Before I share with you the best of everything from this year, I want to take a moment to thank you for inviting me to your inbox every Thursday. I appreciate each and every one of you.
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The best five books I read this yearThe Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. No one writes “nonfiction that reads like fiction” better than Erik Larson. And this book, like his previous work, is stunning. It’s about Churchill’s time as prime minister during the Blitz—Hitler’s relentless bombing campaign on Great Britain. Larson gives you a front-row seat to the action, showing you what it was like to live in Britain at the time. This might be my favorite Larson book yet. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. One of the very best novels I’ve read in recent memory. It’s a coming-of-age book about two friends, Sam and Sadie, who bond over their love of video games and later begin to program games of their own. Even if you’re not into video games, the book will captivate you and take you on a beautiful ride. It’s been months since I read the book, and I still think about the characters from time to time. (Thanks to Eliot Peper for the recommendation). Yearbook by Seth Rogen. This is the funniest book I’ve ever listened to. If you like Rogen’s films, a hilarious experience awaits you in this memoir (and if you don’t like his films, don’t get this book). I listened to the audio version of the book (narrated by Rogen himself) during a long drive. I was laughing so hard that actual tears were rolling down my face, which made driving difficult. The audiobook experience is spectacular. (Much of the dialogue is performed by the actual people involved in the dialogue.) Highly recommended. The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier. Unputdownable thriller that I finished in 3 days. The less you know about it, the better. If you’re in the mood for a good page-turner, do yourself a favor and grab a copy. (Thanks to Elizabeth Barnhill at Fabled Bookshop for the recommendation.) The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible by Charles Eisenstein. I don’t remember highlighting any book this much in recent memory. From the description: “A beacon of hope in the face of our current world crises, this uplifting book demonstrates how embracing our interconnectedness is key to world transformation.” This one will linger with me for a long time. (Thanks to Dave Elitch for the recommendation.)
The music I listened to on repeat this yearVHS Collection. Spotify tells me that I’m in the top 1% of VHS Collection listeners. Some of my favorite songs from their collection include “Waiting on the Summer”, “One”, and “The Dark”.
The best five films I saw this year
CODA. (Apple TV+) Heart-warming and original coming-of-age story about the only hearing member of a deaf family. Be sure to have a box of Kleenex within reach. My wife and I disappeared into a puddle of tears while watching this (between well placed bouts of laughter).
Top Gun: Maverick. (Amazon Prime | Apple TV) I love the original Top Gun movie and had very low expectations for this sequel (because, well, sequels normally suck). I was blown away. Go see it on the biggest screen you can find.
The Invisible Guest. (Apple TV) So many hard-to-predict plot twists. I thought I had it all figured out . . . and I didn’t. If you’re in the mood for a great crime thriller, you can’t go wrong with this one.
The Worst Person in the World. (Amazon Prime | Apple TV) This was my favorite among the Oscar nominees for best foreign film this year. This review is spot on: “Makes me grateful and hopeful and terrified and excited about every decision, every meeting, every kiss that’s turned into a memory that’s turned into the best feeling in the world, however fleeting, even when you know there’s an end and a sadness and a loneliness and a sharp pang of quiet to follow soon after.”
Cha Cha Real Smooth. (Apple TV+) Coming-of-age movies usually miss the mark. This one was amazing—and made me an instant fan of the 25-year-old Cooper Raiff who wrote and directed the movie.
The best five shows I watched this year
Severance. (Apple TV+) It’s Black Mirror meets Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If you think you’re not bringing your “full self” to work, just wait until the show takes you inside Lumon Industries. I can’t wait for Season 2.
Dopesick. (Hulu) One of the best series I’ve seen in recent memory. It’s based on a true story about how one company started one of the worst opioid epidemics in history. Dark and gripping.
White Lotus Season 2. (HBO Max) I loved the first season of this show, and the second season was just as good. It’s about a resort vacation gone wrong, and this time the setting is Sicily. Everything about the show is spectacular.
Sex Education. (Netflix) A surprisingly mature (yet still hilarious) show about sex education. It will have you cringing and chuckling all at once.
Stranger Things Season 4. (Netflix) I’ve been a huge fan of this show ever since it first came out—and this was my favorite season yet. Every episode felt like a standalone movie.