Eve Tushnet has a great series where she posts her favorite books, movies, etc. from each year. I liked her post so much this year I decided to do my own!
Best books read for the first time (non-fiction)
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx. This decade-long journalistic epic convinced me that storytelling for a living wasn’t just viable but valuable, besides which it gave me a much-needed education in the human faces of urban poverty. Must-read all around, but particularly for city dwellers.
Mother Maria Skobtsova, Essential Writings. I read this over Pascha in Barcelona and that certainly informed my love for it, but this book also outlines what Christianity should concretely look like. It was a really good challenge to me as a budding Orthodox Christian woman who, like Mother Maria, is always going to live in places where that creed is beyond minority status and into positively foreign.
Thomas S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution: Planetary Astronomy in the Development of Western Thought. I had planned to hate this book. It’s about science, which I don’t understand, and focuses entirely on a vague “Western thought” that I usually find annoying. Well, it’s great. Kuhn is my kind of philosopher: organized, historically informed, and sort of a secret sociologist. This is his theory of scientific revolution in narrative form and it’s almost as wonderful as Mikołaj Kopernik himself.
George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London. I started this book in London and finished it in Paris, so I will admit it struck me because I was looking at what it was talking about, and I may have thought it better than it really is because of that. But I don’t need to tell you that Orwell is a commanding writer, and that the human experience of homelessness is never discussed enough.
Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase. Armstrong’s memoir of her post-convent recovery was something I needed to read, for obvious reasons. I don’t know that it would be compelling to anyone else, but it would be absurd not to mention it when recounting my 2013.
Best books read for the first time (fiction)
Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I bought this just a few weeks before leaving London at Waterstones Gower Street; I’d planned to just skim it to see if it was as good as This Is How You Lose Her, and I ended up laughing out loud so hard that I had to buy it so I could leave and stop making such a ruckus. It’s a brilliant, hysterical tragicomedy about Latino nerd life and the brokenness of machismo, and it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, but certainly the best one I read this year.
N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn. I realized this year that Native American Studies is really where I want to go with my education, and rediscovering Native literature through this novel is what kicked that off. It’s more of a novel-size lyric poem than a traditional novel, but that’s its genius.
Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo. I read this because it came for free on my tiny iPod Touch, the only thing I had with me while backpacking through Spain after I’d finished all my other reading material. It was over a hundred chapters of swordfights, silliness, and adventurous bliss. I enjoyed every minute of it.
Edwin A. Abbott, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. This is probably the only book that vaguely counts as sci-fi that I’ve ever read, and it was laugh-out-loud funny. Let’s remember that when I complain about math next semester: I once read a whole book that is essentially geometry humor, and it was great.
(I’m currently making my way through Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, so I’ll hold out until next year to review it.)
Best movies watched for the first time
Lore (the tags summarize, y’all)
The Attack (the trailer summarizes, y’all)
Best theatre (etc)
Peter and the Starcatcher (New York)
Swan Lake (New York City Ballet)
Gut Girls (London) (Bias: I worked on the show!)
“The Making of Harry Potter,” Warner Brothers Studio London.
“Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909 – 1929,” National Gallery of Art.
“The Doctor Who Experience,” Cardiff Bay.
“Los desastres de la guerra,” Museo Ibercaja Camón Aznar.
I’m omitting the best posts or articles by other people section ‘cause that’s what I have a Tumblr for, but as for best posts and articles by me check my updated “About Me” with links to my best work! It’s almost entirely from this year.