The Best Things I Read, Watched, and Listened to in 2018

Best Books I Read in 2018

  1. The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett
    These six books are the most melodramatic historical novels I’ve ever read.  Francis Crawford of Lymond is an arrogant genius with an alarming amount of self-hatred who willingly plays the villain in order to play a long game of justice, so like, he’s my exact favorite kind of character.  These are DENSE books that somehow fly by, and the fourth book (Pawn in Frankincense) had me literally screaming at the pages.  I’ve been avoiding Dunnett’s second series, The House of Niccolo, because I know they will once more overtake my entire life.
  2. Every Hidden Thing by Kenneth Oppel
    I haven’t yet read something by Oppel that I don’t like, but Every Hidden Thing tops my list of his books.  It’s a Shakespearean story of star-crossed lovers from competing families of archeologists scrambling to discover new dinosaur fossils in the Badlands in late 1800s.  If that doesn’t immediately grab your attention, then…I don’t understand your brain.
  3. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    I was entirely surprised to find myself won over by Mitchell’s book, since before this year I only had bad memories of watching the movie in Memphis in a theater full of Yankee-hating Southerners.  But Mitchell is a phenomenal writer!  The story is surprisingly feminist, an unflinching examination of a woman who is willing to flout societal gendered expectations in order to ensure her family’s survival.  It’s messy and inspiring and depressing – three of my favorite things!
  4. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
    This is satirical fantasy with a heart, where a bunch of over-the-hill champions have to reform their warrior team to save a daughter from an evil bunny-man.  Which is ridiculous, but also the bunny-man is legitimately scary?  And in the very good sequel, Bloody Rose, there is a hero bunny-man who actually made me cry, so…satire with a heart.  At one point they hide from giant trolls who are idly arguing about whether one is using the word “literally” correctly, and I think that sums up the feel of the book quite nicely.
  5. The Power by Naomi Alderman
    How would the world change if women suddenly woke up with the ability to conduct electricity?  This was a depressing and fascinating story that stayed with me for a long time.  There’s a sense of satisfying justice in the beginning, as women who have been abused or belittled for years suddenly have the power to defend themselves.  But it doesn’t end there, ultimately positing that when power comes from physical force, there can never be equality.  The parts that were especially compelling to me were the eerie echoes of women defending their power (“it wasn’t rape, because he liked it”) that throw real life problems into excruciating clarity.
  6. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
    Not nearly as sexy as its title would have you believe, this is both a murder mystery and an empowering story of overlooked women finding camaraderie and joy through sharing, well, erotic stories.  It covers generational immigrants and their conflicting priorities, the inner lives of those whom society labels irrelevant, and the dangers of the patriarchy.  It was entirely unique for me, and I adored it.
  7. Saga (volumes 1-9) by Brian K. Vaughan
    WHAT A SERIES.  These graphic novels had me hooked within a couple pages, and I am so sad to have reached the end of what is currently published, so now I have to wait for the next installment very impatiently.  This very adult story is about two worlds at war, both of which want to kill the child of two pacifists who abandoned the fight.  It is INCREDIBLY creative, with a nation of robots that are just grey people with televisions for heads, and the higher in status they are, the more modern the tv (royalty’s screens are in color).  And, like Kings of the Wyld, this might sound ridiculous, but it’s all played seriously, and yes, I did also cry because of one of the robots.  There’s a lot of crying in this series, because it covers years of this family’s fight to survive, and a lot of people help them and suffer for it throughout the way.  I don’t honestly know how to describe its brilliance, so here’s just this:  It’s my actual first favorite thing I read all year.

