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totally top five 2019: reading

I read 42 books in 2019! Let’s talk about the ones I liked the most, yeah? In no particular order!


Drew Magary’s The Hike was the absolute weirdest book I read in 2019 and I had such a great time doing it. It was one of my three favorite things in June and I’ve been babbling about its weirdness since I finished it. It really helped me realize that the things I like most in the world are often things that are allowed to just be weird without extensive reasoning. The Hike sets up the rules of the universe as it goes and never forces itself into an explanation. It just is and I really love that about it. The biggest reason it’s on the list, however, is that I have been totally unable to stop thinking about it. I think about it whenever I am confronted by the idea of crabs, obviously, but it also just pops into my head randomly and I get that nice, satisfied feeling you have when you bump into an old friend and that’s got to be sign of a book I really loved.


Mary Renault’s The Charioteer was really beautiful and stunningly written with the kind of concision and delicacy that makes tiny motions into unbearable romantic (and sometimes erotic!) gestures. I had a lot to say about this one when I finished it and I stand by everything I said. It has beautiful writing and engaging characters and a lovely, painful sense of melancholy that didn’t feel hopeless. I was so invested in this book that I actually left my house under false pretenses while we had someone staying with us so that I could sit somewhere quiet for thirty minutes and finish it. If a willingness to abandon your loved ones in order to read isn’t a sign of a good book, I’m not sure what is.


Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August absolutely kicked my ass intellectually and emotionally and I would not have had it any other way. It was one of my favorite things in May and thinking about the book makes me feel completely unhinged in a way that I love. (If I think too hard about the conceit, my head starts to hurt, but I kind of like it.) It was one of the books I thought the most about this year after I’d finished it. The world North creates is brain-breaking for me, but also really engaging and interesting, and I still can’t believe how much I loved spending time with Harry and his friends. Her writing is beautiful and Harry is a wonderful narrator and also, to reiterate, the line “He enjoyed toying with me, and, in my way, I enjoyed being toyed with.” is still one of the horniest things I’ve ever read.


C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince Trilogy was so, so, so unbelievably good and fun and satisfying and an unbelievably good distraction while we were dealing with a family medical emergency. These books had the ability to drag me away from fear, anxiety, frustration, even sobbing misery, and to put me into a completely different place where I could just focus on a story and disappear into it until I had to deal with real life again. I read these really, really fast — all three in less than a month — and they make a really nice, solid set with a nice-sized story and a really satisfying arc. I love these characters and she even managed to engage me with the political maneuvering of the “actual” “plot” of the story behind the romantic entanglement and extremely good sex. Also, it’s the only thing I read this year that inspired the text message, “THIS IS WHY I AM ALIVE ON THIS EARTH!!!!!!” and that’s hard to beat.


Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name was so good that as soon as I had finished it, I went to Ebay to order a hardback copy to put on my Favorite Books Shelf. The characters are incredible, the atmosphere is dreamy and sensual, and the writing! God! Infuriatingly good. Like most of the people I know who read and loved it, I, too, wish he had quit while he was ahead re: where to land the ending, but even when I look back on it now, I don’t actually feel like it disappointed me in any way. This felt like being seventeen and in your own head about your feelings, constantly convinced that you are the only person who has ever felt this way, except if your seventeen-year-old thoughts were really beautiful and articulate and also taking place in a breathtaking version of Italy that probably doesn’t actually exist.


Honorable Mentions

philippe besson, lie with me   sj goslee, how not to ask a boy to prom   jessica knoll, luckiest girl alive   kj charles, band sinister   amy spalding, the summer of jordi perez


Previously

2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | 2K16 | 2K17 | 2018

totally top five 2019: stuff & things

Hey look, it’s that time of year! When a bitch shares their love! Every song you hear! Seems to say! Spend your money! May your shopping dreams! Come true!

OR!

Here’s the first of four posts about stuff I loved in 2019!

