I love end of the year lists and I have a lot of opinions and I have a blog so here is my ‘Best of..” list for 2016. Feel free to disagree or tell me your favorites.
“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman — I haven’t finished this novel yet but, unless it completely falls apart, it’s my favorite book of the year. Unique style and a lot of heart–a lot of heart! A Swedish bestseller that is not a crime procedural. Just the story of a grumpy but lovable widower trying to kill himself who keeps getting interrupted by his neighbors. Ove is hard to love until you realize why he acts the way he does. Brilliant storytelling.
“Ways to Disappear” by Idra Novey — Describing this novel will probably not want to make you rush out and read it but it is magical and fun and exceptionally well written. It starts off with an eccentric Brazilian writer climbing a tree to enjoy a cigar. From there, she vanishes and the entire country–especially her children, publisher and translator–are captivated with trying to find her. Rather than say more, you can read my ‘official’ review.
“The Girls” by Emma Cline –– It’s rare that a book lives up to the hype of a $2 million advance but this one certainly does. The story is as strong as the writing and Emma Cline has come up with a relatively new way to take a peek inside the Manson cult and see what it operates the way it does. Along the way (actually on nearly every page), we are treated to a fascinating look into the mind of a 14 year old girl who sees the cult as dark, dangerous and exciting. Why? Read the book. The writing is blow away.
“Beatles ’66” by Steve Turner — The only non-fiction book that made my list this year. I’d agree it’s mainly for Beatles fans but even if you’re a casual fan, this book is primer on how the Beatles went from being great pop singer/songwriters to true artists It was so smart of the author to take one pivotal year and examine it in microscopic detail. I ate it up and here’s the official review.
Best TV programs/series:
“Good Girls Revolt” — This series about girl researchers at News of the Week, a fictitious weekly magazine, takes place in 1969/70 and is a period piece with overtones of “Mad Men.” It’s not done as well as “Mad Men” but it is more episodic. It ties up stories together in a way that “Mad Men” never did. Basically, the story is about how the girls want to be reporters as well as researchers, something that was prohibited in those days, at least at this magazine. I worked at a newspaper around the same time and recognized a lot of the male behavior to be dead on. Amazon has already cancelled this series but the producers are trying to get someone else to pick it up. In any case, it’s worth watching.
“The Crown” — I did not think I would like this series about Queen Elizabeth’s rise to the English throne back in the 1950s but it won me over. The series is clever in how it pulls you into the royal family until you care about the little things they care about. Fascinating to see the backbiting and deal-making that goes on between the Crown and the English government. As many have written, John Lithgow as Churchill is fabulous but for my money, the series was stolen by Vanessa Kirby who plays Princess Margaret like a wild vixen. I can’t wait for the next five seasons. By that time, Charles may finally be king.
“Search Party” — This ten-part series on TBS sneaks up on you. Essentially, it’s about four millennials in Brooklyn who are trying to find their own way through their shallow 20s. The only one who has a clue about how empty their lives are is Dory who becomes obsessed with trying to locate a missing college acquaintance. You get the idea her search is more to give meaning to her own life than to actually find the missing girl. What develops is fun to watch and I hope they’ll be another season. Alia Shawkat as Dory is the breakout star.
“Insecure” — Issa Rae plays a 29-year-old black woman trying to make sense of her life and loves in contemporary Los Angeles. A rarity in that the series is an honest portrayal of black woman’s search for love and meaning. It’s funny but also has a lot of heart and Issa Rae is perfect in the lead role. Definitely worth watching.