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, music and podcasts I listened to, 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 news. Over the last few years, I have read fewer books than in the past for two reasons. First, after many years not watching almost any TV at all, I began to enjoy certain shows on HBO, Showtime, FX, and Netflix. (More on this in the TV section, below.) And, as with 2016, when I read much more news because the U.S. presidential race was fascinating (and horrifying), this year I read even more news, and listened to even more podcasts, because what has happened since the election has been even more fascinating (and horrifying).
The best books I read this year related to my attempt to understand what has been happening in the U.S. and its historical causes: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radial Right, by Jane Mayer, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild, A Colony in a Nation, by Chris Hayes, and Dog Whistle Politics, by Ian Haney Lopez.
I also loved The Circle, a work of fiction by Dave Eggers. It’s not a new book, and I’ve been meaning to read it for quite a while, having read, and very much enjoyed, all of Eggers’ prior books.
Late last year, after thinking about it for quite a while, I finally pulled the plug on my hard copy newspaper subscriptions. For almost as long as I can remember, I have gotten home delivery of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Record (a regional paper that was the Bergen Record when I was a kid). For a few years, I had used each paper’s apps to keep up on the news when traveling, so I had a sense of what it was like to read the news that way. Since making the decision to change my subscriptions to digital-only, I haven’t looked back. (The hardest thing to get used to was using the New York Times crossword puzzle app. But, now, I love the digital version.)
One last thing in the reading category. I also read quite a few newsletters, even though there is quite a bit of overlap between them, and between the newsletters and what I read on my digital news subscription. I very much enjoy “Mike’s Top 10” each morning from Axios.
Further to the impact of the presidential race, my favorite TV moments during 2017 came from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, along with the monologues from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and the Daily Show, and the “A Closer Look” segments from Late Night with Seth Meyer.
My favorite new series was Ozark on Netflix, which Marcie and I both loved. Also new to me, but not new, I loved watching Black Mirror on Netflix with one of my daughters. I continued to enjoy old favorites I watch with Marcie: Homeland, The Americans, Modern Family, and Stranger Things (we loved the second season as much as the first), and ones I watch without Marcie: Portlandia, Silicon Valley, and, finally back after a six-year hiatus, Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Further to what I said in the “Books” section, above, 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 a rarity.
Listening (to Music)
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 was “Woodstock” from Portugal. The Man, an indie group my son turned me onto years ago. This year, they achieved commercial success. You likely know their song “Feel it Still”.
I went more than a dozen concerts again this year. The best ones, as was the case in each of the past few years, were at small venues where I didn’t pay a huge price, and stood 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.
The most memorable shows I saw this year: Muse, the Shins, Portugal. The Man, and Alabama Shakes.
Also memorable, for a different reason: I saw two of my long-time favorites for the final time. Soon after I saw Steely Dan, founding member Walter Becker passed away. The show I had seen was his last. Then, I saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers during their 40th anniversary tour. They did 11 shows after the one I saw and, a week after the tour ended, Petty passed away. I will particularly miss Tom Petty, one of my handful of all-time favorite artists, and one of the few artists who never stopped coming out with new music. (David Bowie my number-one, all-time favorite, passed away early last year, so it’s been a rough patch.)
I saw one Broadway musical. 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 Dear Evan Hansen before it became one of the hottest tickets in town. It was a phenomenal show. One of the best I’ve ever seen.
Listening (to Podcasts)
Podcasts first became part of my life during 2015. My love for them has grown each year since. I learn more from podcasts than almost anything I do.
I continue to listen weekly to the wonderful This American Life. Fresh Air is a daily podcast, which makes it hard to keep up with, but because of its wide range of topics, not all of which are of interest to me, I skip some episodes. The TED Radio Hour is a weekly podcast where they weave together several “TED Talks” on a particular theme. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will have frequently seen me quote talks I have heard on the TED Radio Hour. It’s an easy and enjoyable way to digest a ton of great learning.
My favorite, new (either brand new, or just new to me) podcasts, are another way I have kept up with what has been happening in the U.S. since the 2016 election. They include Trumpcast, Political Gabfest, I Have to Ask, The Ezra Klein Show, and The Daily from the New York Times.
I’ve always enjoyed making lists. Going back as long as I can remember, I could tell you my favorite 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 Portland (Oregon), Washington (D.C.), London, Denver, and Detroit, vacations with friends and family to Amsterdam and Sicily, and the tons of time spent with family and friends locally.
I also had many wonderful work experiences and blog-related experiences.
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,