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Things I Loved in 2016

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

In 2016, instead of turning to books I zoned out for hours in front of the TV instead. And while we may be in the midst of peak television, I’m not proud to admit that my diminished attention span caused me to continually renew a 400-page novel from the library for more than 12 weeks. That said, I was conscious of finding quiet moments over the holidays and I finished the year averaging about one book a month.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, written by Michael Chabon, received the Pulitzer prize a few years back, and then managed to remain a constant on the shelves of my favorite bookstore, so I decided it was time to finally give it a shot. The plot is has some holes and it rushes through some seasons, but the characters alone are worth your time. Get the “define” button ready in your Kindle, there are wonderful large and literary words embedded everywhere. Buy on Amazon.

La La Land

Over the holidays, I saw Star Wars: Rogue One, Manchester by the Sea and La La Land. If you told me that I would be recommending the latter, I’d call you a liar. In the world of musical film, La La Land is a flimsy bit of sugary non-sense—it certainly doesn’t have the staying power of Singing in the Rain, West Side Story or even Chicago—and yet I found myself humming its signature tune even weeks later. The move is overlong, but there are scenes that are worth waiting for: a tortured Ryan Gosling playing “City of Stars,” the energetic opening scene in sunny L.A., and an epilogue that shoots you right through the heart. Gosling and his costar, Emma Stone, are raw in their talent, their voices have not been trained into rigid submission, which makes this movie a real pleasure to watch. Now in theaters.

The People vs. O.J. Simpson

I was in elementary school when “the trial of the century” took place. Even to my child eyes it was a complicated affair, which made watching this 7-hour documentary through adult eyes far more compelling. Race, misogyny, abuse, politics, and celebrity formed a dangerous breeding ground for the tragedy that would play out in televisions across homes. As one person interviewed for the documentary said, this may have been a story about O.J., but it was also a story of race in America. Streaming now on Hulu.

The Great British Bake Off

When I am weary, I turn on the equivalent of watching one of those looping fireplace videos, The Great British Bake Off. The show as we know it ended last summer, but it will be coming back in some other form this year and with new hosts and distributors. In the meantime, warm the cockles of your cold winter heart with a show about people who are not competing for a prize, not trying to knock their competition off a rolling log, they simply want to bake.

Hamilton

One of my greatest privileges was seeing Hamilton live in March. Luckily for everyone else, the soundtrack takes you most of the way there. I shared my reaction to the performance here.

Good Coffee

A cappuccino at Blue Bottle Coffee that brought me close to tears. Cold brew from Vigilante that helped me push through 4 weeks of jury duty. Toby’s Estate in a tiny bottle. Dancing Goats Blend when all you’re capable of is stumbling to the grinder and waiting for the moment when can press the plunger on your French Press.

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