in recent years

202020192018
2017201620152014
2013201220112010

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 five 2018: the other stuff

I started this post the same way I start most of them: with too many words and a lot of unnecessary information, but I got tired about halfway through because it’s been a hard month and enthusiasm meter is on E. And that bummed me out! Because I consider myself an enthusiast and I don’t like when that’s taken from me!

So instead of dwelling or letting this post feel like a chore, I’m going to make it (kind of) short on words and (pretty) long on stuff.


crys & ash at panic in mpls being rained on with confetti ash screaming while being rained on by panic! at the disco confetti
ash and crys with the members of ludo


Previously

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

totally top five 2k18: listening

2018 really reignited my fire for finding new music to listen to and also reinvigorated my interest in bands who I already liked who also happened to have new albums being released. It also sent Crystal and I all over the Midwest to revisit our first true love live music, which was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Anyway! Again, in no particular order:


Fall Out Boy’s Mania is really, really great and one of my most listened albums (and my most listened artist according to Spotify) of 2018. I like that Fall Out Boy has never seemed afraid to just write the songs they want to write regardless of what’s expected of them and that they keep producing music that is both really enjoyable and also meaningful and moving, regardless of whether you fall into their target demographic. They also continue to grow as musicians; they put on a hell of a live show. (We went twice! I cried! There was a lot of pyro!) and I can’t wait to see what they do next. Favorites: “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea” (Patrick Stump sing-yelling “résistance” is… life-changing.) & “HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON’T” & “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” & “Church” & “Heaven’s Gate” & “Champion” (Which makes me cry more often than I should admit.) & Okay, stopping because I’m going to end up listing the entire album.


Don Broco’s Technology is another album I fell for early on in 2018 and while I tapered off on my listening, it’s one I kept coming back to again when I thought about music I had really loved last year. A solid, well-produced, well-performed alt rock/post-hardcore effort that sounds best while blared loudly in a car with the windows down. There is some really memorable guitar work on this album that gets stuck in my head and some nice synth work that plays complement better than I would have expected. They’re also the first band to get me to buy Warped Tour tickets. We ended up giving them away, but we did buy them! Also, they make real weird music videos. Favorites: “T-Shirt Song” & “Come Out to LA” & “Pretty” & “Everybody” & “¥” & Something to Drink” & “Blood in the Water”


Reggie and the Full Effect’s 41 is so, so, so good and it’s killing me that I haven’t seen James Dewees touring on it yet because the show I went to in 2009 is still one of the best and most fun I’ve ever seen. Reggie’s albums are always sort of a stylistic adventure and I think 41 is probably the most cohesive yet. It feels like an album made for adults who still have feelings and if I’ve had a favorite emotional breakdown while rolling around on the floor in front of my turntable, it would definitely be the one I had to this album. Also, like all Reggie albums, it’s also dance-y as hell. Also-also, “Your drywall skills are fucking aces / Not even elective / You smell bullshit from twenty paces/ Skills so damn effective” has got to be one of the most specifically complimentary lines I’ve ever heard in a song. Favorites: Broke Down” & “Heartbreak” & “Karate School” & “The Horrible Year” & “Maggie” & “Off Delaware”


I found Dead!’s The Golden Age of Not Even Trying very early on in 2018 through a mix of The Algorithm and also seeing a random comment on Instagram saying that if we were missing My Chemical Romance (Am I ever not?) this would be a good listen and both the album and that random Instagram commenter were right! (The Algorithm knows me. I am one with The Algorithm.) This is another solid alt rock effort with some really great, punchy guitar and K-I-L-L-E-R bass work and some really clever, lovely lyrics — I am extremely partial to “Are you always this extroverted? / I’d like to ask if I could learn it / If you’ve got knuckles to drag / Then I’ve got bones to sweep / Any port in a storm / Can you hear me?” and I think about it A LOT. Favorites: “The Golden Age of Not Even Trying” & “Jessica” & “Off White Paint” & “You’re So Cheap” & “W9” & “Any Port” & Youth Screams & Fades”


