AADL 2018 Staff Picks: Books, Music, Movies & More


2018 Staff Picks

You may come to the Ann Arbor District Library to pick up a book or movie or sewing machine or electric guitar knowing well in advance that’s why you’ve entered one of AADL’s five locations.

But if you come to visit us and you can’t quite figure out what you want to check out, you might ask someone on staff for suggestions -- and we’re always happy to oblige.

In that way, our 2018 staff picks for books, film, music, TV, podcasts, and more is one massive suggestion list.

We don’t limit our picks to material that came out in 2018; we list things that made an impact on us during the year, no matter when the media was released. Plus, we’ve added a Pulp Life category -- both on the blog and in this year-end roundup -- to note life experiences that we loved in 2018, from parks to restaurants.

So, next time you visit AADL, call up this page on your phone. (Or our lists from 2016 and 2017.)

And if you need help finding the material, or you’re looking for even more suggestions, just ask. We've already started making our lists for 2019. 

🎥Film & TV
Black Panther (2018) - A triumph. Chadwick Boseman stars as T'Challa, the titular superhero Black Panther and royal leader of Wakanda, an Afro-futuristic wonderland made up of distinct tribes that supposes what Africa may have looked like without the impact of colonization. T'Challa is crowned King after the death of his father in Captain America: Civil War, but is challenged for the throne by Killmonger, T'Challa's unknown cousin who grew up in Compton, California and is enraged by Wakanda's refusal to help disenfranchised black people around the world. At it's core, the central conflict remains... what does Wakanda owe the world? The implications of this central conflict run deep over the course of the film, and tie together issues of race, colonization, the cultivation and preservation of identity, isolationism, vengeance, social justice, and more.This is not "just another superhero movie." The story is gripping, the action riveting, the cast amazingly talented. The costumes are exquisite, using color purposefully (particularly the use of colors found in the Pan-African flag) and featuring influences from the Maasai, Zulu, Ndebele, Tuareg, Himba, Lesotho, Suri, and many other peoples. Characters are shown with natural hair, including locks, twists, and braids. The soundtrack was curated by Kendrick Lamar and features South African influences and artists, as well as instances of Zulu and the Xhosa language. It has so many implications for representation, on the big screen and otherwise. The film of the year. Wakanda forever. {AADL}
Hereditary (2018) - I'm big into horror and generally not scared by much, but parts of Hereditary left me feeling pretty uncomfortable. This film isn't big on jump scares but instead builds slow dread to a conclusion that stuck with me for a few days after seeing it. A few parts were genuinely shocking. The feeling of inevitability (and the idea of a predetermined and inescapable fate) mixed with slow-building dread and a top-notch performance by Toni Collette made this the horror movie of the year for me. {AADL}
Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018) - Fred Rogers was such a gift to humanity, and many of his great accomplishments are chronicled here. Although I didn't necessarily learn anything new about him while watching (I was already a huge fan), it was a great reminder of the power of kindness and community. {AADL}
Lourdes (2018) - This short film follows the heartbreaking story of an Ann Arbor family torn apart by deportation. Despite an outpouring of community support, including petitions with over 8,000 signatures and multiple rallies featuring hundreds of people, Lourdes was deported to Mexico last year (taking 2 of her 3 children with her). This film takes a look at their life after deportation as well, seeing their new home in Mexico and hearing about their ongoing struggles. It can be hard to watch at times, but Lourdes' resilience shines through. {YouTube}
Nanette by Hannah Gadsby (2018) - The importance of Hannah Gadsby's Nanette is hard to explain without giving it all away. Intimate, hilarious, heart-wrenching. Real, deeply uncomfortable, wounding. Transcendent. More than just stand-up. This one stopped me in my tracks and took my breath away, and I felt it necessary to watch it again within 24 hours of my first viewing. The 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes is well deserved -- this may be not just the most important stand-up special this year, but of all time. {Netflix}
Baby Cobra (2016) and Hard Knock Wife (2018) by Ali Wong - Raunchy, filthy, and very funny. Ali Wong, known for her work as a writer on Fresh Off the Boat, chronicles the hilarity and hardships of motherhood and life as a 30-something Asian American woman. And she performs both of these stand-up specials while very pregnant with each of her 2 daughters. Her stand-up is fresh, sometimes shocking and definitely unique. {Netflix} and {Netflix}
Adam Sandler: 100% Fresh by Adam Sandler (2018) - "What is this doing here?", you might be thinking. Seriously, give it a try. Although Sandler's brand of comedy has generally not aged well, this is a more humble, nostalgic Sandler and a retooling of his comedy to fit with a more modern audience. Surprisingly hilarious. And I have to admit, the heartfelt tribute to Chris Farley at the end got me. {Netflix}
The Good Place (2017) - Eleanor Shellstrop is surprised to learn that she has died and entered The Good Place. The only problem? In life, Eleanor was a terrible person and has gotten into The Good Place purely by mistake. This show is one of the few TV shows that remains consistently good throughout seasons and constantly surprises me. It really is unlike anything else on television today. Every time I think I've figured out where the show is going it twists, switches gears and heads into brand new territory (even three seasons later). And it's FUNNY! {AADL}
Queer Eye (2018) - Queer Eye returns with a New Fab 5 and a slightly different, updated modern style. The Fab 5 help their contestants with a total makeover and watch as the contestant's confidences bloom. The show acknowledges that many of the changes made are merely skin-deep, but for some that's all it takes for more radical changes to take hold. Tom, the contestant from the very first episode, is a stand out (as is my favorite of the Fab 5: Jonathan Van Ness). Light, heartfelt, and totally binge-worthy. {Netflix}
Castle Rock (2018) - I debated including this on my list, purely because as a huge Stephen King fan I found the end of this season severely disappointing. But the first half of the season was such an interesting, wild ride that I felt it warranted mentioning. Fans of Stephen King will love this as it pulls inspiration from all parts of the King multiverse. And Sissy Spacek turns in one of the best-nuanced performances of the year. If you give it a go try to get at least seven episodes in, where the real magic happens. {AADL}

♫Music & Podcasts
Sweetener by Ariana Grande (2018) - Historically I’ve never cared much for Ariana, but after watching her respond to the terrorist attack that occurred at her 2017 Manchester concert with such courage, strength, and grace, I’ve been hooked. This album ventures beyond typical pop offerings and delivers the antidote to such devastating loss, a pop album that acknowledges the bitterness of life but still strives for more. What truly sets Sweetener apart is it’s overall intrinsic sense of empowerment, self love and acceptance. Imbued with positivity and featuring her impressive powerhouse vocals, this was by far my favorite album of the year. {AADL}
➥"Thank U, Next" by Ariana Grande (2018) - After riding a high all this summer, in which Ariana and her album Sweetener dominated pop culture and news headlines, Ariana suffered tough personal losses: the death of her former boyfriend due to a drug overdose and the dissolution of her engagement. Again turning lemons into lemonade, her single Thank U Next spins the typical break-up song on its head as a pop song that simultaneously expresses gratitude to her exes while also extending that same benevolence to herself. {YouTube}
Honeymoon by Lana del Rey (2015) - I've actually listened to this repeatedly since it came out in 2015, but never really "got it" until this year. Listening to it with headphones is a must to pick up on the unique vocal layering Lana is known for. "Terrence Loves You" is the standout track of the album, a song that features an interpolation of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and many references to his older half-brother Terry, but "The Blackest Day" and "Freak" are also great. {AADL}
➥"APES**T" by The Carters (2018)
Beyonce and Jay-Z reunite once again on this track, and while the song is a catchy and hard-hitting braggadocious jam, the video is the true showstopper. The Carters serenely pose in various locations inside the Louvre (a place that historically has placed little value in non-white artists and subjects), presenting their own success and image in contrast to the largely white European art. The video opens with Beyonce and Jay-Z on either side of the Mona Lisa, looking into the camera. Even though they're standing in front of one the most famous and well-known pieces of art ever created, the Mona Lisa seems like an afterthought, merely the background to the king and queen of pop. Over and over again, Beyonce steals the scene and overpowers the artwork featured behind her. Fluid and in motion when the art behind her remains static, Beyonce is an unstoppable force that you can't look away from. {YouTube}
➥"This Is America" by Childish Gambino (2018) - The most talked about music video in years. Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover of Atlanta fame) contrasts wide-eyed and gleeful (or is it?) singing and dancing with a Rube Goldberg-like display of Jim Crow imagery and chaotic instances of violence, mostly involving guns. Jarring and surreal. Gambino forces us to look at the more unsavory aspects of our society as he stares back at us, aware that he is not altogether in control of his image or the ways in which he's being used. Online guides can help decipher the many references present in the background of the video. {YouTube}
➥Kendrick Lamar, U2, and Dave Chapelle at the 2018 Grammy's (2018) - A truly talented artist at the top of his game using his power and influence to confront modern-day issues in the service of others. As Dave Chapelle interjects at one point: "It looks like it's singing and dancing, but this brother's taking enormous chances." Also cool is that although this performance took place roughly a month before the release of Black Panther (Kendrick curated the movie's soundtrack), Lamar ends this performance with the thematically relevant phrase "All hail King Killmonger," referencing Michael B. Jordan's infamous villain. {YouTube}

Silencer by Marcus Wicker - This is one of the best contemporary poetry books out there. It examines issues of today including race, social class, police brutality, spirituality, and financial literacy through the eyes of a black male. Drawing from his love of hip-hop and fusing rhymes into his poems, Wicker challenges society to explore the desire for equality for everyone. I found this book to be very relatable and I actually really connected with it. {AADL}
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene - This book is timeless. It’s essential reading for anyone looking to be influential in their career, personal life, or everything in between. {AADL}
What a Wonderful World by Bob Thiele and Tim Hopgood - This picture book has visuals that are stunning. The lyrics are taken from the famous song of the same name. Also, Walking in a Winter Wonderland by the same duo is incredible to read during the winter holidays. {AADL}