a gray, white, and black graphic saying totally top five 2019: stuff and things

  • The Vint & York glasses in Cranberry Splash Ritzy that I wore almost all year and made me feel the most like myself any pair of glasses ever have.
  • This Casemate Glitter Case for my iPhone.
  • This heated electric throw that basically kept me alive through the early months of 2019.
  • This cheap, warm, and very comfortable Amazon Basics Puffy Coat.
  • I bought this mechanical keyboard for work and this mechanical keyboard for home and now typing on any keyboard without Cherry MX Blue switches feels a little bit like torture. I came for the clicky sounds which, idiotically and inexplicably, encourage me to write more, but stayed for the reduced effort needed for typing and the corresponding reduced strain on my hands.
  • I would be remiss if I didn’t include skiley.net which lets you look at your Spotify stats any time you want instead of just when Spotify wants to send you infographics at the end of the year.
  • This countertop ice maker which is a counter hog and pretty loud, but makes really good ice very quickly and enables my Stok Chocolate cold brew habit.
  • I’ve got to extol the virtues of the NARS Powermatte Lip Pigments for the second year in a row because I really never wear anything else anymore! We added a few to the collection in 2019 — we’re up to nine now: American Woman, Don’t Stop, London Calling, Somebody to Love, Spin Me, Starwoman, Under My Thumb, Vain, Wild Night — and every single one is amazing.
  • I am not a video game person, which I am sure I have said before and will say again, because I’m not competitive, but I also just don’t care about games enough to learn how to actually play them. Thankfully, untitled goose game has a very simple set of mechanics and no stressful metrics for success, so I get to enjoy non-competitive mischief like the rest of the internet.
  • This Elizavecca Hair Treatment that makes my hair super soft, but not greasy or weighed down.
  • 1 Million and, more specifically, mixing 1 Million with Alien.
  • PODCASTS! (Okay, so, I know technically you LISTEN to podcasts and so that’s where this should go, but there was way, way, way too much good music in 2019 for me to sacrifice a spot to something I only barely tapped into, no matter how much I enjoyed it. Also, by ‘podcasts,’ I just mean My Brother, My Brother and Me so feel free to read this number as ‘The McElroy Brothers’ instead, if that makes you feel better.)
  • All the stuff that I said about live music last year was pretty true this year, too! I didn’t get to see as many people live because life is about… balance? I guess? But we did see Ludo reunite again AND My Chemical Romance’s return and when you get to see one of your favorite bands play together for the first time in seven and a half years, that’s a pretty good year.

  • Previously

    2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | 2K16 | 2K17 | 2018

totally top three: november 2019

November has been so, so good. Not just compared to the painful shitshow of October, but just like, genuinely! Even though it was also super stressful! What a wonderful and hideous mixed bag life can be!


I didn’t know how I would feel about Lords of Chaos going in — I probably know about… 300 times more about Norwegian Black Metal than the average moviegoer — and I wasn’t totally sure what I thought after, but I sure have thought about it a lot. This was both a story I already knew and a subject I am vaguely interested in and I was worried I might be too concerned with The Truth to just watch it as a movie, but that ended up not being an issue because everyone is so good in it that I just sort of disappeared into it. I ended up having a lot of feelings I didn’t expect and though I think I wish it had focused more on the relationship between Euronymous and his band before Dead’s death, I obviously get why we got the timeline we did. I was surprised at how beautifully this was shot and also how absurdly funny it was in places and also how much the ending got to me emotionally even knowing what was coming. It’s not going to be for everyone and I think selling it as a “horror-thriller” is not only incorrect, but gross. This is a music biopic tragedy set in a subculture that looks absolutely nonsensical, even to people familiar with it, and it does that well.


Cavetown, Lemon Boy – I have accepted that I exist only at the whims of the algorithm so I should know by now that when it serves me a song that I really like, I shouldn’t wait six months to listen to the album that the song is on, but that’s exactly what happened with Cavetown. “Lemon Boy” showed up at some point early this year and I loved it and have listened to it and put it on my giant master list of songs I like but I didn’t listen to the album until earlier this month after “Pigeon” popped up for me and I loved it too. The album is solid and pretty and kind of achy in places I wasn’t expecting which I always loooooove. In addition to the aforementioned tunes, I am also obsessed with “Green” and “It’s U” and “Taking Care of Things” and “10 Feet Tall” and “888,” but the whole album is genuinely great.


Like so many other people on the internet, I have been playing Cat Condo because it is a soothing and simple distraction in a chaotic world. There’s not much to say about it other than the cats are extremely cute and I really like being able to come and go without any commitment to sit and tap unless I want to because the game keeps generating cats in my absence. What a time to be alive.


And three to look forward to…

little women   my chemical romance at the shrine   star wars: rise of skywalker

you don't have to finish that thing

Today, I removed a TV show that I have not finished from the “To Watch” list I keep in my Wunderlist app.

It felt… good. It felt… free. It felt… transcendental.

