As long as you’re not experiencing a breakup at the time, I must say that breakup songs are the most fascinating to compile! Obviously the actual act of breaking up is no fun, but it was definitely a source of inspiration for a wide variety of some of the best, most expressive and even empowering music. In my attempt to create a breakup playlist (in case your Valentine’s Day didn’t go as planned…) without the standard Celine Dion and Adele hits, I found so many gems! If you need some tunes for drying your eyes or slashing a certain someone’s tires, listen below or on my Spotify page. In a parallel vein, here’s last year’s playlist “Guaranteed to Ruin the Mood”. For songs that are actually related to the holiday, check out previous February playlists here and here.
The following is the product of the least amount of time I’ve ever spent on a blog playlist. A friend recently asked me to recommend some music, and I pretty much just picked a handful of songs I’ve been playing frequently this month. Hopefully this won’t sound like too haphazard of a mix. Listen below or on my Spotify page. For more winter-appropriate tunes, check out previous January playlists here and here.
This post is a little late because I realized towards the end of last year that I hadn’t read a ton of books that were actually published in 2017 and wanted to give myself a couple weeks to catch up. Below are my 2017 picks, but NPR’s Book Concierge is also a fun source for choosing your next read. And of course, you can follow my Goodreads account, where I keep track of all the books I’m working on and review those that I finish.
South and West is further proof that Joan Didion is one of the best writers and ethnographers of our time. This is essentially a collection of notes–observations, interviews, etc.–she took while on a road trip through the deep South and while on assignment in California in the 70’s. It is mind-boggling that even her initial thoughts on unusual topics seem perfectly crafted, and each sentence is filled with intuition and wonder, all at once. This is a very short, yet indulgent read, and I would recommend to anyone who would be honored to explore somewhere or something new with a straight up queen.
Little Fires Everywhere follows a seemingly idyllic suburban family in the 90’s and the drama that ensues when an artist and her daughter arrive in town and everyone becomes involved in the custody battle of an adopted Chinese-American baby. This novel won the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction and has been exceedingly popular since it was published just a few months ago. I really wanted to like it because I thought Celeste Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, was incredibly powerful. But I was ultimately let down by a lack of depth, due to an overabundance of characters, heavy reliance on stereotypes and cliches, and no sense of closure at the end, which was highly unsatisfying. Still, the plot is pretty action-packed, and I enjoyed learning about Shaker Heights, an actual city in Ohio. I would recommend to anyone who is looking to be entertained by an easy-to-read story.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is exactly what the title states–a short and sweet guide to the cosmos. In this winner of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Award for Science & Technology, the brilliant Neil deGrasse Tyson explains complex concepts–everything from the very, very big to the very, very small–in a way that is easy to understand for the layman. Sure, my science background from my Pre-Med days certainly helped, but I wouldn’t consider it necessary. Honestly, I’ve already forgotten a lot of the little details that were interesting at the time, but I think the main takeaway for most readers is perspective. Perfect for learning something new on Metro rides. Tyson is a charismatic narrator, but I would not recommend listening to the audio version like I did. This book is so dense with information that virtually every sentence will make you want to stop and ponder for a few seconds, which is difficult to do with an audio book. I basically had to start and stop and use 15-second rewind over and over again.
We Are Never Meeting In Real Life made me laugh out loud in public. Comedian and Bitches Gotta Eat blogger Samantha Irby presents wildly hilarious essays about a random assortment of events in her life that are real… TOO REAL. Many of her stories are relatable in some way, and the rest will make you feel so much better about your own life. Irby writes like a millenial, with the wisdom of someone much older. (And she would probably have something delightfully, passive aggressively sassy–or just aggressively sassy–to say about my choice of wording.) The book does get fairly emotional when she discusses her difficult childhood, putting her cat (whom she calls the spawn of Satan) to sleep, and casually scattering her estranged father’s ashes while on a romantic vacation… But Irby somehow finds the humor in every situation.
Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too might seem like a cute little graphic novel on the surface, but it is surprisingly deep and uplifting. This spiritual treat, written and illustrated by Jomny Sun of Twitter fame, follows an alien who encounters all sorts of creatures with varying personalities, as he struggles to find his place on Earth. The Little Prince in subject meets The Giving Tree in tone, expressing what it means to be human in a simple, yet incredibly effective way. Everyone should read this book!
Not trying to argue that the following are the very best songs of 2017, but they are definitely some of my most played this year. Listen below or on my Spotify page.
Admittedly, I was unable to see as many new movies this year as I would’ve liked. But of those I did see, here are the ones that stuck out:
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This black comedy crime film, written and directed by the writer-director of In Bruges, is reminiscent of Fargo and other Coen Brothers movies, but with slightly less eccentricities. The plot follows a defiant mother who posts billboard ads outside her town that accuse the local police of not doing enough to solve her daughter’s rape and murder case. I wouldn’t research too much before seeing this movie because certain spoilers would definitely affect the experience. But I will say that the story ebbs and flows with seemingly more, then less, then more complications, and it ends up being an emotional roller coaster. Standout performance from Frances McDormand, who consistently walks that fine line between serious and funny.
One of the most engaging biopics I’ve seen in a while, which is no surprise, considering how wild Tonya Harding’s life was. Even before her involvement with the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, she had overcome an unstable family, poverty, and domestic abuse to become one of the world’s top figure skaters of the early 90’s. This documentary-style movie is darkly comedic, largely due to the sometimes unbelievable situations Tonya finds herself in, but I would consider the overall tone to be quirky, which makes the drama even more fun to watch.
The Big Sick
This romantic comedy is based on the true story of how its writer, a Pakistani-American comedian, and his white-American wife fell in love and struggled with various family and culture clashes before a serious illness ultimately made them realize what was most important. But I hesitate to label this movie as a rom-com because it is actually funny, realistic, and raises awareness of important societal issues. A lot of the humor comes from the couple’s dialogue while they’re goofing around and acting silly, which is relatable. But then there are the scenes in which the comedian’s parents try to set him up with single women or casually assume that he’s going to law school, which are TOO relatable…
This timely comedy-thriller-horror is another film that is funny because it’s just too real. Scenes of racism are instantly recognizable within the satirical situations, and there is truly something for everyone to learn. All I will say about the plot, short of spoilers, is that when a black man meets his white girlfriend’s family for the first time, things take a very dark turn. Props to writer-director Jordan Peele for utilizing the horror genre in a way that can make audiences more uncomfortable and even fearful of systemic racism than of imaginary clowns.
Seriously one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. It was so delightful and moving to watch such a spot-on, accurate portrayal of what it feels like to transition from adolescence to womanhood and also the complicated relationship that daughters have with their mothers–we are often so close and have so much in common, that we sometimes forget that we are still immensely different people (yes, your mom is her own person, too!). The talented Saoirse Ronan plays a high school Senior in the early 2000’s, and her actions, dialogue, and mannerisms all build into this sense of nostalgia that is not simply used as a crutch for emotional reactions, but is warmly welcomed. Writer-director Greta Gerwig can do no wrong (I especially love her in Frances Ha, Mistress America, and Damsels in Distress), and I only wish that this movie had been extended to 472 hours. You’ve probably heard by now the number of times Dave Matthews’ “Crash Into Me” is featured, but I was also pleasantly surprised by Stephen Sondheim’s role.
For more entertainment options, you can find my 2017 top picks for TV here.