Music & Podcasts
A Blanco Tale by Joey Blanco - Joey Blanco is a Puerto Rican rapper from the DMV area and has some promising music. His distinctive voice is reminiscent of Big Pun or Fat Joe and proves he was made for this. For his debut mixtape, he channels these influences and more. {Spinrilla}
The Greatest Showman soundtrack - Whether you’re a fan of the film or not, this album doesn’t disappoint. It’s uplifting and celebratory but cool and trendy at the same time. My favorite track is This is Me by Keala Settle. It has a great cast, all of whom are very talented. I highly recommend listening to this one. {AADL}
Facing Dragons by Christian Sands - This has been one of my favorite new jazz albums of the year. Sands is one of the hottest young artists in the jazz scene today. Some have even called him the greatest jazz pianist of his generation. He’s been influenced by Wynton Marsalis and Christian McBride, the latter being his tour mate. His fingers fly on the piano during songs like Yesterday. {Mack Avenue}
Fragmented by Evocativ - An alternative/new age album that’s perfect for chill vibes and decomposing of stress. {Bandcamp}
➥"Never Let Me Go" and "You Think You Know Me" by Telephon9 - These singles by this rising pop/EDM group get the party started right. {YouTube & Reverb Nation}
Ella Mai by Ella Mai {AADL}
Black Panther soundtrack {AADL}

🎥Film & TV
Crazy Rich Asians {AADL}
Creed II {IMDB}
Blackish - Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross star in a hilarious show about a black family dealing with life and the concerns of cultural assimilation in suburban LA. Narrated through the eyes of Dre, Anderson’s character, who ultimately wants to provide the best life for his family that he always wanted growing up. Warning: This show might become addictive. {AADL}

💟Pulp Life 
➥The Lunch Room - Absolutely one of my favorite restaurants in Ann Arbor. The food is delicious, the atmosphere is welcoming, and it just happens to be vegan. The restaurant is unique in that it doesn’t obnoxiously advertise this and therefore it fulfills its goal of becoming welcoming to everyone no matter your race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, diet etc. I recommend almost anything on the menu. Highlights include the Loaded Nachos, Power Up Bowl, Vanilla Whoopie Pies, and the Coconut Milk Shakes. The brunch menu was awesome but has since moved to its sister restaurant, Detroit Street Filling Station. {Website}

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond {AADL}
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin - Alice Pleasance Hargreaves, née Liddell was, in her childhood, an acquaintance and photography subject of Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). Delve deeper into the story of about the real-life Alice in this historical novel. {AADL
Hyde by Daniel Levine - The story of Jekyll and Hyde as told from Hyde’s experience. Includes the original story in this printing. {AADL}
November's Fury: The Deadly Great Lakes Hurricane of 1913 by Michael Schumacher - Wonderful telling of the impressive four-day storm event during the last shipping run of the season on the Great Lakes. {AADL}
Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art by Claire Wellesley-Smith - I found just reading this to have a calming and settling effect on me. It is well-illustrated with many inspired ideas to consider. {AADL}
Chocky Grabbe by John Wyndham - I chocky grabbe'd this off the shelf partly because of the name and also the cover.  It was an interesting read about a possibly imaginary friend. {AADL}
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham - Wake up and it appears everyone around you has lost their sight, except for you. Also, there are 7-foot tall plants that can walk and kill you with one stinging swipe. {AADL}
Music & Podcasts
The Complete Studio Recordings by Roxy Music {AADL}
The Complete Trio Collection by Dolly Parton {AADL}
🎥Film & TV
Counterpart. The Complete First Season {AADL}
A Slight Case of Murder {AADL}
Fury {AADL}
While the City Sleeps {AADL}

Boom Town by Sam Anderson - At its core, this is a sports book -- the story of the peak Oklahoma City Thunder, their three big stars, and the team/city’s quest for worldwide recognition. Anderson weaves the insane story of the platting of Oklahoma City with the region’s weather, politics, people, and sport, to tell a tale focused on the actors in the story and not himself. That’s the key -- Anderson could have put himself in every paragraph, but he’s very lightly on the edges, letting the true stars of this story shine brightly. The city’s supersonic jet program. The city’s chief tornado watcher.  The impact of the Oklahoma City bombing. God, I wish I could write like this. {AADL}
💟Pulp Life
➥Banfield’s Bar and Grill - I own three AADL hoodies and wear them near constantly -- a walking billboard for my place of work. When I moved to the east side of Ann Arbor, I became a semi-regular then a regular at a little bar and grill called Banfield’s. It took a few visits before a bartender, who happened to be the daughter of the owner, asked if I knew anyone who worked at the library. When I confirmed this, she firmly but politely informed me that her family’s place of business had been maligned in the e-pages of Pulp. She didn’t need to pull out her phone to quote the line in the Pulp review of Washtenaw County dive bars that stuck in her craw:
She didn’t appreciate her family business being called a dirtbag -- even in a positive way. She didn’t ask for a retraction but sought sympathy. Perhaps an addendum to the review.
So here goes:
Banfield’s Bar and Grill is the kind of place where, after three or four visits over a short period of time, they remember your drink. They ask questions about your life if you seem like the kind of person who wants to answer questions about your life. Or they ask one or two and then go back to what they were doing because you’re clearly on Twitter.
They include you in special things only regulars get included in. They ask what you might like to hear on the jukebox with their in-house credits. They know about books and sports and local politics and movies and have an actual reasoned debate about whether Baby It’s Cold Outside is an outdated or offensive song or not.
They have really good burgers, tasty wings, and their nachos arrive in mounds. They have cold Miller Lite (insert refreshing post-sip mouth sound) and you can order little cups of peanuts at the bar for 50 cents.
You’ll recognize the regulars, see a lot of euchre being played, and maybe catch a karaoke night or two. They have Golden Tee. They have touchscreen games. It’s a neighborhood bar, like the one your dad took you to from age five to 13. Where most people already know each other and, if you stick around long enough, they’ll know you too.
Even if you’re the guy at the end of the bar who reads a book or writes in a notebook or won’t get off his phone. {Website}
♫Music & Podcasts
➥Live music - For the entire 2000s, I could count the number of live shows I attended on my two mitts. Lightning Love. Tunde Olaniran. Captured by Robots. A Chris Bathgate show or two. Does the Water Hill Music Festival count?
Not much. Until 2018. But oh boy, what a 2018.
Arcade Fire
Mo Pop Festival
Michael McDonald
St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Simple Minds
Over the Rhine
Each concert was amazing in its own way. Arcade Fire put on a terrific show, Mo Pop was a full summer day of amazing, Michael McDonald somehow sounds better live than recorded (and he sounds phenomenal recorded), St. Paul & the Broken Bones might have been the best concert I’ve ever been to, Simple Minds was silly and fun, and I cried three times at Over the Rhine because I’m a big baby.
I recommend more live music -- many doses of it. At your local library (plug!) or supporting local groups or national legends, like Michael McDonald. Take someone you really, really like and I guarantee you a wonderful time.

The Anthropocene Reviewed podcast - Author John Green (Fault of Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down) reviews facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale. Think Comedy Central’s Review starring Andy Daley (100% recommended as well) but higher brow and with a little more personal history weaved in. Green reviews everything from pennies to Hawaiian pizza, Googling strangers to the Taco Bell breakfast menu, Canada geese to whispering. I’m sad it’s only 20 minutes once a month. {Website}
Chompers podcast - A morning and night routine in my house -- Chompers is a tooth-brushing podcast my kids are obsessed with. Themed weeks, riddles, trivia, little stories -- everything kids need to power them through 30-seconds a side of brushing the corners of their mouths before 3-2-1 spitting. Only play this for your kids if you want to listen to it forever. {Website}

Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell - A good amount of the time that I'm reading, I enjoy getting into someone else's head, their world, and their context. Reading Once Upon a River, Margo Crane's experiences are often vastly different from mine. Yet other things about her character and the way she processes the natural world around her -- the river, the woods -- before this book I'd never read a female character who I identified with so fundamentally in that way. There is a lot to love about this book, but that's the thing that most struck me about it. I adored Mothers, Tell Your Daughters so much that I wasn't sure Once Upon a River could live up. It did. {AADL}
The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt - As soon as I read A Love Story, I knew this collection of short stories was going on my "to read" list. It took me about a year to get to it, but it was worth the wait. Hunt is a masterful writer, and it's hard for me to pick a favorite story. I'll say that "Cortés the Killer" may have stuck with me the longest, but fair warning, that particular story is pretty dang bleak. {AADL}
♫Music & Podcasts
Floating Features by La Luz - Consistently one of my very favorite bands of the last five years. They just keep getting better and better when I already loved them from the start. Their previous two records are great, too. {Bandcamp
Capacity by Big Thief - I totally slept on Masterpiece, but 2018 was the year that Capacity found me, and in hindsight, it seemed inevitable that it would. Adrianne Lenker's voice makes me think of a quote from a Willa Cather story, "All the intelligence and talent in the world can't make a singer. The voice is a wild thing. It can't be bred in captivity," and I'm so glad Lenker and her band chose to share that wildness with us. {AADL}
All American Made by Margo Price - OK, this one's a slight cheat, because I was listening to this via streaming in Nov/Dec 2017, but my receipt says I actually bought it Jan. 2018, and it's been in heavy rotation since in both formats. Do I love her because I grew up amidst midwestern farms? Because I love songs about women who get themselves into trouble? Because a voice with a lot of power and just the right amount of rasp here and there is one of my favorite things? I'm sure it's all of these things, but on this, as well as her first record, Midwestern Farmer's Daughter, it's also that Price is just a really fine songwriter and storyteller. {AADL}
Putting on Airs by Erin Rae - The drum sound on that first track is soooo giant, so good, and I feel like I can hear the room. The great Ann Powers said of that one, "'Grand Scheme' is like a Roy Orbison classic wrought in indigo instead of infrared," and I co-sign that statement. This whole album feels like a long exhale in the springtime, and then a quick inhale where you can smell that fresh, soft soil. {AADL}
Great Thunder by Waxahatchee - Yeah, yeah, we all know Katie Crutchfield is pretty great. But the first time I listened to this spare, direct, EP there were moments when I realized I was literally holding my breath. These six songs have that way of welcoming you into something supremely tender -- in the sad and in the hopeful way all in one. The first and last track are perfect bookends/mirrors of each other. Warning: If you don't like crying at work, probably wait to listen to this one in your car -- don't say I didn't warn ya. {AADL}
➥"Slow Down Time" music video by Loose Koozies- I remember a show in 2017 where I told a friend that LKs were my band-crush. All the individual folks in this band are tops in my book, but it's really what they are when you throw 'em all together that's worthy of heart eyes (errr, ears?). Their decision to shoot part of their music video at a demolition derby (aka my natural habitat) sealed the deal. Right now they've got a 7" of that track you can grab, with an LP to come. {YouTube
🎥Film & TV
The End of the Fucking World - I had no idea what to expect of this Netflix show when my husband suggested it. Holy whoa, did it charm me. It's a story of two teens on the lam, and though that -- in other hands -- could seem cliché, this absolutely does not. It feels fresh and has these moments where it so perfectly gets at the awkward guts of what feelings feel like when you're a teen (and maybe sometimes when you're an adult, too). It's based on this comic that AADL happens to have in the collection, but it goes beyond what's even in the comic. Really well-done. {Netflix}