It doesn’t matter at all what it was — I add like, everything to this list that sounds even remotely interesting when I see somebody talk about it — and it isn’t because I even think it’s “bad” or whatever (I don’t, actually. It’s good!) but just because I didn’t really want to watch anymore episodes. It just wasn’t a thing I needed to see through and for like, one of the first times in my entire dumb life I just… decided not to.

I have always been finicky about Finishing Things. (Well, watching/reading-type things. If only I could produce the same kind of energy for producing things instead of consuming them. The books I could finish writing! The screenplays! The chores!) I’ve only ever really given up on a book TWICE (Both of which were boring and pretty bad. One or the other… I stick those out constantly. I have been ”’reading”’ House of Leaves for fourteen years.) and I am constantly having the incredibly stupid thought, unbidden, that I have to take in an Entire Thing before I’m like, allowed to decide whether I liked it or not.

But the older I get, the more I realize that life is just TOO SHORT to finish every single thing I start. I have no idea how much time I get on this planet, why the hell do I keep wasting it on stuff that I’m not even that into?!

This feels like a real evolutionary moment for me. I can change! I can reclaim my time! And stop wasting it on things I don’t really care about!

And! I walked the talk and doused the stupid little burning need I had to tell everyone about how This Thing Was Just Not For Me because… Who cares? Lots of things aren’t for me! (That’s like, a product of being alive in a time where there is more content being created every day than in the one prior: not all of it can or should be made for everyone. That actually rules, knowing there is SO MUCH media being made, that like, you don’t have to care about kind of a lot of it at all. That’s awesome.)#

(It’s almost like… I can be the person I actually want to be? Sometimes? If I try? Sounds fake, but okay.)

So, in case you need it, I am here to tell you: You Do Not Have to Finish That Thing.

Whatever it is, no matter how good it is or how much you want to be part of the zeitgeist or which one of your amazing friends recommended it, you can just stop reading or watching or following it. And you don’t even have to tell anyone about it. Just Quietly Quit That Thing and On To The Next. Liberate yourself. Bask in that freedom. You deserve it.

#: I hope it is obvious that this doesn’t apply to, like, diversity and representation in media. We always need more and everyone should be able to see themselves in the media they watch. This is a Mob Movies Aren’t For Me, not Movies Should Be For Straight White Cis People Only thing. Fuck white people. Including me.

totally top 3: june 2019


Holy crap did I love Good Omens. I read the book in college (200…4? I think) and loved it and have spent the ensuing years recommending it to lots and lots of people. A solid adaptation FULL!! of all the queer angel-demon love I could have dreamed of. I will miss the internet obsessively fan re-casting the story every few years and I maintain that they CERTAINLY could have casted it less white-ly, but we liked it enough to almost immediately watch the entire thing a second time anyway. I thought the narrative and the dialogue did a good job pulling the funny charm from the book into a visual medium and I thought the visuals and placemaking and costuming were ultimately very cool. I also thought it did a nice job of breaking the book up into episodes, though I could have watched a thousand more minutes of Aziraphale and Crowley begrudgingly becoming friends. I will be haunted by “You go to too fast for me, Crowley” for the rest of my life and I will love it.


I didn’t know anything about Drew Magary’s The Hike before I bought it (I have probably made it clear that I don’t ever know anything about what I read before I read it and yet I cannot stop repeating myself.) and even if I had, I don’t think I could have accurately imagined the off-the-charts level of weirdness in here. The writing in this is really solid and, as previously mentioned, really reflective of the passage of time and changes in the narrator. Ben is a solid narrator, but the stars here are really the secondary characters and the general bizarre nature of the story. The willingness to lean in to the strangeness of the premise and follow through with it was really refreshing and reminded me a lot of Unicorn Store, actually, and I thought the ending was similarly satisfying.


We were able to squeeze a viewing of Rocketman into a quick trip to the cities in June and I am SO GLAD. It was so big and fun and moving — making it a big fantasy musical was brilliant and fun and so fitting for Elton John’s music — and I ended up crying like, five times which I hadn’t really expected?? Taron Egerton is so, so, sooooooo unbelievably good. He makes acting look like it’s just having feelings on camera, right there all over his beautiful face, and he really drags you through them with him in the most satisfying way. Also, I had no idea Jamie Bell was in this before he popped up on screen and I kind of yelped in the theater and terrified all of the middle-aged couples that were there with us. As always, a beautiful, talented bitch. The “Your Song” bit is so good — two extremely talented actors just meaningfully, facially emoting at each other over a song I already loved so much — and I’m just going to think about it forever and ever.


And three to look forward to…

stranger things season 3   rory power, wilder girls   spider-man: far from home