My Favorite Books and Media of 2016

In 2016, I read 80 books, including graphic novels and comics, and watched 40 movies and TV series, combined. I’d say those are good even numbers, even if I didn’t hit my targets. And after all, it’s about quality, not quantity, right? And I read and watched some great stuff this year. Here are my top picks for 2016!

TOP BOOKS

flowers for algernonFlowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes, 1958
I picked this up out of a pile of books going into a yard sale. Maybe it was my lack of expectations, but this book just floored me. It happened to contain some of my favorite elements in a novel — an unreliable narrator, psychological twists, unconventional storytelling (it’s written as a journal), and an openness for interpretation. Amazing.

MiddlesexMiddlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides, 2002
Epic story and glorious, glorious narration. Damn. This novel was perfect to me, and for me this year, particularly. Its hefty scope kept me from tackling it for awhile, but it was well worth my patience. A book about personal history, identity and transition — with the level of strangeness I adore.


please kill mePlease Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
, Legs McNeil, Gillian McCain, 1996
I’m no punk rock connoisseur, or even much of music history buff, but this book was downright fascinating. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a compilation of interviews with folks who lived the borderline-unbelievable history. Even if it weren’t all true, it would still be an engaging story.

rubyfruit jungleRubyfruit Jungle, Rita Mae Brown, 1973 
The tagline — “A novel about being different and loving it” — didn’t exactly sell me (feel-good stories don’t seem to do it for me). So I was relieved to discover that this coming-out classic is the right, refreshing balance of pessimism and confidence for me. The positive, negative.

between the world and me

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015
This should be required reading for everyone. Period.

 

 


TOP GRAPHIC NOVELS & COMICS

wicked and divineThe Wicked + The Divine, Kieron Gillen
For the second year in a row, WicDiv continues to be my favorite. The colors! The characters! Ahh so delicious I just want to eat the pages. Nom.

 

sagaSaga, Brian K. Vaughan
This is another continued favorite. Always inventive and unexpected. Truly a “saga” I can’t get sick of.

 

 

paper girlsPaper Girls, Brian K. Vaughan, 2016
Dang, is there any series I don’t like Brian K. Vaughan? He’s the comic storytelling master, though I have to say the art really hooked me here. Plus, the writing is just a little too adult for kids, a little to kiddish for adults, which is exactly my sweet spot.

ghost worldGhost World, Daniel Clowes, 1998
I read this because it’s the basis of the best movie I watched this year (spoiler alert for section below). The graphic novel was different from the movie in many ways, but I still loved it on its own.

 

TOP MOVIES & TV 

transparentTransparent (S1 – 3)
It’s like this show was made for me, so much so, that it’s a little disturbing. Not only is it my favorite show of this year, it’s my favorite show of all-time. I’m not much a TV-watcher or a binge-water, but I binged-watched Transparent with no regrets. Beautiful.

ghost worldGhost World
I put this movie on just to test out my Amazon Kindle Fire Stick, and it wound up being the best movie I saw in 2016. It was odd in all the right ways, featuring underrepresented female friendships and unlikely relationships.

 

the graduateThe Graduate
Timeless. The ending scene of runaway Ben and Elaine in the bus, their smiles turning solemn, must be one of the greatest all-time movie moments.  (Side note: this film kicked off a Simon & Garfunkle listening binge that I still can’t totally explain).

stranger thingsStranger Things
Come on, it’s a given. Stranger Things basically defined my summer of 2016, as it did for many. It was the reason I finally got Netflix. Just fantastic.

 

star warsStar Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Another given. Do I even need to explain why this is on my list?

 

 


TOP PODCASTS 

Invisibilia
Why does this podcast about human behavior resonate with me so strongly? I bet there could be a whole Invisibilia episode dedicated to the psychological forces that drive me to be in love with this show. Maybe that’ll be in the next season, which I can’t wait for.

Pop Culture Happy Hour
One of my goals this year was to be more in-tune with current popular media, and this podcast helped me do just that, while also entertaining me and giving me leads to shows, movies, and other media I might like.

TED Radio Hour
This podcast just fills my emptiness between Invisbilia seasons, to be honest. But it’s fascinating nonetheless. I actually prefer it to traditional TED Talks, because the episodes string together multiple ideas around a single topic.

2016 IN SUMMARY 

2016 was the year I embraced television beyond cartoons, watching shows like Transparent, Stranger Things, and even Breaking Bad (like, 8 years behind, I know). This filled a hole in my movie-watching pursuits, which have fallen to the wayside a bit, in part because of the unanticipated lack of good movie theaters near my town.