Kingdom of Ash - book seven in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas - This anxiously awaited finale did not disappoint! I won’t talk too much because #spoilers, but it's as complex and exciting as each of the others in the series. Maas doesn’t lose her story or tone, which is deeply satisfying as a reader. I love the world she’s created -- it's a fully fleshed-out tangle of tapestry threads that all connect in unexpected ways. The ending is very satisfying. There are no cliffhangers – this is truly the “happily ever after” the series deserved! {AADL}
A Stash of One’s Own: Knitters on Loving, Living With, and Letting Go of Yarn by Clara Parkes - In April 2018 I picked up knitting after almost 10 years of being “off my needles” and I’m completely hooked! I’ve collected yarn for years as a crocheter and embroiderer, but getting back into knitting sparked a love of beautiful hand-dyed yarns. I started to feel really guilty for everything I was buying and worried I'd never use all of it! This collection of essays came at just the right time. It helped ease my worries and give me a fun, humorous, and seriously philosophical take on crafting, collecting, and living a creative life. {AADL}
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemei {AADL}
The Mindfulness in Knitting: Meditations on Crafting and Calm by Rachael Matthews {AADL}
DIY Rules for a WTF World: How to Speak Up, Get Creative, and Change the World by Krista Suh {AADL}
Dot Journaling: How to Start and Keep the Planner, To-Do List, and Diary That'll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together by Rachel Wilderson Miller {AADL}
🎥Film & TV 
Haunting of Hill House - Horror usually makes me run screaming, but not this. There's no jumpscares or gore - it's mostly that "someone is standing behind me" unsettled feeling. You definitely won't have to sleep with the lights on. Probably. The series jumps around in time, featuring a young family who buy a decrepit estate with the intent to flip it. Then things start happening that they can’t explain. This series is unique in that you’re never entirely sure if there is a supernatural cause for the things the family experiences, or if they’re all affected by their own demons and psychological scars. You’ll have lots of “OMG” moments that add a scavenger-hunt feel to the series. {Netflix}
Altered Carbon - Blade Runner meets noir detective mystery in the story of Takeshi Kovacs - a mercenary super soldier resurrected after 250 years in prison to solve a murder. The stories in this series are never as simple as they appear, and the show does a great job of interweaving seemingly unconnected events into a greater plot that doesn’t come off as contrived or trite. Central to the series story is “stack” technology – tech that allows an individual’s consciousness to be downloaded into a disc implanted into the spine. When someone dies, they can pay to resurrect in a new body. This is expensive and essentially means the rich get to live forever. There’s a little bit of series-specific jargon to remember when watching, but once you do, it’s a complex gumshoe romp through an amped-up version of the Japanese “electric town” district of Akihabara. It’s richly detailed and manages to convey the deep humanism in old-school science fiction very well. {Netflix
Curious Creations of Christine McConnell - Christine is a macabre, retro-goth goddess who gives Martha a run for her money. The show features four or so crafts and recipes each episode, but they’re definitely not ones that are easily replicated at home. Also featured are creatures created by Henson Alternative, who add a delightful silliness to an otherwise serious show. {Netflix}
BlacKkKlansman {AADL}
Anon {Netflix}
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again {AADL}
I Am Not Your Negro {AADL}
💟Pulp Life
➥FiberExpo - April and October every year {Website}
➥Creature Conservancy {Website}
♫Music & Podcasts
Pray for the Wicked by Panic at the Disco {AADL}
Smoke + Mirrors by Imagine Dragons {AADL}
➥"Django Jane" by Janelle Monáe {YouTube}
➥"Hunger' by Florence and the Machine {YouTube}
➥"Praying" by Kesha {YouTube}
2DopeQueens podcast {Website}

🎥Film & TV
Paddington 2 (2018) - Yes, a sequel to a live action movie based on a beloved children’s book character that upon first glance looks like a cash grab is one of my favorite movies of 2018. Paddington 2 is the most empathetic movie you will watch this year. It’s about loving your neighbors and those who are different from you, a mix of the pure goodness found in Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood with visuals that verge on Wes Anderson’s inventiveness, and it adds in a fun, campy villain in the form of an actor past his prime played by Hugh Grant. I dare you to watch Paddington 2 and not laugh and weep openly. {AADL}
Eighth Grade (2018) {AADL} - Read my review here.
First Reformed (2018) {AADL}
♫Music & Podcasts
Be the Cowboy by Mitski - This album includes a disco-esque song about being lonely, what more could you want? {AADL
Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves {AADL}
Lush by Snail Mail {Bandcamp
Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes's Hollywood by Karina Longworth - On paper this book is about Howard Hughes, but really it’s a collection of the lives of Hollywood women who were involved with him. It recounts the stories of many whose stories have mostly been lost to history. Once you dig into the past of women in Hollywood you’ll find yourself upset on their behalf, but gain a larger appreciation for what many were able still to accomplish and an understanding of them beyond how their personal lives were publicized. {AADL}
Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean {AADL}
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer {AADL}

Reading With Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo - I’ll start by saying that I don’t like the title of this book. It misleads the reader into thinking that this is going to be a feel-good privileged-teacher-swoops-in-to-“save”-and-“inspire”-a-black-student memoir. Reading With Patrick turns out to be much more complex than that. Michelle Kuo, the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, is inspired by black authors like Malcolm X and James Baldwin as a teenager, hoping to find a discourse of Asian liberation mirrored in the discourse of black liberation. She heads to the all-black town of Helena, Arkansas, as part of Teach for America, wanting not only to help her students to love literature but also to educate them about the history of anti-black oppression and the Civil Rights movement. When she gets there, she quickly comes face to face with her own assumptions, privilege, and inadequacy to deal with the structural inequalities that affect her students’ lives. This book is a teacher-student memoir, but it is also an extended meditation on inequality in the United States and what it means to hold unearned privilege. It’s beautifully written, heartfelt, and unflinchingly honest. {AADL}
The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy by Anna Clark - This full-length account of the Flint water crisis is hard to put down. Even as someone who was following the water crisis long before it made national news, I learned a lot about the background of the crisis, why things unfolded the way they did, and the community heroes who have advocated for Flint. Of course, the book is full of details that make your blood boil, but it’s also a celebration of Flint’s long history of resilience. {AADL}

Want by Cindy Pon (2017) - One of the best speculative science fiction books I've ever read. The book takes class issues, environmental problems, and corrupt corporations and wraps it all together in a fast-paced adventure set in future Tai-Pei. I read this at the beginning of 2018, and I still think about it at least once a week. {AADL}
The Themis Files series by Sylvain Neuvel (2016, 2017, 2018) - An exciting science fiction series told in files from various sources all about a giant alien robot found buried in the Earth, and all the trouble and wonderful things that come from it. Once I picked up this series, I never wanted to put it down. It has an interesting perspective on the universe. {AADL}
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016) - A memoir of a promising neurosurgeon turned cancer patient that took my breath away. It really alters your perspective on both death and life, and made me question what things I really cared about in life. {AADL}
🎥Film & TV
Crazy Rich Asians (2018) - A whirlwind of romance, riches, and family drama that is well-written and unforgettable with one of the best movie soundtracks of the year. {AADL}
Casablanca (1942) - I finally watched this classic in 2018 and it is a classic for a reason. Beautifully shot and written, with heartbreak and drama and some of the best one liners in movie history. {AADL}
Ocean's Eight (2018) - A great continuation to the Ocean's saga with a strong cast and a truly remarkable heist. {AADL}

18 for 2018. And then some.
Moonshine Freeze by This Is the Kit (2017) {Spotify}
Bashed Out by This Is the Kit (2015) {YouTube}
Double Negative by Low (2018) {YouTube}
Wanderer by Cat Power (2018) {AADL}
Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe Bridgers (2017) {AADL}
Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett (2018) {AADL}
Bottle It In by Kurt Vile (2018) {Website}
Elastic Days by J Mascis (2018) {YouTube}
➥Be the Cowboy by Mitski (2018) {AADL}
Lush by Snail Mail (2018) {YouTube}
Delivery by Mikaela Davis (2018) {YouTube}
Heaven & Earth by Kamasi Washington (2018) {AADL}
I’m All Ears by Let’s Eat Grandma (2018) {AADL}
Future Me Hates Me by The Beths (2018) {YouTube}
Dionysus by Dead Can Dance (2018) {YouTube}
Hell-on by Neko Case (2018) {AADL}
Record by Tracey Thorn (2018) {YouTube}
Historian by Lucy Dacus (2018) {AADL}

…Songs on heavy rotation because nostalgia is real. 
➥"Shattered Dreams" by Johnny Hates Jazz {YouTube}
➥"Come Back and Stay" by Paul Young {YouTube}
➥"Freedom '90" by George Michael {YouTube}
➥"Cult of Personality" by Living Colour {YouTube}
➥"Refugee" by U2 {YouTube}
➥"We'll Be Together" Sting {YouTube}
➥"Shelter" by Lone Justice {YouTube}

Music & Podcasts
➥"Gang Gang Schiele" from 24: How to Find True Love and Happiness by Hyukoh  
Hyukoh - This four-person indie band from South Korea. Their newest EP came out this year and while the whole work is truly an experience, the song “Gang Gang Schiele” is really something special. Sung in both English and Korean, the album has this theme of friendship, and this song is a story of sorrow, regret, and apology. With the start of conversation between North and South Korea as their inspiration, Hyukoh has written lyrics that reflect what a sincere apology between friends feels like. The song was recorded in analog form with vintage mics and boards and has a rich, multi-layered sound that compliments the message. I got the chance to see Hyukoh in Chicago this year and the performance of this song rang through the entire venue. {YouTube}

