New decade, same six-story feature. Well, not quite. The past ten years have seen my taste in literature transform itself in myriad ways. I’ve been writing these posts for the past three years (see 2017, 2018, and 2019), and you can take a look at the 2017 post to see just how much. I didn’t read nearly as much as I would have liked to in 2019 (only 13 books read for pleasure), but I certainly watched a lot of TV. Like, a lot of TV. For that reason, I’ve changed this feature from a list of books enjoyed in 2019 to a list of standout books and TV series that I really loved this past year.
THE LONELY CITY by Olivia Laing Read for fun. Laing is a fantastic writer, and if you’re at all interested in art, New York, loneliness, LGBTQ+ issues, or any combination of these, this will be a fascinating read. Laing explores the connection between loneliness and the personal and professional lives of several artists, and provides commentary on solitude and loneliness for everyday people. In my review of this book last January, I called it “a must-read for anyone who has or ever will be lonely; that is to say, most people.” 4/5 Wagging Tails
LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng Read for fun. An excellent exploration of motherhood, daughterhood, race, class, and marital/adoption status set in suburban Ohio. This book is one of the few that I’ve read that offers so much nuance about so many issues, and that depicts singe motherhood in a favorable light. 4/5 Wagging Tails
HERE IS NEW YORK by E.B. White Re-read for fun. I’ve “lived” in New York City on and off for almost three years now. Even though I’m in college, I have noticed the ebb and flow that White describes and pinpoints as eternal in an otherwise ephemeral city. It is funny that a city so associated with change has in fact changed so little since White wrote this book in 1949. 5/5 Wagging Tails
THE TV SHOWS
FRASIER (1993-2004) While everyone else was obsessing over Friends this year, I was binge-watching another ’90s sitcom. The premise is simple: Frasier moves back home to Seattle to start a new life as a radio shrink. As soon as he arrives, though, his brother Niles pawns off care for their aging father, Martin, and Frasier hires an eccentric live-in healthcare aide named Daphne Moon. There’s nothing more relaxing and more satisfying than Marty’s sarcastic comments and Niles’s acerbic zingers on a rainy day. Frasier himself is rarely the star of the show, and the writing is first-rate. I’ve never met a more clever comedy, and I’ve missed it since it went off of Netflix on January 1. 5/5 Wagging Tails
BREAKING BAD (2008-2013) I wasn’t allowed to watch this when it was on the air, and for good reason: Breaking Bad centers on high school chemistry teacher Walter White’s descent from mild-mannered family man to meth kingpin with the help of his former student and small-time drug dealer, Jesse Pinkman. I wasn’t expecting to like a show so graphic or gruesome, but Breaking Bad is perfect binge material: it’s slow, but well-paced, and I’ve never met characters so carefully constructed or more wholly changed by circumstance on television. 5/5 Wagging Tails
THE WEST WING (1999-2006) This TV series is just fantastic. It’s a bit too intellectual and liberal and optimistic to truly depict the world we live in or even politics at the turn of the century, but it has such great debates and cultural values and is in many ways a reflection of the early 2000s. Its impact on politics today is undisputed, and I even wrote a paper about it twenty years after it first aired! 5/5 Wagging Tails