Best Things I Watched in 2018

  1. Call Me By Your Name
    This movie is absolutely beautiful!!  It is sumptuous, capturing a lazy summer in Italy with just, an incredible attention to the physicality of a moment, whether that’s the slap of wet feet in sandals or the magnetic embrace of someone newly in love.  I saw this four times this year, and I accidentally cried while describing it to someone.
  2. Stephen Universe
    This cartoon! is! amazing!  I binge-watched all five seasons currently out, and while it started as cute 10-minute adventure segments, the world slowly expanded and got very emotionally compelling!!  It is one of the most good stories out there, by which I mean its hero genuinely wants to help everyone, even his enemies, and his heart is just so big and so beautiful!  This is one of those shows that I think could actually make the world a better place if everyone were forced to watch it.
  3. Queer Eye
    This is another series that could change the world for the better if everyone were forced to watch it!  This is reality tv with massive heart, as five gay men do total life makeovers for straight men.  And I mean total life makeovers.  While there is the requisite hair and clothing changes, the real magic of this show comes from the inside-out transformation of men blossoming under male attention and learning to express their emotions.  I cry a lot while watching this show, and
  4. Terrace House
    For someone who thinks she doesn’t like reality tv, it’s weird to have two on my list this year!  But this Japanese reality show is so sweet!  It’s a classic “six strangers have to live together” scenario, but instead of in-fighting, they generally support each other’s goals and politely discuss any conflict in the house.  And rather than vote people out, a person can stay until they feel they’ve accomplished their goal (which can be anything from ‘launch a ski clothing line’ to ‘fall in love’), they leave and someone new comes in.  It’s all really lovely, non-confrontational, and funny.  Because oh yeah, there’s a panel of Japanese comedians who interrupt the show twice per episode to make jokes about what’s going on.  Genius.
  5. I, Tonya
    I wasn’t around for the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan debacle, but that did not affect my enjoyment of this movie in the slightest.  Okay, “enjoyment” is a strong word.  It’s an excellent movie about abuse, made even more amazing by how it traces her abusers from her mother to her husband…to us, the viewers who judged and opinionated and laughed at her.  It’s also just very cleverly done, intercutting flashbacks with dialogue from the present day.  Inspiring and depressing…hmmm, there’s a trend here.
  6. She-Ra
    Except for these wonderful cartoons with not a bit of depression in them!  The She-Ra remake ALMOST made me want to have kids, because both girls and boys could be so benefitted by its diverse representations of girls and boys.  It’s all about the power of friendship, and it’s also just so healthy.  At one key point, a sidekick begs She-Ra, “You have to fix this!”  Overwhelmed, she admits, “I can’t.”  And instead of forcing or guilting her, the sidekick says, “Okay,” and hugs her, preparing to be destroyed together.  Spoiler, they aren’t, but that moment of grace made me cry actual tears.  Also, there is a princess prom and Catra and Adora have mad chemistry, and I cannot wait for season two!!

Best Podcasts I Listened to in 2018

  1. Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard
    Sometimes he interviews famous friends (or his famous wife, Kristen Bell, whose episodes are always my favorites), and sometimes he interviews mostly unknown experts in various fields (I loved the episode with Dr. Drew about addictions).  It’s a long show, and I don’t listen to every episode if it’s a celeb I don’t care about, but it’s always a fun listen.
  2. Buffering the Vampire Slayer
    Two women review Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, but they spice up their routine with character jingles, a sexual tension award, and a legit good song about each episode.
  3. Failed Missionary
    Hosted by Corey Pigg, former missionary in Germany, this podcast tackles some very real problems in the missionary world like the white savior complex (fittingly discussed by Ugandan men and women).  It’s updated irregularly, but every episode is amazing.
  4. Hoist the Colours I didn’t stop being obsessed with Black Sails this year, and luckily there are still people creating new content about the world’s best television show.  This podcast focuses on the numerous queer characters in the show, tracking their character arcs through the seasons, and it literally makes my heart spike every time I see a new episode uploaded.
  5. Milleneagram
    An irreverent podcast about the Enneagram that’s for “babes and trolls, kids and queers,” it maintains the complexity and beauty of learning from the personality test while including a lot more cussing and real talk than the enneagram podcasts made by middle-aged men and women (which I also love, but they are not my favorite).
  6. Queerology
    An amazing podcast for LGBTQ+ people to discuss their relationship with Christianity.  It’s…just exactly that simple, and I love it.
  7. The Daily
    I am very bad at keeping up with the news, but this half-hour podcast makes me feel a little less uninformed every day.  I especially like it because the current topic is framed in a historical context that makes it all a lot more interesting and relevant.