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (2018) - This young adult fantasy novel has garnered a lot of attention in 2018 and it is worthy of all its praise. Adeyemi's imagined world pulls you in immediately, enthralling readers with protagonist Zélie's journey to the land of Orïsha in order to restore the magic eradicated by genocide. Adeyemi incorporates themes seen in today's society to deliver a body of work that truly piques the interest while encouraging readers to think critically and apply the woes and perspective of fictional characters to their own daily interactions. {AADL}
Lady Darby series by Anna Lee Huber (2012-present) - The tale begins in 1830s Scotland with a scream. From that point on Huber uses intrigue, wit, and humor, weaving in just enough of a hint of romance, to captivate the reader for six novels and one novella. If you're looking for a fun, smart, new historical mystery series that isn't cloyingly romantic, this is it. {AADL}
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes (2015) - Despite being a staunch believer that Shonda Rhimes can do no wrong, it took nearly three years for me to actually read this. I wish I hadn't dawdled. Rhimes gives plenty of anecdotal references whose underlying gist -- despite stemming from the perspective of her Hollywood job and interactions -- were applicable to my current life struggles and ambitions. Her reasons for starting and her experiences during her Year of Yes may not be typical, but what she learned about herself and what she wants out of life are universal in many ways. You can read this and find yourself -- and the person you want to become. {AADL}
♫Music & Podcasts
The Read podcast (2013-present) - Life can be hard and it's nice to have a podcast that will simultaneously amuse you and offer a form of consolation to your daily struggles and experiences. Kid Fury and Crissle provide weekly affirmation that it is OK to be you, whatever your brand of other, through their pop culture and current events podcast. Friendly warning: This is not a podcast for anyone under the age of 18. {Website}
MomTruths podcast (2018) - Cat and Nat are two Canadian moms who I first came across on Facebook through one of their "MomTruths" videos. The two have a well-established dynamic that only makes their delivery of life as a mom all the more attractive. Although they developed their platform in 2013, this year they have acquired their own podcast and they bring the same honest, caring, and funny perspective to their audience here as on any of their other outlets. This podcast is a good time for anyone who cares for children and needs a moment to laugh at the craziness doing so tends to entail. {AADL}

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II by Liza Mundy - I loved this overlooked chapter from World War Two history that tells the true story of the women who cracked Japanese and German codes. For many of the women, it was their chance to leave small-town life and feel useful and do something important. The closing chapter that tells the fate of the women after the war was sad, as many women faced unhappy marriages and lost themselves in the mundanity of diapers and housework, family members never realizing the scope of their mother's/wife's contribution to winning the war. {AADL}
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - It had been so long since I had read a book that demanded any effort and attention at all. This one did -- and the payoff was magnificent. Six separate stories, told with very different language and writing styles, all taking place in the same world. So much better than the movie, and I was glad I read the book first. {AADL}
Last Look by Charles Burns - While the art is immediately arresting, it's the story and the recurring themes that keep you thinking about this long after you put it down. Nobody does that sad, nostalgic longing for love and sex the way Burns does. A great companion to his Black Hole graphic novel. {Penguin Random House}
Hillbilly by Eric Powell - I didn't expect much from this Appalachia-themed folk horror comic and I just couldn't get into his much more popular Goon series. This, however, is original storytelling with half a nod to the old DC horror comics. The best comic I've read in a very long time. {TheGoon.com}

🎥Film & TV
Son of Saul - You can't watch this movie about Auschwitz and not feel a visceral response. It conveys so much confusion, chaos, claustrophobia, and fear with a very non-Hollywood sense of storytelling. Certainly one of the best movies I've seen in years, but understandably, a hard sell to my coworkers. {AADL}
Santa Sangre - Oh, Jodorowsky! How you delight me. I love your excesses, your confusion, and especially your humor. Somehow I missed this movie about a circus family for so many years and finally got around to seeing it. {AADL}
The Road - Another laff-fest at my house. Father desperately tries to protect son and find stocked vending machines while avoiding marauders in a hell-world that is Earth. I loved it. {AADL}
Goodbye Christopher Robin - Heartbreaking story of the real-life Christopher Robin and his lost relationship with his parents. It made me think of so many writers and musicians who leave their permanent mark in culture, while their children exist in a lonely, hollow world. {AADL}
Detectorists - This hardly funny comedy (?) is so beautiful and calming in a glut of other TV shows with endless cliffhangers and accelerated plot lines. The opening scene of the first episode sets the tone that continues throughout: two guys in a beautiful English field quietly looking for something meaningful -- both in the dirt and in their lives. {AADL}
Norsemen - I'm not proud of loving this and it does go on a bit long, but some scenes of these rival Viking villagers are just so damn absurd and funny. NSFW. {Netflix}
The Thick of It - This show, starring Peter Capaldi, and set in a fictional British government department, gave me a knot in my stomach (or is that an ulcer?). There is so much office rage, so much abuse, and so much stress, and yet I laughed so hard. Show creator Iannucci went on to make the toned-down Veep for HBO. Still funny, but the original is even nastier and better. {AADL}

♫Music & Podcasts
In The Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing From Your Mind by Failure - This record sounds like melted glass. {failureband.com}

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward and other works by H.P. Lovecraft - First-time Lovecraft reader. Enjoyed the short stories, but the novella "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward" was the best mix of the earthly and the loathsome/horrific/cosmos-obliterating. {AADL}
Demon I-IV by Jason Shiga - What should we call this comic? Math thriller? {AADL}

🎥Film & TV
Blue Ruin - What happens when "some guy" tries to avenge his family. Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier. {AADL}

💟Pulp Life 
➥Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future at the Guggenheim - I did not get to experience this exhibition, but if I had I would be writing to you from another dimension. {Website}

📖Books / BOCD 
The Great Courses: Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths of Language Usage by John McWhorter - This book on CD (and anything else by John McWhorter) is an entertaining and fun lecture series about modern languages -- what they are, where they came from, and how we got here. {Website}
Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John  McWhorter - Like his BOCD lecture series, this is a fun look at the messy history of the English language. {Website}
S.P.Q.R. by Mary Beard - This is an extensive and expansive look at the Roman Empire. Like much of Dr. Beard's work, it tells the story from not just the famous and powerful figures in Rome like the Caesars and Consuls, but also common peoples (i.e., slaves, women, etc.) view of events -- people often not noticed in the larger story of this empire. {AADL}
Pandora's Seed by Spencer Wells - This is an interesting look at the rippling effects of perhaps the most critical event in human history - the Neolithic transition to settled agriculture 10,000 years ago.  Although recent research has cast doubt on some of the theories the author mentions, it is still an interesting view into the many consequences of that transition. {AADL}
Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - This is a fascinating look at the development of medical research at the expense of and without the knowledge of a poor African-American woman. Modern medicine has introduced safeguards to prevent this sort of exploitation, and it's interesting to look into a world where such exploitation was a common and accepted practice. {AADL}

♫Music & Podcasts
Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology {AADL}

🎥Film & TV
Interstellar - This movie is simply fantastic.  One of the movies I can watch any time. {AADL}
Spider-man: Homecoming - Tom Holland IS Peter Parker, and I can easily connect with Ned -- "Guy in the Chair!" -- that's basically me in middle/high school. {AADL}

Memento Park by Mark Sarvas  (2018) {AADL
The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce (2018) {AADL}
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (2017) {AADL}
Things to Do When You're Goth in the Country & Other Stories by Chavisa Woods (2017) {AADL}
🎥Film & TV
BlacKkKlansman (2018) {AADL} () 
Three Identical Strangers (2018) {AADL}
The Post (2017) {AADL}
Suspiria (1977) - Though this was recently remade (I have not seen the remake), I watched the original for the first time this year. As someone who has vehemently avoided horror, I thought that this film would be "not scary" due to its age and probably poor visuals. However, I was wrong in my assumption, and find that the film holds up aesthetically while remaining unsettlingly scary. {AADL}
Castle Rock (2018) This Hulu original is based on the writings of Stephen King. Set in a small town in Maine, the plot focuses on a mysterious prisoner who calls himself Henry Deaver. The prisoner is known simply as "the Kid," and is released after 27 years, apparently not having aged a day. The real Henry Deaver, a lawyer who has since left the small town, is summoned to help the mysterious stranger. The anthology series explores themes prevalent in King's works, and offers an ambiguous and shifting storyline that feels open-ended in its resolution. {AADL}
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018) - This revamp of Sabrina (the teenage witch) in this adaptation is unlike any previous depiction. This adaptation is based on the 2014 graphic novel of the same name, and features a much darker aesthetic than the iconic late-'90s sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Sabrina is portrayed by Mad Men star Kiernan Shipka, who delivers a great performance as s half-witch torn between her mortal life and the demands of her coven. The show is set to air a second season in April 2019. {Netflix}
American Vandal Season 2 (2018) The second season of American Vandal was almost funnier than the first. The show is a mockumentary style comedy in which two high school students document elaborate high school pranks. In this season, after having investigated their own school in Season 1, the two documentarists head to a private school to investigate an incident involving laxatives and lemonade. Like the first season, the portrayal of the documentary is extremely serious, which offers a hilarious contrast to the ridiculous subject matter. {Netflix}
♫Music & Podcasts
Alopecia by WHY? reissue (2018) - This album was first released in 2008. For its ten year anniversary, WHY?, fronted by Yoni Wolf, decided to tour the album for its reissue. The tour brought WHY? to The Loving Touch in Ferndale on November 23, which I had the opportunity to attend. The sold-out show was a fun night full of nostalgia for dedicated fans of the album 10 years later. {Website}