In terms of books, I tackled some hefty classics — like One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Sound and the Fury. Some were more rewarding than others. I also intentionally tried to read more books from diverse authors, and also incorporated more nonfiction and poetry into my reading.

This was the first year in awhile that I was unable to find a completed comic series to dive into and devour start-to-finish. Last year was  Y: The Last Man, which I think may have just set the bar too high. Also, most of the graphic novels I read were just mediocre. So I’m concluding 2016 being a bit discouraged about my graphic novels and comics, but that’s okay.

In conclusion, I used this year to reconnect with the current media landscape, consuming more new releases in books, comics, movies, and TV than I normally do. The hipster in me rolls her eyes at staying current, but the practical me appreciates the value more than ever. Watching the latest shows with others and being able to talk about new books and movies is important, because media is connective. As corny as it sounds, media consumption isn’t just personal, it’s interpersonal. And that’s my grand media lesson for 2016.

Onward to 2017!

What I Read and Watched in August

stranger-things

BOOKS:

COMICS / GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

TV:

PODCASTS:

  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • TED Radio Hour

Thoughts & reflections:

  • Summer 2016 will be known as my summer of blueberry shandy and Stranger Things. Really, I love this show so much! It’s awesome to be able to be part of a TV phenomenon as it’s happening. To be able to discuss it with people, and to know what people are talking about when referencing the show. It sounds silly, but I’m just now realizing the true social value of being a TV-watcher. I just wish there were more series that were short and digestible like Stranger Things. Most require hours of time (*cough* GoT *cough*), and for not as much entertainment. I ought to look for more shows with a good time/enjoyment ratio.
  • I tried out two new comics series this month — The Unwritten and East of West. East of West is definitely not my thing, so scratch that. I could see myself getting into The Unwritten, but still, I’m not so thrilled about it. *sigh* Spoiled! I’m so damn spoiled!
  • Magical, magical, this month was. Harry Potter. The Secret Garden. Stranger Things (wait, I mentioned that already). Lumberjanes. I was in the mood for magic, apparently, and magic was had.
  • I was not, however, in the mood for movies. Again. I only watched High Fidelity off a recommendation and, I admit, it was good!
  • TED Radio Hour is filling my Invisibilia void. I really enjoy these! Even more than (dare I say) TED Talks, because each episode will connect multiple talks over a single theme.

Ideas for next month:

  • Transparent Season 3! Yasss.
  • Philosophy? I have this feeling that philosophy is my next frontier.
  • Feminism, again. I have a lot of catching up to do on that front, too.
  • I feel as though I ought to maybe read more plays? I struggled a bit with the format of this latest Harry Potter book, but it has inspired me to read more scripts.
  • Something spooky, perhaps?

What I Read and Watched in May

paper girls

BOOKS:

COMICS / GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

TV: 

Thoughts & reflections:

  • So, movies weren’t my thing this month. I’ve decided that I can’t (nor should I) force myself to watch movies if I’m not in the mood and have other priorities. Something about spring and the sunshine just doesn’t make movie-watching appealing. My interest will likely peak again during some other months or seasons.
  • Ahh, such good comics this month! Paper Girls exceeded my already high expectations for awesomeness. And WicDiv of course was stellar, gorgeous, and well worth the one-month hold I had on it at the library. Black Hole, though? I’m still not sure how I felt about it, other than confused and grossed out. Yeesh.
  • How is Transparent the most amazing show? It just is. And how am I supposed to wait until winter for Season 3 now? *heaving sigh*
  • Beach reading is best reading. Except I’ve been reminded that when reading in public, your choice in books becomes free game for people comment on. You want to chat about Salinger? Or feminism? That’s cool. Good way to meet new friends (and possible enemies, though thankfully that has yet to happen).
  • I need to read more poetry.

Ideas for next month:

  • More poetry.
  • I’m investing in a simple streaming device for my TV to make it, like, an actual, functional TV (without cable, but still). I’ll see how the convenience affects my movie and TV-watching, if at all.
  • Massachusetts authors. Kerouac (Lowell, where I used to dwell) and Updike (Ipswich, where I dwell now).

What I Read and Watched in April

IMAG2238

Happy 1 year anniversary to my monthly media log!

