As I have done for each of the past few years, here are the many ways I enjoyed the experiences of my year: places I visited, books I read, what I watched on TV, and more.
I love reading and I love learning. I read quite a bit every day, starting with the newspaper. This year, in particular, it was hard to read as many books as I would have liked because the U.S. presidential race was fascinating (and horrifying) in many ways and, for the first time, I found myself regularly looking at the newspaper on-line multiple times a day to learn the latest.
The best book I read this year is one you may have heard of. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is a novel that received a great deal of attention and critical acclaim including, most recently, the incredibly prestigious National Book Award. It’s a super-fast read, and a powerful story about the horrors of slavery.
While I love biographies, I have not enjoyed very many autobiographies. An exception was Who I Am, by Pete Townshend. It helped that I am a huge fan of his band, the Who, but if it wasn’t a great book I would have put it down.
I read a lot to try to learn about what’s happening in the U.S. and its historical causes. The best books I read this year in that vein were the Origins of the Urban Crisis, by Thomas J. Sugrue, Racism Without Racists, by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, and the incredibly important, very powerful (and particularly pertinent because of the ongoing attack on voting rights), Give Us the Ballot, by Ari Berman.
This week I’m going to finish reading a book I greatly enjoyed. American Heiress is the true story of Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped, and then participated in subsequent violent crimes with her kidnappers. The book was written by Jeffrey Toobin, who also wrote The Run of His Life, a book I did not read, but which became the O.J. Simpson mini-series I write about below.
Further to the impact of the presidential race, my favorite shows in 2016 were and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Because the shows are weekly, both Bee and Oliver are each able to produce long, informative segments which go deep, kind of like 60 Minutes, but with biting, comedic flair.
In addition to politics, it was the year of O.J. for me. Marcie and I watched the very well done, Emmy-winning, O. J. Simpson mini-series, The People v. O.J. Simpson, American Crime Story, and I watched the equally impressive ESPN five-part documentary, O.J.: Made in America. After watching both, it’s clear how the injustice of the Rodney King case led to the (at the time) perplexing outcome of the O.J. murder trial.
The most fun thing I watched was the new Netflix series Stranger Things. I also found HBO’s The Night Of to be compelling, and I continued to enjoy old favorites Portlandia, The Americans, and Modern Family.
It continues to amaze me that not too long ago I watched no TV other than some sports. Now, TV delivers lots of high-quality entertainment, while quality, full-length movies are such a rarity that I almost never go (other than in December). I saw a wonderful movie this summer: Our Little Sister, in Japanese with subtitles, and three very good movies this month: Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight, and Rogue One (the newest Star Wars movie).
I listen to music all the time. I love my old favorites and I love discovering new music. I also love live music. My favorite new album came from Tedeschi Trucks Band, a band I was aware of for a while, but hadn’t listened to until I saw them as the opening act at a concert I attended this summer. They were awesome in concert, and I love their latest album, Made Up Mind.
My favorite new song: We the People by A Tribe Called Quest.
David Bowie is my all-time favorite. In the months following his death this past January, I listened to his music even more often than I already had been, including his final album, the beautiful Blackstar, which was released on his 69th birthday, just two days before he passed away.
I went to 10 or so concerts again this year. The best ones, as was the case in each of the past few years, were the ones at small venues where I didn’t pay a huge price, and stood or sat right near the stage. There are more small venues than ever and with the internet allowing new music to reach the public faster, and in an easier way than before, we are in another golden age of popular music.
Growing up and living in the New York area, I have the opportunity to attend Broadway shows. I don’t go often, so I try to be very selective, only going to shows I am certain I will enjoy. I was fortunate to be able to attend Hamilton in April. I bought my tickets in August, 2015, nearly eight months before we went. I feel very fortunate to have jumped on the opportunity before it became next-to-impossible to score tickets to this remarkable show.
Podcasts first became part of my life during 2015. My love for them grew during 2016. I learned more from podcasts than almost anything I did.
I continued to listen weekly to the wonderful This American Life. Fresh Air is a daily podcast, which makes it hard to keep up with, but its wide range of topics leads me to skip episodes not of great interest to me (though I give most episodes a chance largely due to the terrific show-host / interviewer Terry Gross). The TED Radio Hour is a fantastic, weekly podcast where they weave together several “TED Talks” on a particular theme. It’s an easy and enjoyable way to digest a ton of great learning. I also get a lot out of listening to About Race.
My favorite, new podcast was Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History. Gladwell is one of a handful of my favorite authors and his 10-episode podcast series was, not surprisingly, extremely interesting.
I’m very much looking forward to everything I’m going to learn and enjoy as a podcast listener in the coming year and beyond.
I’ve always enjoyed making lists. Going back as long as I can remember, I could tell you my favorite all-time movies, books, and music (and within music, my favorite artists, albums, songs, and concerts).
I’ve often recommended on this blog, and in my Saturday Facebook post, making lists of what you are grateful for, what made you smile, and your accomplishments. Until I started posting these annual reviews, I never connected this exercise with those happiness lists. The lists in today’s post—what I read, watched, and listened to this year—all fit somewhere in the weekly happiness lists. Looking back at all I’ve learned, experienced, and enjoyed gives me a sense of accomplishment, a sense of gratitude, and makes me smile.
Best of all were the trips we made to visit family and friends in Orange County (California), Portland (Oregon), Lake Placid, Montreal, and Detroit, the tons of time with family and friends locally, and the visits to our kids at their colleges.
I had many wonderful work-related experiences, book- and blog-related experiences, and so much more.
As I do every year, I realize, as I write these words, what an amazing year it’s been.
Tell me about your year. What did you read, watch, learn, enjoy? Please join the conversation with your comments…
Happy New Year and warm regards,