🎥Film & TV
Touki Bouki - This 1973 film, directed by Djibril Diop Mambety, is about Mory and Anta, living in post-colonial Dakar, Senegal, who aspire to toward a cosmopolitan lifestyle in Paris, France. Taking place just a few years after May '68, Paris promises to give them all they could hope for. The two connive to raise funds for their trip. As the film progresses, Mory struggles between letting go of tradition in favor of modern life in Europe. What an amazing film. It was something of a think-piece with experimental elements that elevated my understanding of the difficult transition to modernity. Mory and Anta’s antics were punctuated with Josephine Baker’s “Paris, Paris, Paris” throughout. It’s primarily in Wolof and French. {IMDB}
O Hipnotizador (2015) - This is a period piece that follows a tortured hypnotist who can help others confront their secrets, but cannot do the same for himself. He suffers through sleepless nights in order to avoid an old enemy who can see his dreams. It’s a show that encourages us to think about why we may use our strengths for others and not for ourselves. Not only is it a fantastic watch, it is a great color study for anyone interested in lighting and color design. This show is in Spanish and Portuguese. {IMDB}
Wild Tales (2014) - O Hipnotizador led me to this film (despite premiering a year after this film). It’s a crazy satire featuring six short stories that highlight various ways people navigate distressing situations. Director Damian Szifron weaves a hilarious and outrageous tale and it was so worth the watch. This film is in Spanish. {AADL}
♫Music & Podcasts
➥"Shahmaran" by Sevdaliza’s music video (2018) - The song itself is a rendition of two songs, ZW’s “Wulfman” and Sevdaliza’s own “Underneath.” Directed by Emmanuel Adjei, this really is a short film that comments on the pressure to embrace materialism as a display of success for young black men in America. We see one young black man break free from the pressure in search of something more. Adjei also briefly comments on the commodification of the female body as our society promotes mass consumerism. He masters storytelling as he closes the loop on this perpetual cycle at the end of the video when the man believes he’s found what he’s been in search of. We find that this is what happens when we do not learn from each other’s stories. This song is in English. {YouTube}

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez - I found 2018 to be a great year for books and this was my absolute favorite (and winner of the National Book Award for Fiction). This unusual tale of a new friendship between a woman and an inherited great dane offers a powerful exploration of grief, and a detailed examination of the writing life. Though the novel looks closely at the pain of loss, it is not without humor, as might be elicited by life with a giant dog and his daily habits. {AADL}
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday {AADL}
Circe by Madeline Miller {AADL}
Dopesick by Beth Macy {AADL}
Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine {AADL}
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah - Especially the stunning first story, "The Finkelstein 5." {AADL}
My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite {AADL}
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh {AADL}
White Houses by Amy Bloom {AADL}
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka - My favorite graphic novel. {AADL}
Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram - My favorite YA read. {AADL}
Dear Mrs. Bird by A. J. Pearce - My top audiobook. {AADL}
🎥Film & TV
American Animals {AADL}
Blindspotting {AADL}
Barry {AADL}
Sharp Objects {AADL}
Succession {AADL}
Ugly Delicious {Netflix}

The books I chose absolutely blew me away, and I could not possibly try to find the words to describe them. They were phenomenal and incredibly moving, and I highly recommend them.
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (2017) {AADL}
We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (2017) {AADL}
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (2018) {AADL}
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman (2007) {AADL}
🎥Film & TV
Call Me By Your Name (2018) {AADL}
Get Out (2017) {AADL}
Coco (2017) {AADL}
BlacKkKlansman (2018) {AADL}
Crazy Rich Asians (2018) - I saw this movie four times in theaters. Plus once on DVD. This movie meant a lot to me as an Asian-American, being able to see a big commercial movie with an all Asian cast. But more than that, this movie was an incredibly fun rom-com with stunning visuals and a bumpin' soundtrack. {AADL}
Altered Carbon {Netflix

Music & Podcasts
Time ’n’ Place by Kero Kero Bonito (2018) - Lead singer Sarah Perry wrote the majority of this albums lyrics inspired by her childhood memories. This combined with the indie/electropop sound and creative use of digital manipulation makes for a very enjoyable listen. {Website}
🎥Film & TV
Mid90s (2018) - Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, this film introduces several amateur skateboarders-turned-actors who outperform many who’ve been acting for their entire lives. It's a true demonstration of how great directing can improve on-screen performances. Although I can understand the gripes some have with this film -- it’s not for everyone and certainly not for children -- its honesty and accuracy of the time/characters outweigh any major flaws, at least for me. It comments on toxic masculinity without being a commentary and reflects most teenagers' priorities at that time -- and still to this day. {AADL}  

Educated by Tara Westover - An amazing story of overcoming a difficult and unusual upbringing. {AADL}
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah - Set in Alaska, this novel is powerful not only in its story but in the description of living in a harsh and unforgiving climate. {AADL}
Calypso by David Sedaris - Listening to the BOCD you will get the full David Sedaris effect, but even reading the book you are able to hear his one-of -kind delivery. Lots of humor mixed in with poignant stories. {AADL}
There There by Tommy Orange - A story of Native Americans living in an urban setting, this book touches on several issues and provides a look at a community that struggles to overcome them. I found this to be eye-opening and very informative and it lead me to read The Absolutely True Tale of a Part-Time Indian by Alexie Sherman, another amazing book. {AADL}
I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell  - How one woman can cope with so much distress is beyond me, but Maggie O'Farrell did and writes so beautifully about it. {AADL}

♫Music & Podcasts
By the Way I Forgive You by Brandi Carlile - A last minute decision and StubHub resulted in one of the best shows I saw this year. Playing the entire album, Carlile engaged the audience with her voice, her band, and her stories. That concert made this album one of my favorites of 2018, surely something I never would have expected. {AADL}
Seventh Tree by Goldfrapp - Released in 2008, a friend recently turned me onto this album. Found in pop, rock and now electronic genres, there's a little bit of everything in there to keep you listening. {AADL}
Sleep Well Beast by The National - Winning a grammy for Best Alternative music in 2017, this album fits just about every mood. {AADL}
Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven by Love and Rockets - I loved this album when it was released in 1985 but had put it on the back burner until a flight in October. Listening to it again I realized why I loved it. {Wikipedia}
🎥Film & TV
Shape of Water - When I saw the trailers for this movie I didn't think I would like it. I ended up watching it twice! {AADL}
Three Identical Strangers - An amazing real life story of triplets separated at birth and their reunion. {AADL}
A Quiet Place - Another film that I didn't expect to like and was pleasantly surprised. With minimal dialogue this horror movie is more like a drama in its powerful story of a family's survival. {AADL}
RBG - Every young woman should see this film. {AADL}
Bohemian Rhapsody - I wasn't a huge Queen fan when I was a teenager, but we all knew the songs and could sing along. This movie gave me the insight on Freddy Mercury's life and the struggles he faced while becoming an icon. {IMDB}
Wanderlust - After years of marriage, Joy and Alan decide to have an open marriage. An interesting plot follows. {Netflix}
The Kominsky Method - Lots of laughs with Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin. The older generation, 50+, will totally identify with this series. {Netflix}
Ozark - Season two picked up where season one left off, more crime and craziness for the Byrde family. With the announcement that there will be a season three, we can all sleep well. {Netflix}
Forever - This series takes a few episodes to get into, but Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen provide some great humor when they both end up in the after life. {Prime Video}
Ray Donovan - Just when you think Ray Donovan is dead, he makes another grand entrance. I have just started watching season six but am pretty sure the fixer will be up to his usual tricks again this season. {AADL}

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by McNamara, Michelle (2018) {AADL}
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017) - I usually can't get into books with unlikable protagonists, but this book is the exception. Eleanor is both a delight and the worst person but I still love her. {AADL}
Worth a Thousand Words by Brigit Young (2018) - This youth fiction book is INCREDIBLE! {AADL}
The Power by Naomi Alderman (2016) {AADL}
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) {AADL}

Music & Podcasts
➥"Lay With Me" by Phantoms feat. Vanessa Hudgens - This song had been stuck in my head for DAYS and I am 100% OK with it. Plus, the music video is a throw back to High School Musical, which I am here for. {YouTube}
➥"This Is America" by Childish Gambino {YouTube
Invasion of Privacy by Cardi B {Website}
➥"Thank U, Next" by Ariana Grande - Because I'm basic. {YouTube}

🎥 Film & TV
To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018) {Netflix}
Crazy Rich Asians (2018) {AADL}
The Quiet Place (2018) {AADL}
The Haunting of Hill House (2018) {Netflix}
Grey's Anatomy (2005-Present) - Most of my year was spent catching up with this show. I laughed, I cried, and I loved to hate Derek Shepherd. {AADL}
Steven Universe (2013-Present) - This has got to be one of the most beautiful shows I've ever seen, both visually and in subject matter. {AADL}

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley - This book wrinkled my brain. Storytelling and myth; grief and the end of things; gender politics; fungus. {AADL}
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado - Filled with magical realism, fantasy, comedy, and "startling narratives that map the realities of women's lives and the violence visited upon their bodies," these short stories by a queer woman made me feel represented in a way I didn't know I was missing. {AADL}

🎥Film & TV
Sorry to Bother You - This movie got weird and I loved it. {AADL}
The Haunting of Hill House - As a lover of it's namesake by Shirley Jackson, I was afraid for how this would turn out but it blew me away. {Netflix}

Music & Podcasts
Not Another D&D Podcast - For the nerdy in all of us, this has me falling out of my seat laughing and has made me fall in love with possums. {Website}

🎥Film & TV
Lady Bird (2018) - I started the year off watching this amazing film a few times. With a stellar cast, and with stand-out Saoirse Ronan as Lady Bird, one can't help full root for her and empathize with the young woman as she navigates teen angst, the high school world, and familial issues. {AADL
Creed 2 (2018) - The Rocky series is great, and I was super-surprised to like the first Creed movie so much. This follow-up did not disappoint and I was balling in the theater by the end of the film. According to Stallone, this is the last time we'll see Rocky Balboa on the big screen. {AADL}
Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018) - 2018 was a year where many people needed a little Fred Rogers in their lives, and this film has helped boost some self esteem, inspire an increase in kindness and tolerance toward others and ourselves, and spread some love across the hearts and minds of us mere mortals. {AADL}
The X-Files, Season 11 (2018) - Not the best season in this amazing TV show's run, but as an X-phile, it was the most noteworthy show of 2018 for me. I want to believe! {AADL}
The Deuce (2017-2018) - Another gritty, good-looking, and well-researched project from David Simon and George Pelecanos. Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco, this time the focus is New York City in the 1970s and 1980s when the porn and prostitution industries ran wild in Times Square. {AADL}
Music & Podcasts
American Utopia by David Byrne (2018) - I've had the same Talking Heads CD in my car for nearly two years, so one might say I'm a bit obsessed, so I was thrilled that Mr. Byrne released a new album and toured behind it just when I needed it most. It was phenomenal performed live, and the album itself is quite beautiful, and a wonderful variation from his Talking Heads work. {AADL}
Calypso by David Sedaris  (2018) - Another great book by the master. This one stands out from his recent work, as the essays go back to talking a lot about his family and it hits some darker, more emotional tones that I really enjoyed reading from him. {AADL}