BOOKS:

COMICS / GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

TV: 

Thoughts & reflections:

  • At last, I’ve been able to experience the joys and woes of binge-watching a show. I’d thought I was incapable, but I guess I’ve just never watched a series as amazing as Transparent. This show is perfect in general and perfect for me. I blew through the first season faster than I care to admit (hey, it’s only 10 30-min episodes). And thus, my whole monthly movie-watching goal is shot. Worth it. Now I have to decide whether or not to devour the second season right away. How do people watch TV this way? It’s taxing.
  • As you can see, I attempted a movie theme of musicals this month… until Transparent happened. I still got in 3, and these are long films. I chose ones I’d never seen before, but probably ought to for cultural awareness and such (“I Feel Pretty” is from West Side Story? See, I didn’t know this). I usually think of myself as not being a fan of musicals, but I’m not sure why. I enjoyed them.
  • I did some reading on writing this month. The illustrations in The Elements of Style Illustrated made me laugh! Otherwise, my reading selections don’t appear to have a connecting theme. The theme is the lack of theme.
  • Of course I managed to accidentally find a comic that combines two of my favorite things — poetry and crabs. Dear Creature is adorable!

Ideas for next month:

  • So it’s been a full year since I started logging my media consumption in this format. Is it time to change things up? I think maybe. How? I’m not sure yet, but I’m in the mood for something new.
  • I have too many comics on hold at the library, they’re going to revoke my card. Someday when I’m rolling in riches, I’ll buy enough trade paperbacks to swim in, but for now, I have to be patient! Ugh.
  • More nonfiction will be happening.
  • Binge-watching Transparent season 2 and then crying that it’s not coming back until later this year will also very likely be happening.

What I Read and Watched in February 2016

fargo-primary

Woah, I’m really shaking up the blog titles here. “Media log” sounds too blaaaasé, I say. That rhymes. Hey.

BOOKS:

COMICS / GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

Thoughts & reflections:

  • My goal is to read 8+ books (including comics) and 5+ movies each month, so I’ll log approximately 100 books and 60 movies  in 2016. But I’ll admit that I needed that extra leap day this month to finish my eighth book and watch my fifth movie. To be fair, none of these 8 are what I consider “quick reads.”
  • What an odd assortment of literature. Sort of surreal when you put them all together. I guess the unifying theme was… quirky? What do Sherlock Holmes, Jenny Lawson, Eleanor Douglas, Zelda Fitzgerald, and zombies all have in common? Quirk. (Are zombies quirky? I just looked up the definition of quirky, and I’d certainly describe zombies as “characterized by unexpected traits.” I mean, who expects a dead person to want to eat you?).
  • Zelda Fitzgerald died in a FIRE? Why did I not know this? After such a crazy life, what a way to go.
  • So if you remember from my very first media log (and you better), I have this weird internal conflict where I feel as though I should love Coen brothers films but for some reason don’t. Well here I go again, trying to watch another one. I can’t let this go. But I’ll be damned, I loved Fargo! You betcha. I’m now convinced that this has more to do with some psychological trickery involving my expectations. Like, I went into Fargo thinking, “I don’t like Coen brothers films, so I probably won’t like this, but I’ll give it a shot,” whereas with the others I went in thinking, “Coen brothers films are masterpieces, so if I don’t love this, there’s something wrong with me” (I’m kidding… a little). See how it goes? I should just have low expectations about everything in life, just so I can be pleasantly surprised. I’m kidding again… a little.
  • I also really enjoyed The Graduate. But I did not enjoy American Graffiti. Like I say with Coen brothers films (well, now usually), I can appreciate it without loving it. Just not my thing.
  • Where’s the TV this month? I’m deliberately omitting episodes I watch as sort of one-offs or only half-watch socially. I’m even considering maybe not having a TV section anymore, unless I get into a series, which is so rare, except with cartoons.
  • No podcasts again this month, either. It’s a symptom of my changing lifestyle and routine. There are so many good series out there though, I wonder when/how/if I can fold them back in, without having to commute in a car 1.5 hours a day as I used to. I don’t miss driving.

Ideas for next month:

  • Books written in journal-type entries. Hyep, already got my theme.
  • Um, that’s all I got. March on.

January 2016 Media Log

star wars force awakens

Kickin’ off a new year of reading and watching! So I’ve added a year to the post title. I hadn’t thought that I’d actually keep up with this long enough to run the risk of having a log from the same month, but different years. But, alas!

