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 September

middlesex

BOOKS:

COMICS / GRAPHIC:

MOVIES:

TV:

PODCASTS:

  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • TED Radio Hour

Thoughts & reflections:

  • Quality trumps quantity this month. I’m way below my goal on all accounts. But not only were Middlesex and Please Kill Me heavyweights page-wise (nearly 1,000 pages total), they were also intensely awesome. So, two new favorites in one month? When has that ever happened before?
  • Same goes for the movie-watching — or lack thereof. The one movie I did see — Kubo, great film — I saw at the local movie theater, to which I’d never been before. In fact, I think this is actually only the second movie I’ve seen in theaters this entire year. The theater was independent, with a retro vibe but comfy seats. But I still miss AMC. No bother. The movie-going experience makes up for my lack of movie consumption, I’d say.
  • Plus, how would I have time to watch movies with all this Breaking Bad-watching? Yes, I’m aware I’m eight years behind. This show premiered when I graduated high school — high school. But I finally hit the threshold where I couldn’t function like a semi-normal social being without having seen it. So many references are made to this show. Everyone’s seen it, it seems. With good reason — it’s a a great show. I’m getting a little exhausted with the hour-long episodes though. And 5 seasons is intimidating. I’ll probably slow it down and chip away at the remaining episodes as needed
  • This “thoughts and reflections” section is turning into an excuses section.
  • Did I binge-watch Transparent season 3 faster than I care  to admit? You bet I did. No regrets. Okay, maybe a little regret, because now I have to wait indefinitely for the next season!
  • I finally did it. Signed up for my own Netflix account like an independent non-mooching woman. It’s been helpful for watching Breaking Bad. But otherwise, I’m not sure if I’ll keep it past the 30-day free trial yet.
  • I also finally printed out the complete National Film Registry, and checked off what I’ve already seen. I began watching some of the very earliest films too, but they are so brief (and most available for free from the Library of Congress), I don’t bother listing them here. Dream of a Rarebit Fiend was particularly amusing! Such special effects for 1906! I’m looking forward to working my way through the list, though I likely won’t go in a strict order.

Ideas for next month:

  • I never list music in these media logs, because I haven’t been able to wrap my head around what I’d include. Also, I have bizarre music-listening habits. But I’ve started to give it some more thought, especially as I recently set up a “Kendra’s Top 100” playlist on Spotify. It houses my favorite songs, in no particular order. It got me thinking, “When did I start listening to some of these songs? And how and why are they my favorites?” Hmm.
  • I have a backlog of borrowed books I’m looking forward to reading.
  • This election season has opened to my eyes to just how little national and world news I consume. Without cable, I have the luxury of avoiding the nauseating onslaught of political ads. But I just feel so disconnected from all that’s going on. My college media studies left me very disillusioned with the state of news and journalism, and since then, I’ve just sort of tuned out to all the corporatized sensationalism. While I’m not about to watch hours of CNN or Fox, I’d like to tune back in somehow, mindfully and objectively. I just want to learn about what’s happening in the world, without someone telling me what I should think or how I should feel about it. That shouldn’t be nearly as difficult as it is. But it really is.

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.