This year, I had the pleasure of reading many new-to-me authors and books that I found wonderful, amazing, and fun. Here are just a few of them.
Bear, Otter, and the Kid by T.J. Klune - This is the first in an excellent series of struggling to stay together as a family during hard times. {AADL}
A Court of Thorn & Roses by Sarah J. Maas - This is also the first in a series that I have come to absolutely adore in 2018. I’ve read each of the books twice this year. {AADL}
The Silver Gun and The Gold Pawn by L.A. Chandlar - A pair of great historical/cozy mysteries that mainly take place in NYC but have a Detroit connection. {AADL}
The Green Unknown: Travels in the Khasi Hills by Patrick Rogers - A phenomenal book about a little-known region in Northeast India. Unfortunately, only available as an ebook. {GoodReads}
Breakthrough by Michael Grumley - A fun sci-fi/thriller book where the action starts at the beginning and never stops! {AADL}
The Gemini Connection by Teri Polen - Fantastic teen sci-fi book about twins who find their bond is even greater than they realize. {GoodReads}
Let Her Fly: A Father's Journey by Ziauddin Yousafzai {AADL}
The Greatest Showman soundtrack {AADL}
Limitless by The Piano Guys {Website}
🎥Film & TV
The Greatest Showman {AADL}
My Neighbor Totoro - While I’ve been a fan of the movie for many years, I was able to see it in the theater this year and it just made it that much better! {AADL}
Castle in the Sky - This is my favorite Studio Ghibli movie and I was thrilled to be able to see it in the theater this year. I always find more things to love about the Studio Ghibli movies when I watch them in the theater and this one was no exception to that. {AADL}
Wildest series of nature documentaries: Wildest Africa, Wildest Indochina, Wildest Latin America, Wildest Middle East, Wildest Islands, Wildest Arctic, and Wildest India. {Prime Video}
💟Pulp Life
Parks in Washtenaw County:
➥Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve - This is a park that actually straddles the line between Washtenaw and Jackson counties. It’s very recently been made into a park. It’s one of my favorite places to go in both spring and fall to see water fowl and wildlife. It’s about 5 miles west of Manchester and kind of off-the-beaten-path, but so worth it. The road actually bisects the lake so you can get super close to the water and the wildlife. They’re used to cars so I’ve had swans come up and walk right beside my car. I’ve seen muskrats, deer, herons, hawks, swans, and frogs, just to name a few. It’s a beautiful area. {Website}
➥Parker Mill County Park - Parker Mill is my favorite park in the Ann Arbor area. There’s a beautiful boardwalk that wanders back in the woods where the Fleming Creek meets the Huron River. If you’re lucky, you can see wildlife like deer, groundhogs, and birds galore. The park has become more popular in recent years so seeing wildlife is rarer than it used to be. There are all kinds of different habitats within the park so there’s a wide variety of plants and trees and flowers. {Website}

🎥Film & TV
Big Mouth - From the mind of Nick Kroll (The League, Kroll Show) springs this raunchy coming of age cartoon comedy that follows Nick, Andrew, and a bevy of other memorable middle schoolers through their pubescent years. It’s funny, thoughtful, sex-positive, and, at some points, downright dirty. With a cast that includes John Mulaney, Jason Mantzoukas, Jessi Klein, Maya Rudolph, Fred Armisen, and Jordan Peele, this one is a can’t miss. {Netflix}

Swimming by Mac Miller - Despite being a big fan of hip-hop music I had not once listened to a Mac Miller album. Unfortunately it wasn’t until his death in September that I threw on one of his records -- 2018’s Swimming -- and I was immediately appreciative. The 26 year-old rapper bares his soul on the album. While his death -- and previous relationship with pop star Ariana Grande -- were highly publicized, his music very much speaks for itself. Swimming explores themes of fame, depression, and hope in a way that is very much accessible to all those that listen. With producing credits from the likes of Black Lotus and J. Cole the album is fantastic from start to finish. Heavy neo-soul and abstract synthesis influences are heard throughout the record but rhythmic hip-hop provides the backbone. Favorite song: "Self Care." {AADL}

Music & Podcasts
Super Sunset by Allie X - Fresh off CollXtionII that came out only a year ago, songwriter Allie X returns with a small EP about her time moving to Los Angeles five years ago. Complete with multiple personas to express her songs and endless hooks to keep the songs ringing in your head for days, she continues her trajectory as an artist on the rise and one to be reckoned with. Influenced by electronica, '80s music, and pop, she blends multiple genres into glittering and sometimes surreal gems. Standout tracks: “LittleThings” and “Girl of the Year.” {Website}
Treehouse by Sofi Tukker - Characterized before as “jungle pop,” the duo known as Sofi Tukker released its debut album this year after a series of singles. The album bounces with energy, ranging from thumping to sweeping. At times empowering, the riffs and beats will linger in your head all day. It’s the kind of music you wish they’d actually play at clubs. Standout tracks: “Johny,” “Best Friend,” “Good Time Girl.” {Website}
Tired All the Time by K.I.D. - The album that most people missed but one deserving of much more attention. K.I.D. has released two EPs in the past couple years, carving out their own genre that’s reminiscent of 2000s pop. Highly relatable, energetic, and depressing, they’ve released their debut album with a collection of songs that catalog a specific time of struggle in the duo’s lives. The duo broke up amicably shortly before its release, but don’t let that dissuade you, it only adds to the album’s melancholic tone about the struggles and potential failures of your 20s. Standout tracks: “Taker,” “Prodigal Daughter,” “Drunk Enough to Love Me,” and “I Miss My Friends.” {Website}
Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe - An immediate classic and an album everyone should listen to at some point in their lives and worth listening to in whole. Monáe will take you on a ride of female power, queerness, and embracing all the parts of yourself unabashedly. At times intimate, catchy, and loud, an album that will hopefully stand the test of time. Standout tracks: “Make Me Feel,” “Pynk (feat. Grimes),” “Screwed (feat. Zoe Kravitz),” and “Take a Byte.” {AADL}
➥“Cherry” and “Flicker” by Rina Sawayama {Website}
➥“Gracious Day” and “Two of Everything" by TORRES {Website}

🎥 Film & TV
Annihilation - Based on Jeff Vandermeer’s novel, Alex Garland’s directorial follow-up to 2014’s ExMachina is equally as gripping and perhaps even more cerebral. An extraterrestrial event in the form of a meteor hits Earth and creates a “shimmer” that begins to expand. A group of scientists goes inside to find the cause amid this changing landscape. In my opinion, the most underrated film of 2018 and one that Paramount never fully supported. It’s still intense, gripping sci-fi that makes your head spin and the final 30 minutes will leave you speechless. {AADL}

💟Pulp Life
➥I had known about the Michigan ElvisFest in Ypsilanti for years, even been in the vicinity of the event a time or two. But 2018 was the year that I decided to check it out. I really got into it, listening to Elvis music for days in advance, and even making a peanut-butter-and-banana-themed dress. Just how do you make such a dress? You block print the peanut butter fabric. All of this preparation was 100 percent worth it. I got to watch enthusiastic fans grasp at the many Elvises as if the King were there himself. It was the James Brown, though, that got me. While I didn’t try to touch him, I did find myself screaming and taking too many photos. {Website}
Draw Your Day by Samantha Dion Baker - I was attracted to this book because of Baker’s drawing style. My flirtation with her Instagram page led me quickly to purchase her book. This book seems down to earth and makes a daily drawing practice seem quite approachable. {AADL}

♫ Music & Podcasts
My Favorite Murder podcast - I was late to the My Favorite Murder podcast. I found out about it because people kept recommending it to me because of my belief (well, I don’t really believe this, maybe) that everyone has a murderer. It’s a silly and complicated system, but it’s the thing that led me to Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark’s podcast which they describe as a comedy murder podcast.  Due to their engaging tone, and ability to make the horrifying palatable, I tune in each week for both their minisode and also their regular episodes.  This is a feat; as a child I’d have to run out if America’s Most Wanted as much as threatened to come on the TV. {Website}
With Friends Like These podcast - I wasn’t sure if I was going to like With Friends Like These. I found out about it from the Pod Saves America podcast, in my quest for more political podcasts for filling my headspace. The podcast is framed to talk about the things that divide us and the things that done. Cox is super earnest, and examines her own mistakes on the podcast. She also talks about her sobriety. That sort of vulnerability usually results in a strong “no thanks” from me, but here, I’m into it. {Website}
Mueller She Wrote podcast - I wake up thinking about Bob Mueller sometimes. I wonder what kind of man he is, what is in his refrigerator and what his grocery lists look like. My phone thinks that I am typing Mueller far more often than it should, so I basically salivated when I found out about the Mueller She Wrote podcast, where hosts A.G, Jalessa Johnson, and Jordan Coburn break down the Trump-Russia investigation. They're funny and they satisfy my Mueller cravings. {Website}

All the Answers by Michael Kupperman - Kupperman is well-known among comics fans for Snake'n'Bacon and Tales Designed to Thrizzle, full of short absurdist vignettes delivered "as seriously as possible."  His new graphic memoir, All the Answers, is the story of his father, Joel Kupperman, who was the most famous of the Quiz Kids. As his father retreats into dementia, Kupperman seeks to discover not only the details of his father's incredible childhood, mixing with magnates, celebrities, and politicians from the age of 6, but also how these experiences made his father feel -- something Joel Kupperman has spent his whole life trying to avoid. {AADL}

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (2016) - A magical realism novel with lush writing, a poignant setting, and characters that will burrow inside your heart for a long time to come. {AADL}
Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor (2017 and 2018) - This fantasy duology wrecked my emotions in the best way possible. The first book follows a young librarian named Lazlo Strange as he becomes part of an expedition to recover and free the lost city of Weep. Taylor is a master of world-building and she crafts every character with such striking depth that it’s impossible not to be pulled into their story. {AADL}
Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman (2015) - I was in a funk for a few days after finishing this book. In my opinion, this book is one of the most important fictional works about mental illness. Schusterman does not romanticize mental illness, or place Caden on some kind of pedestal. This is the story of a boy and his family, and of the harsh realities that come with living with a mental illness. {AADL}
Circe by Madeline Miller (2018) - You’ve probably heard about this book before, and let me tell you the hype is well-deserved. Miller gives a powerful, unique voice to a character often stereotyped and dismissed in favor the more powerful mythological figures of her time. {AADL}
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (2018) - This YA fantasy inspired by West African mythology is such a fun ride. The characters and mythology Adeyemi created set up for a thrilling series. {AADL}
Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (2015 and 2016) - Another duology! This historical fantasy is a heist story of epic proportions. The varied cast of characters are absolutely delightful and the pacing will keep you on the edge of you seat at all times. {AADL}

Music & Podcasts
High as Hope by Florence + the Machine (2018) - When I first heard “Sky Full of Song” I knew I would be listening to this album nonstop for at least a week. And I was right. {AADL}
Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (2018) - Not only are all the songs on this album completely brilliant, but its accompanying "emotion picture" is just as stunning. {AADL}
🎥 Film & TV
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! (2018) - Just as delightful, fun, and campy as the first installment. The whimsy and joy didn’t stop me from being a puddle of tears at the end, though. {AADL}
Crazy Rich Asians (2018) - Normally, I’m not one for rom-coms but there’s something about this visually spectacular film that just got to me and banished a bit of my romantic cynicism for the time. {AADL}
Black Panther (2018) - Easily the best movie in the Marvel cinematic universe. Even if you don’t like superhero movies, I’d be willing to bet you’d like this one. {AADL}
The Adventure Zone podcast by Clint, Griffin, Justin, and Travis McElroy - Three brothers and their father play Dungeons and Dragons and craft such a beautiful, hilarious, and impactful story that I laid in a sobbing mess on my floor after finishing the first season. In the words of Justin, it’s “the story of four idiots who played DnD so hard they made themselves cry.” {Website}

🎥 Film & TV
Won't You Be My Neighbor? - This documentary on Mr. Rogers was very well done. I enjoyed seeing it on the big screen at State Theatre and then was delighted when the library got several copies a few months later. {AADL}

Music & Podcasts
Our Raw Heart by Yob - Hands down, this is the best record released in 2018. A series of peaks and valleys across seven tracks ranges from devastatingly heavy (see “Ablaze” and “Original Face”), to painfully beautiful (see the sweeping centerpiece “Beauty in Falling Leaves”), and all of it is made more meaningful given the dire circumstances in which the material was written and recorded. In early 2017, vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt was on his deathbed following a severe attack of diverticulitis (Googlers beware: This is not for the faint of heart), and by the end of the year had turned in a career highlight, lavished with near universal praise. There isn’t a bad track in the bunch, and what makes this record pack a harder punch is knowing the struggle and near demise that led to its creation. Heavy, melancholic, and positively divine. Crucial track: "Beauty in Fallen Leaves." {Bandcamp}
Firepower by Judas Priest - Straight out of the gates, this is exactly what heavy metal should sound like. While I’ll admit that Judas Priest have had a few missteps in their storied career, there is no denying that their tenacity while approaching their 50th year (yes, you read that right) is downright inspiring. Well, pair that tenacity with the rock-solid production team of Tom Allom and Andy Sneap, and what we have is a god damn riff-fest of an album with more than enough power and attitude to put even the snobbiest of metalheads in their place. Songs like “Flamethrower” and “No Surrender” wink and nod to Screaming for Vengeance-era radio rock mastery, while “Necromancer” and “Traitor’s Gate” usher in a more modern sound married neatly to their late 70’s greatness. Rob Halford’s voice is as striking and perfect as ever, while guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner (maybe the true MVP, here) rip and slash through your speakers with a proficiency that is to die for. Long live heavy metal, long live Judas Priest. Crucial track: "Firepower." {YouTube}
Jericho Sirens by Hot Snakes - After a bout of unfortunate silence lasting 12 years, Hot Snakes roared back in 2018 with a stunner of a full length on. One remarkable aspect of this record is that you can’t really tell even in the slightest that there was such a long gap between this and the also-stellar Audit in Progress, and in fact, Jericho Sirens serves as a logical next step for the band, and a huge leap forward in terms of production and maturity. John Reis’ guitars bite and jangle throughout in equal measure, lending some heft to tracks like “I Need a Doctor” and the standout “Death Camp Fantasy,” while still maintaining a loud and proud pop sensibility that is sure to please new and old listeners alike. I dare to say this is the best record of their career, and as the lone non-heavy-metal record on my list, I’d say quit reading this, and blast Jericho Sirens from the loudest speakers you have. Crucial track: "Death Camp Fantasy." {Bandcamp}
Cruel Magic by Satan - Since regrouping in 2011, Satan (aka: the owners of the most straight-to-the-point band name in all of metal) have been on a creative upswing that puts most of their early 80’s peers to shame, and Cruel Magic is certainly their most impressive and adventurous record to date. Picking just one song on this collection of wall-to-wall bangers is a difficult task; “Ophidian” slowly twists and turns through a series of eerie riffs, before reaching a soaring twin-guitar solo that is a goddamn triumph. “Death Knell for a King” bruises with a confident stride and powerful vocal performance that perfectly embodies the late 70’s/early 80’s NWOBHM style, while never feeling like a retread or embarrassing throwback. Non-metalheads need not fear their angular logo and imposing name, for these guys have melodic sensibilities that can appeal to anyone and everyone. Hail Satan, indeed. Crucial track: "Into the Mouth of Eternity." {Bandcamp}
Upon Desolate Sands by Hate Eternal - Alas, the lone entry of this list that could be described as truly scary! I can safely spare you readers from the treasure trove of excellent death metal released in 2018, each with more queasy and profane band names than the last, because Florida giants Hate Eternal turned in the best of them by a country mile. Guitarist/vocalist/recording engineer/damn genius Erik Rutan has a storied career of providing the highest quality death metal in the United States (see: all of the other Hate Eternal records, his stint in Morbid Angel, every blistering record of the genre he recorded at his studio in Tampa), and this is his finest statement to date. Equally comfortable with lightning speed aggression (“The Violent Fury) and slower, sludgier bruisers (“Nothingness of Being”), Upon Desolate Sands has something for everyone, so long as that something you’re after is top-tier death metal. Crucial track: "Nothingness of Being." {Bandcamp}

Monstress, volumes 1-3, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda (2016-2018) - The Monstress graphic novel series tells the story of Maika Halfwolf, a survivor of war, enslavement, the loss of her mother and friends, and her left arm, which is or is not being slowly consumed by a demon. Maika's world is still not at peace, and some powerful people wish to control her and the Monstrum that lives inside her. Meanwhile, Maika is on a search to unlock her late mother's secrets, picking up allies along the way, for better or worse. The astonishingly gorgeous art is a happy marriage of art deco and steampunk. Every page is a true feast for the eyes, and Monstress has a raw energy that is irresistible. {AADL}
🎥Film & TV
The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2010) - Action, history, and comedy are all mushed together in this Korean remix of the classic Clint Eastwood western The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The setting is 1939. The Japanese are in occupation of Korea, causing many Koreans to flee into the neighboring Wild West-like (if the Wild West also had motorcycles) Japanese puppet state of Manchuria, including our three title characters: bounty hunter Park Do-won (the Good), hitman Park Chang-yi (the Bad), and thief Yoon Tae-goo (the Weird and very hilarious). Other players include the Imperial Japanese Army and a colorful group of Manchurian bandits. All are racing to find the mysterious Qing Dynasty treasure buried somewhere in the Machurian desert. At the time it was filmed, The Good, The Bad, The Weird was the most expensive film in South Korean history, resulting in beautiful sets, fabulous costumes, and an adventure of the highest caliber. Dialogue is in Korean, Chinese, and Japanese; subtitled in English. {AADL}
Black Sheep (2007) - This is not the Chris Farley comedy. I am talking about the New Zealand horror film about genetically modified flesh-eating sheep who terrorize an isolated farm. With effects done by Academy Award-winning Weta Workshop (co-founded by Peter Jackson), this is not your typical B-movie.The characters are surprisingly well developed, and the plot is solid with many funny moments. There are several nods to classic horror films, such as Evil Dead, and any horror fan simply must give Black Sheep a try. I am not really a fan of the genre, and I recommend this film to everyone (except maybe young children; think older teen and up). {AADL}

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2018) by Brittney Cooper {AADL}
Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better by Pema Chodron (2015) {AADL}
The Vagabond by Colette (1955) {AADL}
FULLMOON by Stephanie Richards (2018) {Bandcamp}
💟Pulp Life
➥The Lunchroom's vegan reuben sandwich

Dreamers (2018) - This is my Caldecott winner prediction for 2019. (I am rarely correct but it’s fun to dream.) Yuyi Morales has written a picture book that distills the immigrant experience into lyrical language that only a poet who has truly experienced the sense of loss and wonder can communicate. Her description of discovering the library with her toddler “Thousands and thousands of steps we took around this land, until the day we found a place we had never seen before. Suspicious. Improbable. Unbelievable. Surprising. Unimaginable. Where we didn’t need to speak, we only needed to trust.” The illustrations are spectacular, filled with rich and whimsical imagery from the Mexican tradition. A must read for all ages! {AADL}

🎥Film & TV
Ugly Delicious (2018) - Disclaimer: My nephew Jason Zeldes is the editor and director of some of the episodes of this Netflix food documentary starring the deliciously profane and audacious chef David Chang. Even without family bias, I would have found this excellent viewing. Chang takes us far beyond the table, with reflections on culture, politics and race. Do not watch this without plenty of unusual snacks! {Netflix}