BOOKS:

COMICS / GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

TV: 

Thoughts & reflections:

  • Any connecting themes this month were subconscious or incidental. Two “wild” books? Unplanned. Literary confession time: I actually had no idea that the protagonist of The Call of the Wild was a dog before reading it. I actually had no idea what it was about in general. I always get Into the Wild (which I have also read) confused with The Call of the Wild and Jack London confused with Jack Kerouac. And then I confuse On the Road with Into the Wild… really, it’s just a cluster. Maybe the dog thing will help me keep it straight now.
  • Tell me — who would not love Star Wars Episode VII?! Oh, it was just so FUN! Good movie to kick off the new year.
  • And then half-way though Ex Machina I’m like… this actor is way familiar. Oh hey, it’s Poe Dameron! If Poe Dameron was a buff bald creepy tech genius with a beard. Lots of coincidences this month, I say!
  • I tend to do this thing where I’ll watch the first few episodes of a popular TV series and then stop.  But at least I can now say that I’ve seen Game of Thrones… only five years behind! Getting into these serials is like committing to a really long movie, and I’m just not a natural binge-watcher.
  • I miss my cartoons. Bah.
  • I also miss Saga and WicDiv. I really need to find a new completed series to fill my comics void. Tried Locke & Key. It was good but not quite what I’m looking for. Trying The Walking Dead next. February log spoiler alert!
  • Not captured here is the fact that I’ve started tracking movie-watching by some other means besides memory (which, trust me, is faulty… erm, what did I watch last month again?). I’m using an IMDb list – pretty simple. I’m debating whether or not to include TV shows here also.

Ideas for next month: 

  • *sigh* I have the bug again. You know, to redesign this blog for quite possibly the 20th time. I’ll probably do it, too.
  • In addition to my new “movies watched” list, I also finally created a movie “to-watch list” (because “watchlist” isn’t specific enough, don’t you think?) in IMDb. There’s about 60 movies on it, mostly populated from the Library of Congress National Film Registry listing. Another mental list I get out of my brain and onto paper (digital paper?). Free up some space for other things, like thinking about cats ‘n stuff.
  • I’ve been reading on whims of interest lately and will probably continue to do so this month.

2015 Media Log Summary – Kendra’s Favorites!

2015 was the first year I consistently tracked my reading from start to finish. Plus, I started tracking movies and everything else (albeit haphazardly, mostly by memory) around April. In total, I read (or listened to) 115 books, graphic novels, and comic volumes (thanks Goodreads). Movies and everything else I would have to add up manually, so meh, I’m not going to. I’ll spend that time, instead, organizing and presenting my favorite books and other media that I enjoyed this year.

This is going to be sort of long soooo…

Continue reading

October Media Log

walden_thoreau2

BOOKS:

COMICS / GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

TV / EPISODES: 

  • Gravity Falls
  • Regular Show
  • Bob’s Burgers

PODCASTS:

  • Welcome to Night Vale (episodes 16-39)
  • Lore (episodes 1 – 6)
  • Invisibilia (Season 1)
  • Serial (Season 1)

Thoughts & reflections: 

  • All about the audio this month. In addition to my rampant podcast listening, two out of my five books I listened to as audiobooks. I spent a lot of time in the car in October, what can I say? Thank you LibriVox. Thank you NPR.  And all hail the glow cloud.
  • Considering it was October, I didn’t really read anything spooky, did I? Miss Peregrine was slightly spooky, I guess. I believe it’s going to make a great Tim Burton film.
  • I read some good graphic novels this month. Here was so inky, the book itself smelled weird, but it was awesome.
  • I’m not above watching Minions. But I am free to admit that I thought it was pretty terrible.
  • If you’re going to watch a foreign film with dubbing, make sure the English voice actors aren’t atrocious. I don’t know what version of Let the Right One In I watched, but the voice acting was so, so bad. So bad, it was comical.
  • It looks like I didn’t watch any movies this month, but I’m not counting my re-watching of Halloween favorites (speaking of Tim Burton).
  • I’m somewhat surprised how much reading I got done considering my dramatic schedule change. I discovered that my local library is busier at night than it is during the day (not surprising). And I have a newfound appreciation for lazy Sunday reading. And though Serial may have been one of the most engrossing series I’ve ever listened to, I’d be fine never to drive a car ever again, thanks very much.

Ideas for next month: 

  • I will play it by ear. HAH. Get it? Because I’m still going to be podcasting/audio-reading for awhile. Is what it is. I’ll take the opportunity to catch up on some public domain classics.
  • Good movies. I want to watch them.
  • Psychology books shall be read.

August media log

never let me go

BOOKS:

COMICS / GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

TV / EPISODES: 

  • Gravity Falls
  • Rick & Morty
  • Regular Show
  • We Bare Bears

GAMES:

  • Fran Bow

Thoughts & reflections: 

  • Clones! Androids! Body snatchers! I guess I was drawn to sorta-human-sorta-not stories this month. That theme wasn’t intentional, as I didn’t even realize Never Let Me Go  was sci fi until I really got into it. But — oh! — how I love fiction that explores the definition of humanity! Excellent media month. Excellent, excellent.
  • Speaking of sorta-human-sorta-not stories, I’m hooked on Saga. It is, however, extremely awkward to read in a public space (okay people, I swear I’m not just casually looking at freaky alien space porn here, jeesh).
  • Wow, I went on quite a cinematic tour this month. My rampant movie-watching correlates with my recent drawing endeavors.
  • Can someone please tell me why I’ve never seen Back to the Future before? Since it’s 2015 (the year Marty and Doc visit in Part II), I decided to watch it. And, duh, it’s great of course. It’s oddly refreshing to watch a sci fi with such obvious plot holes and paradoxes (eg. wouldn’t Marty’s parents be like, “why does our child look just like that kid we knew in high school for a week?!”). Sometimes overthinking every detail and taking the science too seriously detracts from the fun of a story.
  • I said last month that I was craving a pretty video game for my eyeballs. Indie horror game Fran Bow just came out, and while the art is gorgeous, it is seriously the most unsettling game ever. I’m still debating whether or not playing it is worth the nightmares (just kidding, it definitely is, go play it).

Ideas for next month:

  • September’s theme is “twentieth century American popular culture history.” This is research for my current writing endeavor. What exactly that means in terms of media consumption is TBD.
  • I’ve taken to the National Film Registry for making some of my movie watchlist selections (for films older than 2005, that is).
  • Spooky stuffz. Halloween can’t come soon enough.

Project check-in: Drawing again!

toothpic_comic

All right, so… I’m fully aware that I did not post a July project log. Whomp wahh. Well, instead of kicking myself, I chose to reflect, and in doing so, I’ve come to realize I go through bouts of scattered productivity versus focused productivity. June was definitely a a scattered productivity month. As the log shows, I was grabbing at many different small projects that could be completed quickly. July and August have definitely been more focused. I’ve been dedicating more time to fewer projects. That’s cool with me, it just doesn’t make for a very thrilling project log.

For one, I redesigned my poetry blog and am finally dedicated to posting on a bi-weekly schedule. I was concerned that keeping a schedule would make writing silly poems feel like a chore — which I definitely did not want! — but so far it hasn’t.

Secondly, I’ve buckled down on a new writing project that I’m starting to really enjoy. As of today, I’m 21,000 words into the first draft. Ugh, first drafts are the worst. They’re like throwing up — gross and terrible but also relieving.

Last but not least, I’ve picked up drawing again! And I suck at it and that’s just fine! No, seriously. I do not consider myself a talented illustrator by any stretch. But I don’t have to be great at something in order to have fun doing it (a mantra I am still learning to accept).

I used to draw quite a lot. But for some reason the past few years, since starting college, I’ve just sort of… stopped? With the exception of this 22-page “Legends of Krakula” comic I made for a Comic Books & Graphic Novels Coursera course, I haven’t really drawn at all. Why? Part of it, I realized in picking it back up, is this dumb feeling of guilt I have about spending time on an art I don’t consider myself particularly good at. I always “should” be doing something else. Seems silly, but it is what it is.

I first tricked myself into just sitting down and doodling by doing so while watching movies. Like, “Hey, I was gonna watch this movie anyway, might as well draw while I watch it.” I walked to Michael’s, got myself a basic sketchbook, illustration markers, and eraser, and just started casually doodling while movie-watching. The lady checking me out at Michael’s was like, “Oh, are you a drawer?” to which I replied, “Not yet.” (True story. I have a way with words).

But what to draw, right? Inspired by this Zine Skillshare course, I started with whatever just popped into my head. Which turns out to be walruses and roller skates?

Sketchbook excerpt

Some of my first sketches

And mustard ladies and creepy muffins?

My brain is absurd

And then one of my sketches accidentally turned into a mini comic! I had intended to just draw a t-rex, but then it somehow turned into this:

Insta-rex

Insta-rex

That provided a cool opportunity to play with image exposure/contrast in Photoshop — something I haven’t really done before. I don’t think I got it quite right, but my messy eraser smudges and sketch marks are hidden at least. That led me to my first little comic starring me:

kendra plants a garden

Also, I’ve begun handwriting some of my favorite quotes:

One of my favorite aphorisms. I also made an English version.

Color brought to you by Crayola markers (on back-to-school super sale!)

kafka quote bug

Playing with PS paint buckets!

High-quality? Not really. But I had fun making them, and that’s what’s important. Also, I can happily report that I no longer have to rely on watching movies while drawing. Should I go back to Michael’s and tell the lady that I’m a drawer now? 😉