What were some of your favorite books, movies, tv shows, and podcasts this year?
Tell me in the comments, and maybe they’ll make my 2019 list.

Advertisements

Try This Thing Podcast

Try This Thing Podcast logo copy

I was never content to run just one blog, so it should come as no surprise that having discovered the world of podcasting, I wanted to try one of my own (in addition to the fun show I do with Lindsay: She’s Married She’s Single).

Today I launched Try This Thing, a recommendation podcast in which I review some of my favorite books, movies, tv shows, and video games.  I will usually be choosing things that are outside of mainstream appeal, because we don’t really need one more podcast talking about Avengers.

…Although if I someday create an episode about Avengers, well.  I sold out, I don’t care!

Today I released TWO episodes about the things most likely to be on my mind at any given moment:  The Lymond Chronicles and Black Sails.  Next week I will release the first of a mini-series in which I will try to summarize the plot of Final Fantasy 7.  A diversity of interests!

You can subscribe to Try This Thing on Apple podcasts or else listen online at PodBean.

 

She’s Married She’s Single Podcast

My friend Lindsay and I have launched She’s Married She’s Single, a podcast about lifelong friends with drastically different lives and perspectives!

I’m very excited to start this new creative project, both because it will give Lindsay and me a fun reason to regularly keep in touch (the last time I moved to a different country, we wrote letters to each other’s blogs in a project called Letters Between Friends) and because I hope it will create opportunities for married and single people to talk to each other about what they love about their life stage and what they wish they had.

Our first episode, Getting to Know Us, is available on Apple Podcasts.  Check it out today!

SMSS Icon

Unless there is a huge announcement, I will not be plugging each new podcast episode on this blog.  However, there are several ways you can keep in touch with us!

Follow us on Twitter:  @SMSSPod
Follow us on Instagram:  @ShesMarriedShesSingle

This is a passion project for us, and we rely upon the generosity of our Patreon donors to fund a better sound for our listeners with professional audio equipment and programs.  A gift of any size is hugely appreciated, and rewards are available at each level of donation!

Finally, we hope to have regular Q&A episodes in which we answer questions about us personally or about marriage/singleness generally.  Email us at shesmarriedshessingle@gmail.com to send in your question!

Podcast Recommendation List | PART 5

‘Tis the season…to recommend podcasts!  I’ve found a LOT of nerdy podcasts to binge-listen to, and I hope some of them will be of interest to some of you!

best-episode-ever1| Best Episode Ever

TV nerds discuss popular finished shows, deciding on best and worst moments, how the series has aged since release, and ultimately deciding the, you guessed it, best episode ever.  So far they have covered Friends, Adventure Time, and 30 Rock, so these are definitely my kind of podcasters.

948152| We Can Do This All Day

A husband and wife duo analyze Marvel superhero movies!  They’re both professional writers, so they bring a knowledge of storytelling to the show that elevates this beyond simply fangirling.  They also ran a lot of other podcasts together under the company Storywonk, and they are also well worth checking out!

eUny1NlQ3| Excelsior

Sadly, the aforementioned husband and wife duo divorced last year, so they no longer work together.  The husband joined two other people to continue analyzing superhero movies (now both Marvel and DC) in this podcast.

SASW-albumart4| Story and Star Wars

The divorced husband also runs several podcasts on his own, including this series analyzing the storytelling beats of each Star Wars film.  It’s nerdy and educational, and he’s also got ongoing series for Harry Potter (Dear Mr. Potter) and Lord of the Rings (There and Back Again) that I hope to get to soon.

1200x630bb5| Good Christian Fun

I am LOVING this podcast by two Christians diving back into the crazy Christian counter-culture of the ’90s and ’00s.  Sometimes scathing, sometimes fond, this podcast covers everything from Left Behind to VeggieTales to the OC Supertones.  If you listen through the entire episode, they have a running “What is the worst Christian song?” game to close that is a hilarious and horrific blast to the past.


Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Podcast Recommendation List | PART 4

It’s been almost a year since I last recommended podcasts that I love, so let’s do this again!

FathomsDeep-Logo1| Fathoms Deep

As reported elsewhere, I am currently obsessed with the absolutely amazing (four seasons and finished) television show Black Sails.  Run by two women who understand how important it is to overanalyze every character, line, and scene, this podcast became so popular with its episode reviews that the hosts were able to interview actors and actresses from the show!  If you love Black Sails, this is the podcast for you.  If you don’t love Black Sails, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  Go watch it immediately!

170x170bb2| The Kind Rewind

A husband and wife duo rewatch awesome 90s and 00s television shows, and since their tastes align with mine, I’m recommending it!  Each 45-minute(ish) podcast episode covers three television episodes, so the pace is fast and mostly designed to make you say, “Yeah, that WAS awesome!”  So far they’ve covered season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season one of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and they just started watching Firefly!

Screen Shot 2017-08-08 at 9.22.54 PM3| Slate’s Dear Prudence

Mallory Ortberg won me over with The Toast, so when I heard she had an advice podcast, I was in.  With rotating guests, she answers written-in questions about all sorts of topics while regularly reminding her listeners that we’re nosy for wanting to listen in on other peoples’ dirt.  Which is very true, so keep the episodes coming!

uploads_2F1489438262024-854z1cbidexe1unj-67d64498cb7e5c5ca56e495c53d040ea_2FBytheBook_FINAL4| By the Book

I am about equal parts intrigued by and skeptical of self-help books, and this podcast indulges both impulses with two hosts with very different approaches to the self-help books they read, test, and report on for two weeks.  So far I’ve mostly been interested in how they report on the books they didn’t like, though I did fall hard for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up after they described the joy of a gigantic material purge.

typology_1600px5| Typology

For anyone who is mourning the end of The Road Back to You, never fear!  Ian Morgan Cron continues its same format, interviewing someone with a different enneagram type each episode, helping us to learn more about ourselves and others via personality types.

 


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Podcast Recommendation List | PART 3

Can’t stop, won’t stop…listening to podcasts.

I recommended five my favorite podcasts in May and another five in August.  The wait times between rec posts are shrinking because there are SO MANY great podcasts out there.  It’s getting to be quite difficult to put all this great material into my ears, but I try.  Hopefully you’ll find something you want to try listening to during your commuting, cooking, or cleaning times!


2f670f04e37c565171566f49c7d30a8c1|  Imaginary Worlds

Imaginary Worlds stands out amongst hour+ long podcasts by being between 20-25 minutes each episode.  Host Eric Molinsky delves into all things fantasy and science fiction, sometimes veering historical, other times cultural or just flat-out nerdy.  Some of my favorite episodes include “Heroines,” “Politics of Thrones,” “Undertale,” and “Fantasy Maps.”

600x600bb2|  My Brother, My Brother And Me

Lin-Manuel Miranda mentioned this podcast in the Hamiltome Continue reading

Podcast Recommendation List | PART 2

A few months ago I recommended some of my favorite podcasts (and received some great recommendations back!), because there is rarely a time when I don’t have a podcast playing in the background.  While all of my previous recommendations (especially Dear Hank and John, Overinvested, and The Liturgists Podcast) are still high on my priority list, I have since added some new ones to my queue!


600x600bb1|  The Guilty Feminist

Big thanks to blogger Jesse for recommending this one to me.  Sofie Hagen and Deborah Frances-White are European comedians who record their shows about “the feminist ideals we hold and the insecurities and hypocrisies that undermine them.”  They start each show with a series of “I’m a feminist, but…” confessions that create a safe place to laugh about all the ways we fail to be as body positive and self-confident as we profess to be.  They’ve done shows about exercise, apologizing, femininity, and many more, and I look forward to each new episode every week.

14711124649122|  Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

This is a new podcast that I only just discovered, but I LOVE it. Continue reading