I had sort of… forgotten that Panic! at the Disco was still making music until the Spotify algorithm shoved “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” at me in late 2017 and I got re-interested and also dragged Crystal into it, kicking and screaming that she still loved Ryan Ross too much to listen to the new stuff. Pray for the Wicked is sooooooooo good. And so bright and clever and dance-y and FUN. Brendon Urie’s voice is a gift. And I am so glad that I dragged Crystal into it and she impulse bought us floor seats for the first leg of the tour because, wow. W-O-W. What a damn show. The album is a great whole and also great picked out song by song and I wish I was rich enough to just follow Panic’s tour around the world for the rest of my life. Also, I don’t know how I lived without the the delivery of “dying” in the third and fourth “when you’re dying in LA” in the chorus of “Dying in LA” for 33 entire years. Favorites: “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” & “High Hopes” & “Roaring 20s” & “Dancing’s Not a Crime” & “King of the Clouds” & “Dying in LA”


Honorable Mentions

bear ghost, blasterpiece   waterparks, entertainment   phantom thread score

ohhms, the fool   royal blood, how did we get so dark?   ghost, prequelle


Previously

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

totally top five 2018: reading

I made it another year reviewing all the books I read on Goodreads! Maybe this year I’ll 1. get better at reviewing and 2. read more dang books?!

And now in no particular order!


Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End ripped my heart out in all the best ways. It has a simple, genius concept that’s executed clearly without lengthy dragging explanations. It drops the reader in and expects them to accept the world as-is and then makes them fall in love with rich, engaging, charming characters and get attached to them, all the while knowing exactly how the story is going to end. Despite yelling the title at myself every time I felt even a tiny little glow of hope in my ribs, I was still absolutely devastated in the end and loved every second of it.


Janet E. Cameron’s Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World is a coming-of-age story that stays with its protagonist a lot longer than most, which I found both refreshing and really satisfying. I like the way time and place shape the story and that Stephen is struggling with more than one aspect of his identity. I like that even though it reaches extremely dark places, it never feels hopeless or like it’s enjoying the character’s suffering. There’s stronger writing here than I was expecting and some places where I knew the words would stick around for a long time. Really lovely.


Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism seemed like a fun, throwback book when I bought it, but it ended up being a lot more: scary and creepy and immersive and frustrating (I hate when you’re in the head of a character that other people don’t believe! It makes me furious and it was executed SO WELL here.) and also really lovely and moving and sweet. The heart of this book is a deep, living friendship between two girls and even with a great plot and pitch-perfect pop cultural references (that never feel cheap!) that friendship is what carries the story each step of the way. There’s some really great, grotesque imagery in here and I loved the multimedia elements, but most of all I loved that it had a really satisfying ending that never lost sight of the girls at its center.


S.J. Goslee’s Whatever was super, super fun and charming and smart and funny and had tons of great, teenager-y dialogue and goofy, teenager-y shenanigans to really get absorbed in. Also there is really fun, charming, awkward flirting! And characters who really like each other! And have interesting voices! All of the characters here are really engaging and the story as a whole is really what I most enjoy when reading YA, my most frequent genre of choice: teenagers who are figuring shit out, navigating rough spots, and still having a pretty good time.


K. Ancrum’s The Wicker King wins the award for Book That Made Me Yell At My Wife the Most because she hasn’t read it yet, but also won’t let me talk to her about it because she doesn’t want to be spoiled and I want, SO BADLY, to talk about it! This book is so freaking beautiful and dense and interesting and painful and god, I don’t know how to articulate it. I love the characters and the weirdness and the relationships and the imagery and the visual components and the really intense, almost brutal relationship at the center of it. This book was so unpredictable and unexpected for me. Also, it has one of the best author’s notes I’ve ever read. I feel like stumbling across this book at Wild Rumpus while being mildly intimidated by a free-roaming fluffy chicken was a tiny little moment of magic in 2018 and I am so grateful for it.


Honorable Mentions

natasha washington, calling calling calling me   carrie fisher, the princess diarist   simon james green, noah can't even


Previously

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