A very brief (well, OK, actually kind of long) review of some of the best things that I read, ate, or otherwise consumed this year. I didn’t bother writing down everything we ate in Paris, but yep, pretty much everything we ate in Paris.
I read a disproportionate amount of biography, memoir, and other nonfiction this year, so the list skews in that direction. I tend to be a much tougher critic of fiction, but I want to start to read more of it next year. I have a stack already, for the plane and California in a week: Simon van Booy, Kate Manning, Ben Fountain, John Williams, Justin Go… I thought about writing little blurbs for each of these, but they sounded glib and silly, and I wrote about most of them elsewhere, so links ahoy. But these were books that burrowed into my head, that stayed with me, that I’ve pressed onto friends, that surprised or shocked me, that I’d recommend unreservedly:
Sheri Fink, Five Days at Memorial.
Jill Lepore, Book of Ages
David Finkel, Thank You For Your Service.
Rosie Schaap, Drinking with Men.
Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped.
Aleksandr Hemon, The Books of My Lives.
George Packer, The Unwinding.
There was so much else I loved, too: Reza Aslan’s Zealot; Roger Rosenblatt’s The Boy Detective; Roxana Robinson’s Sparta; Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage; Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat; Carla Kaplan’s Miss Anne in Harlem, Peter Bagge’s Woman Rebel… Reviews or Q&As of all of these over at my redesigned site.
Proudest moments this year:
This, for The Nation, and this radio interview I did as a follow-up.
Being invited to take part in this 40th anniversary discussion with Erica Jong on “Fear of Flying,” for PEN.
Getting my name on this list.
Finishing a 5K on Randall’s Island in 32 minutes, and getting almost to the point where running is a pleasure, and that time sounds laughably slow.
Best plays, exhibitions, films, etc:
I didn’t see as much art or theatre this year as I’d like, and that meant that what I did see probably felt disproportionately good. But these were among the best.
“do it (outside)” exhibition at Socrates Sculpture Park. Biased because I just love the place.
“American Spirits” at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Bonus Charleston lessons!
“L’Ange Du Bizarre” at the Musee d’Orsay, Paris. Macabre and ugly “dark romantic” art, but totally fascinating.
“War/Photography” at the Brooklyn Museum. Still on! Huge, unpredictable, devastating.
“Walker Evans: American Photographs” at MoMA. Also still on!
The Moth at Town Hall. For Kemp Powers, Lynn Ferguson, and for the way it made me think about what storytelling is.
I’m always incredibly behind with movie viewing, and haven’t seen any of the big end-of-year hits. But this year we spent some quality time with Wong Kar-Wai, and just recently, loved Frances Ha. (Review by my sweet honorary little sister Mazz.)
TV I loved this year: Orange is the New Black, New Girl, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Borgen, Parks & Rec, Mad Men, Arrested Development. TV I did not see this year: Breaking Bad.
Best things I ate (a very selective list):
Dinner at Matyson in Philadelphia
Steak (and everything else) at L’Ange Gardien in Paris, near our apartment and Père Lachaise.
Tarte tatin at Buvette, West Village. Have I mentioned that?
Pizza with charred brussels sprouts and egg at Milkflower
Oysters at Mar’s, Astoria, the John Dory Oyster Bar in Manhattan, and in Toronto at Doug and Nikki’s, as shucked by Doug and Tony. Oysters!