed this past month. I was all over the place — hilariously so. I’ll call it an exploratory month.
  • My addiction to podcasts is deepening. Oh no, or oh yay? I’m so happy that Nancy is back, and I’m also enjoying Cameron Esposito’s new Queery podcast. Between those and some Adrienne Rich in the mix, I think I got my queer fix this month.
  • Because of my writing project, I didn’t allow myself many chances to chill and watch TV or movies. Everything I watched I watched with company. I’ve mentioned this in past media logs, but I’m appreciating movies more as shared media experiences, especially since reading and writing are such solitary activities.
  • I waited literally one year for Diary of an Oxygen Thief to come in at the library.  One year. And it was not worth the wait. So not worth the wait, it was like a cruel practical joke. Top 10 worst books I’ve ever read.
  • But August, overall, was a reminder that it’s okay to spend time consuming media that you just don’t like. Sure, life’s too short, blah blah, but I say that knowing what you don’t like is just about as important as knowing what you do like. It’s even more important not to assume any piece of media will fall into either category based on genre, popularity, etc.. Like Diary of an Oxygen Thief — I thought I’d like it. Wrong. It Follows? Randomly loved it, even though I’m not a horror buff.

Ideas for next month: 

  • I’m already falling in love with 2 other podcasts and it’s only September 5. This is a problem. I’m becoming that person who always starts sentences with “So I was listening to this podcast…” and I don’t know if I’m ready to be that person yet.
  • I want to mix in at least at least a little nonfiction this month.

What I Read and Watched in July

Finally giving the blog a long-overdue facelift for summer. Fresh design. New mobile-responsive theme. Phew! It’s not exactly how I want it yet, but it’s at least a start. Feelin’ good.

Books:

Comics / Graphic:

Movies: 

TV:

Podcasts:

Thoughts & reflections:

  • Guess who’s back on track. Moi! Slayed my media goals for the month and then some. It’s amazing how much I can read and watch when I’m in-between writing projects. I’ve also tweaked my daily schedule to incorporate more reading time in the mornings, and it’s made a difference.
  • I should really change the name of these media logs to “What I Read, Watched, and Listened to in [Month].” I’ve fallen in love with podcasts and have come to depend on them for news and general interestingness. I’ve made the executive decision to only list podcasts in the log that I listen to with regularly — as in, I try to keep up with the latest episodes — and not count the one-off shows, which there were quite a few of this month.
  • I got to experience the strangeness of putting a face to a podcast voice when, somewhat by chance, I saw Christopher Lydon speak at the Thoreau Society Annual Gathering in Concord, MA. Which, by the way, was an overall wonderful and weird experience.
  • I went to a movie theater! Woah! It’s been months! I’m using the term “movie theater” loosely. Community theater? A performance stage that also has a screen? Whatever to call it, Obit. was followed up by a panel discussion, which I think should come with all feature films. It was refreshing to watch a film with others in a public space. There’s something special about it shared media experiences.
  • How had I never seen Matilda before? I mean, really. How? I loved it! Ghost, not so much. It was worth the watch just to understand all the cultural references that come from it, though. Also I think it’s funny that 2 of the 3 movies I watched this month are titled Ghost and Obit.

Ideas for next month:

  • My July “summer break” was refreshing, but now I’m diving into another writing project. A new draft of the same writing project, I should say. My goal now is to keep defending my reading time in the morning and evenings, balancing input and output in a routine that makes me happy. Or at least satisfied.
  • I’m craving a good queer read. Too much heteronormativity in my media lately. I miss Nancy and RPDR.

What I Read and Watched in June

BOOKS:

TV:

PODCASTS:

  • Nancy (s1)
  • NPR’s Up First
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • Invisibilia (S3)

Thoughts & reflections:

  • Soooo I had a busy month. And it was a great month, so I’m not even going to feel bad about the few books I read and the zero movies I watched. Some months are more output than input, and I put out this June. Oh… what? I mean that I finished draft two of a major writing project. What did you think I meant?
  • Invisibiliaaaaaahhh! Why was this season so short? I should’ve savored it! Still my favorite podcast. Filled me up with so many ideas and “did you know?’s” to share.
  • Yeah, basically all June I kept catching myself saying, “So I was listening to this podcast…” Because I’m that person now, apparently. But really, they give me so much joy. I’m so sad that season 1 of Nancy is over now, also. Too soon!
  • What’s more intense — RPDR or OITNB? Ah! They both leave me exhausted! But I loved following Drag Race up until the finale.

Ideas for next month:

  • I feel rejuvenated and ready to get back into a regular reading routine. And it’s a good thing I have a pile of books in my “to read” pile. I’m all set for summer.

What I Read and Watched in May

nancy podcast

BOOKS:

COMICS/GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

TV:

PODCASTS:

  • Nancy
  • NPR’s Up First
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour

Thoughts & reflections:

  • I discovered a new favorite podcast this month. Nancy! It’s so fun and queer, and it just makes me happy. I checked it out based on a recommendation from Pop Culture Happy Hour.  One podcast leads to another, I suppose.
  • Speaking of podcasts, Up First is the first reliable source of daily digestible news that I actually don’t mind. In fact, it’s kind of enjoyable, as far as news goes.
  • Cover girl, put the bass in your walk…
  • Since when did the Best Picture category at the Oscars become a competition for Saddest Movie Ever? Dear lord. Manchester by the Sea is sad and then gets sadder and then your heart’s falling out of your chest and then — credits. And Moonlight was sad but also beautiful and wonderful and wahhh emotions.
  • Can Saga please last forever? That’s the whole idea of a saga right? Well thank god because I never want it to end.
  • Head to toe… let your whole body talk… 

Ideas for next month; 

  • My summer reading list is overwhelming. Good thing it’s currently 49 degrees and doesn’t feel like summer.
  • That photo of me in the sidebar doesn’t even look like me anymore. Well damn. I need to figure out what to do next with this blog, if that’s even what it is.

What I Read and Watched in April

s-town-podcast

BOOKS:

COMICS/GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

TV:

PODCASTS:

  • Pop Culture Happy Hour 
  • S-Town

Thoughts & reflections:

  • Very rarely do I find a show I want to binge on, but this month I did. S-Town. Wow, I devoured it within a week. With such compelling storytelling, I couldn’t help myself, and I still can’t stop thinking about it. S-Town is a rare gem, and hands down the best podcast series I’ve listened to.
  • Speaking of great storytelling, I finally finished The Stand. It was a multi-month process with many breaks in between. Though not my favorite King novel, I can see why it’s classic.
  • Oh, and March? Incredible. This whole month was just packed with phenomenal stories! This graphic novel series, Books 1 – 3, should be required reading. I learned so much about the civil rights movement of the 1960s — about important people, milestones, and setbacks. That it’s told through John Lewis’ perspective and experience adds so much depth and intimacy to the series as well.
  • Without cable, it’s been years since I’ve followed a show as it was airing weekly. But Drag Race is so worth it. My Friday night joy.

Ideas for next month: 

  • Follow whims. Keep seeking out great stories.

What I Read and Watched In March

philosophy_big_questions

BOOKS:

MOVIES:

TV:

Thoughts & reflections:

  • I finally took the time to dig into some philosophy fundamentals, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while. These aren’t breezy reads. I’m also half-way through a Ralph Waldo Emerson collection. I’m taking my time with some of this stuff, taking notes, studying, absorbing. That equals less books finished this month, but I can’t complain.
  • I didn’t watch much this month either, but Tickled was one of the wildest documentaries I’ve ever seen. And Chewing Gum was refreshingly weird.
  • What was the last non-documentary film I’ve watched? It’s been a while.
  • My media success of the month was discovering how to watch live streaming TV without cable. Specifically, how to watch the premier of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I can stream live from the VH1 website! So excited! I wonder if there are other channels I can do this with?
  • I was sick through some of March, which meant more sleeping and overall less reading, watching, doing, being…

Ideas for next month: 

  • I’m contemplating moving this blog onto another platform, if I can find the time.
  • Often, when I find pockets of time to watch something, I’m struck with decision fatigue, and I just don’t watch anything. I’m thinking on what I can do about this. I was using the National Film Registry as my curated list of films to watch, but it’s become daunting, and many of the movies aren’t available on my streaming services. Hmm.

What I Read and Watched in February

BOOKS:

COMICS/GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

TV:

Thoughts & reflections:

  • The Stand is such an undertaking, I’m counting Book One as one book. Call me a cheater.
  • How has it taken me this long to read Rebecca Solnit? A new favorite! I can’t wait to read more of her books.
  • What I lack in quantity this month, I make up in quality. Paris is Burning is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen. March is also fantastic, and I’ll definitely be reading Books Two and Three.
  •  I got back into OITNB this month, which makes up for my lack of movie-watching. Having left off on Season 2, I forgot how much I love this show. Every episode is an exercise in empathy.
  • This month, I participated in a book group for the first time ever. I’m usually a lone reader, so it was a good change of pace to read something for discussion, especially in a book in a genre I don’t otherwise read normally. Mixing it up!
  • In February, I also discovered an awesome used bookstore near me! Dangerous, dangerous!

Ideas for next month: 

  • Last month I said I was ankle-deep in a writing endeavor, and now I’m about waist-deep. To keep reading, I’ll have to continue carving sacred pocks of time and defending them. Adjusting my sleep schedule has helped a bit.
  • I have so many books in my backlog, I don’t anticipate being without a good book anytime soon.