🎥Film & TV
The Death of Stalin - Who knew that a film about the bloody aftermath to the Stalin era could be so funny? With Steve Buscemi as Khrushchev. {AADL}
Under the Tree - One of the most twisted "comedies" I've seen in a while. Thoroughly appalling and entertaining. {IMDB}
American Animals - A combo documentary/drama about four students who robbed the rare-books room at their university. The telling is just as interesting as the story. {AADL}
Green Book - Funny, poignant, teaches you about racism in the South in the '60s, racism in the North in the '60s and how friendship can develop among the most different of people if we only look at people as people. {IMDB}
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - A great mash-up of animation that propels you through the craziest of stories, that somehow all makes sense in the end. {IMDB}
The Loner - I'm a big Twilight Zone and Rod Serling fan but I never bothered to look into Rod's 1965 Western,The Loner. It only lasted one season but the complete series is out on DVD. If you love Twilight Zone, check out what Serling does with a Western. {IMDB}
Music & Podcasts
The Twilight Zone Podcast - And if you love Twilight Zone, check out Tom Elliot's excellent podcast. He is going show-by-show through the entire series with some interesting deviations along the way. He is more than halfway through and was the inspiration for my Presenting Alfred Hitchcock Presents podcast. He's on iTunes and elsewhere. {Website}
Planet of the Apes: Visionaries - And even more Serling, who wrote the original screenplay for the Planet of the Apes. It was more closely aligned to the Pierre Boulle novel and was not used. Bits and pieces of it still exist in the final film, apparently, but not much. But Boom! has done a graphic novel based on Serling's script and it's fascinating. {AADL
 ➥Jerzy Drozd's mini-comics - I bought some of Jerzy Drozd's mini-comics at Tiny Expo and highly recommend them. My favorite was his latest, Baron Von Bear. It's a detailed, funny and witty funny animal fantasy and he does it all in eight tiny pages. {Website}
Masterpieces of Mystery selected by Ellery Queen - I bought this 1970s 20-volume set at a used book store and have been working my way through it. {LibraryThing}
Native Son by Richard Wright - I can't think of any other books I've read this year that stand out except maybe Native Son, which I finally read but that everybody else already read in high school. {AADL}

The Family That Couldn’t Sleep by D. T. Max {MelCat}
The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee {AADL}
Born a Crime by Tevor Noah (read by the author) {AADL}
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America by Beth Macy (read by the author) {AADL}
Reading With Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship by Michelle Kuo (read by the author) {AADL}
A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold (read by the author) {AADL}

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles {AADL}
The Royal Wulff Murders by Keith McCafferty {AADL}
Let's Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson {AADL}
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny {AADL}
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace {AADL}

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy (2016) - Flourney's debut novel, which reads both as a family saga switching between the present and the 1940s and as a work of ghost literature, examines the problems experienced by Detroit's residents through the lens of the Turner family. Flournoy's work is touching without falling overtly into nostalgia, with dialogue and characters that feel incredibly real. {AADL}
While Standing in Line for Death by CA Conrad (2017) {Website}
Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes by Anne Elizabeth Moore (2017) - Spanning a remarkable range of topics from horror films to snake oil sellers, Moore's essay collection examines the implications of capitalism and misogyny on our culture, with a focus on illness and the somatic. Funny, disturbing, and well-written. {AADL}
Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith (2018) {AADL}
Black Fax by Newaxeyes (2018) - Taking noise and electronic music to a new level of performance, Newaxeyes are most impressive live, though their album does retain some of the frenetic energy of their shows. Living in the interstices of art and noise rock, Newaxeyes are a band to keep an eye on in the future. {Bandcamp}
Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett (2018) {AADL}
LUMP by LUMP (2018) - A collaboration between British musician Laura Marling and American Mike Lindsay, LUMP is a fun album which is almost as dense as it is catchy. Moments feel like the early works of Joni Mitchell or other folkies/rockers from the 1960s who found a home in California, but the synthesizers create an electronic underpinning to these more organic elements. A fresh side project from one of modern music's most original and profound voices. {AADL}
🎥Film & TV
Sorry to Bother You (2018) {AADL}
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018) {Website}
I, Tonya (2018) {AADL}

📖 Book
Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo - I was a little skeptical when my partner first recommended to me, partly because it’s a somewhat daunting tome -- the copy I have comes in at just under 550 pages -- and partly because he said about Donald Sullivan, the main character: “He’s a dirtbag with a heart of gold -- you’ll love him.” But within the first 10 pages of the book, I was drawn in by Russo’s amazing dexterity with words and his incredibly personable, full characters.

Set in small-town upstate New York, Nobody’s Fool opens during Thanksgiving week sometime in the mid-1980s. Donald “Sully” Sullivan is indeed a dirtbag with a heart of gold who rents the upper flat of a house owned by his 80-year-old landlord, Miss Beryl. Suffering from an untreated knee injury, Sully spends his time good-naturedly tormenting his best friend, Rub, doing the occasional construction job, eating burgers at the local diner, and drinking his nights away with a rotating cast of characters at the only bar in town.

It’s easy to make a novel about a small-town hokey and it’s even easier for an author unfamiliar with small-town life to come off as holier-than-thou when trying to write about it. Russo hits the exact right notes with his portrait of North Bath, and his smart, funny, quick characters are a delight to get to know. About Sully, Russo writes “He was a man capable of sporadic generous impulses, which he enjoyed while they lasted without regretting their absence once they played themselves out.” As Sully, Miss Beryl, Rub, and the other North Bath-ians go about their daily lives, I grew to love and care about them in a way that I’ve never felt about other fictional characters. 

Although I could have flown through Nobody’s Fool in a few days, I enjoyed taking my time with it and savoring the lovely, unique story that spools out slowly over just a few weeks in time. I’m delighted it was recommended to me, and even more delighted to be able to pass on the recommendation to readers everywhere! {AADL}

💟Pulp Life
➥Great Lakes Relay - I’d heard of the Great Lakes Relay, a 300-mile weekend-long relay race across the state of Michigan, before 2018, but didn’t get the chance to participate before this year. A lifelong runner, I’ve done Ragnars before, and many other relay and non-relay races of varying distances. Nothing prepares you for the glory that is GLR, however, which takes place every July. The organizers set a new route each year; this year the race began outside Mio and ended on the beach in Empire. You and your team run every step of the way, although not in the most direct fashion. GLR is special for the weird, treacherous, confusing legs that the organizers create -- anywhere from 2 to 12 miles through the Michigan wilderness, with mostly only your sense of direction to guide the way. I ran up and down sand dunes, through fields of briars and crossed a 100-foot river that, due to a recent downpour, came up to my chest. You can have up to 10 people on your team, but due to injuries, we only had 8 runners. Operating on anywhere from 3 to 5 hours of sleep a night, we traversed the state in cheerful and ragtag fashion, filthy, exhausted, sometimes drunk, and overwhelmingly delighted. 

At the end of the weekend, our team crashed into Lake Michigan, some of us still wearing the bow ties that we’d been sporting for the past four days (long story), clutching pizza and beer, already counting the days til GLR 2019. This is a must-do for runners everywhere! {Website}

🎥Film & TV
I started off 2018 by getting a television, which I understand is a common electronic device in American homes. This led to me watching more than 100 movies and TV series during the year, the most I’ve seen since in at least a decade. Here are some passive-visual-consumption experiences I can remember vaguely:
Peaky Blinders - I watch all TV shows with subtitles now because I can no longer hear anything unless the volume is cranked up to grandpa levels. But even if sounds were still audible to me, I’d still need to read along with the dialog in Peaky Blinders because of the Brit and Irish accents -- all from early-20th-century Birmingham, England, gangsters at that. Pretty sure this is the first show I’ve ever binge-watched. {Netflix}
Ozark - I've never seen Breaking Bad, but in my head it's like Ozark. A Chicago family gets caught up in laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel who wants to expand operations in the Ozarks. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney expertly dance between being loving parents and ruthless criminals, which is how most couples operate. (I've never seen Arrested Development, either, but since Jason Bateman stars in it, I assume Ozark is also like that show. And like Silver Spoons. Please do not listen to me as my judgment is poor.) {AADL}
Rise of the Planet of the Apes; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes; War for the Planet of the Apes - The Planet of the Apes franchise has haunted my consciousness since I was a wee lad dressing up as one of the gorilla soldiers for Halloween in 1974, carrying a metal lunchbox to elementary school imprinted by images from the short-lived TV series in 1975, and listening the the 1968 movie’s soundtrack while driving through and then exiting the Holland Tunnel on my inaugural trip to New York City in 1994. This Apes reboot series got better with each movie and the effects are stunning even as I nostalgically miss rubber-faced chimps whose mouths barely move. {AADL}
Glow - Early '80s pro wrestling is pretty much my life lens and this comedy about a struggling women’s grappling organization combines humor and empathy delivered with expert storytelling and distinct characters. Moral of the story: Real life is a work but we all keep it kayfabe. {Netflix}
John Wick; John Wick: Chapter 2 - I’m mostly using these two movies to represent all the hyper-stylized action movies I consumed in 2018 and because I display the same emotional range as Keanu Reeves. {AADL}
Bad Education; The Bad Education Movie - This British sitcom (2012-2014) and its subsequent film (2015) are a mashup of Community and The Office if they were on premium cable and ALWAYS “went there” with coarse japes. Three thumbs up. {Netflix}

♫Music & Podcasts
Head Cage by Pig Destroyer - The latest album by this longtime grind-metal band is the first to feature a bassist and the added low-end expands Pig Destroyer’s destructive power throughout the sonic spectrum. The group also slows its songs sometimes now, which allows guitarist Scott Hull’s massive riffs to wrap around your cranium and squeeze until your skull is crushed. The fact that either of these changes was at all controversial in the metal world might be one of the many reasons why Pig Destroyer wrote “Army of Cops,” a massive rebuke of sheeple culture. {Bandcamp}
What a Time to Be Alive by Superchunk - The most political record of Superchunk’s nearly 30-year career is also one of its best. Singer/guitarist/songwriting machine Mac McCaughan is one of the great tunesmiths of his generation. {AADL}
Have You Considered Punk Music by Self Defense Family {Bandcamp}
Cheer by Drug Church {Bandcamp}
I am a stan for all things Patrick Kindlon, the smart, satirical, frequently out-of-tune singer for the punk-adjacent bands Self Defense Family and Drug Church. Like a rapper, Kindlon writes his biting and perceptive lyrics in the studio not long after hearing his bands’ songs, consistently producing gems with seeming ease (pressure writing = diamonds). