As this year’s final curtain falls, I’m excited to share the best books, beats, and blockbusters that enriched my days. These have been more than mere entertainment; they’ve been companions and muses for me.
So grab your popcorn (or kale chips, no judgment), and let’s dive into the highlights reel of the year!
The best 5 books I read this yearNever Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story by Jewel. Even though I’m generally skeptical of celebrity memoirs, when Audible suggested this book to me, curiosity won. Once I began listening, I couldn’t stop. This isn’t just a memoir; it’s a soul-stirring odyssey of resilience and finding oneself, narrated (and sung!) by Jewel herself. I was moved to tears several times and frequently found myself pausing the playback to jot down notes. Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect by Will Guidara. This isn’t just any book on hospitality; it’s a masterclass from the former co-owner of the legendary restaurant Eleven Madison Park. Through engaging stories, Guidara explains how every business can transform ordinary transactions into extraordinary experiences. It’s a radical reimagination of what it means to host, serve, and surprise others. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. When I love a book as much as I loved Zevin’s most recent novel—Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow—I dive into other books by the same author. I really enjoyed this one about bookstore owner A.J. Fikry who receives an unexpected package that changes his life. Dive into a world where books aren’t just tales, but life’s companions. Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel. In this book, Perel tackles a question at the heart of many long-term relationships: How do you keep intimacy alive when you’re more focused on who forgot to unload the dishwasher? This isn’t a one-size-fits-all, 10 easy steps to a sizzling love life kind of book. It’s an honest, eye-opening take on long-term relationships that feels like having a chat over coffee (or perhaps something stronger) with an insightful friend who happens to be a relationship therapist. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl. Grohl was the drummer for Nirvana and later founded the Foo Fighters. I knew nothing about him before I listened to his memoir and loved it—particularly the narration and the behind-the-scenes rock’n’roll stories. To give you a flavor, here’s a beautiful passage about Kurt Cobain: “It’s when I sit down at a drum set that I feel Kurt the most. . . I can still picture him in front of me, wrestling with his guitar as he screamed his lungs raw into the microphone. Just like staring at the sun will burn a spot into your retinas, his image will forever be burned in mine when I look past my drums to the audience before me. He will always be there.”
The music I listened to on repeat this year“Japan” by Tycho ft. Saint Sinner (Satin Jackets Remix). Everything about this song—from the vocals to the lyrics to the beat—is stunning. According to Spotify’s year-end roundup, it’s my most-played song. Desire, I Want to Turn Into You by Caroline Polachek. I saw Polachek live in Tokyo earlier this month and was blown away. My favorite tracks on this 2023 album include “Sunset”, “Welcome to My Island”, and “Bunny Is a Rider”. Wet Tennis by Sofi Tukker. This album is stunning from start to finish. In terms of feel, think summertime dance party. Some of my favorite songs include “Sun Came Up”, “Forgive Me”, “Original Sin”, and “Summer in New York.”
The best 5 shows I watched this year
A Murder at the End of the World. (Hulu) A brilliant whodunnit created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij—two of the most creative minds in filmmaking today. With Marling and Batmanglij at the helm, we’re not just solving a crime; we’re delving into the very essence of human nature and society. Darby and Bill will stay with me for a long time.
The Bear Season 2. (Hulu) The second season of this show—about a failing sandwich shop in Chicago—is even better than the first. The intense pressure cooker that was the first season vented some air, and much of the tension became tender. Storytelling and character development at their very best.
Sex Education Season 4. (Netflix) I loved the final season of this comedy series as much as the first. The series continues to tackle taboos head-on while delivering laughs and tugs at your heartstrings. It’s not just about sex; it’s a primer on the messy, glorious intricacies of human connection, served with a side of laugh-out-loud humor. One of my all-time favorites.
Silo. (Apple TV+) Amazing dystopian sci-fi thriller about a community that lives in a giant underground silo. Rebecca Ferguson is brilliant.
Shrinking. (Apple TV+) A dramedy that revolves around three therapists in the same practice played by Harrison Ford, Jessica Williams, and Jason Segel. Ford is perfect as an old-school, grumpy boss (“Do you know what percentage of yourself is actually made of water?,” asks Jessica Williams’s character. “I know what percentage of me doesn’t give a shit,” Harrison Ford’s character responds). If you enjoyed Ted Lasso, you’ll like this one.
The best 5 films I saw this year
Past Lives. (Apple TV+) This is a movie about the “what ifs” in life that felt like a warm hug and a gut punch all at once. It will make you slow down and think about all the choices you’ve made that got you to where you are today. Brought to you by A24, the independent entertainment company behind Everything Everywhere All At Once and Moonlight, among many other great films.
Oppenheimer. (Amazon Prime | Apple TV+) Also lives up to the hype. A breathtaking story about the father of the atomic bomb, whose genius and guilt are intertwined with the fate of humanity. I was on the edge of my seat during the entire ride.
The Holdovers. (Amazon Prime | Apple TV+) An ode to the unexpected bonds that form in unlikely places. Set against the backdrop of a prep school during the winter break, it explores the dynamics between a group of students and a teacher, all “holdovers” for different reasons during the break. If you ever thought “They don’t make movies like Dead Poets Society or Good Will Hunting anymore,” well, they just did!
Beckham. (Netflix) This documentary series about David Beckham is a must-watch, even if you’re not a soccer fan. It peels back the layers of celebrity, revealing the drive, personal sacrifices, and the challenges Beckham faced away from the public eye. I was particularly struck by the intense public shaming he endured after receiving a red card in a World Cup final, and his resilience in its aftermath. A story that resonates far beyond the world of sports.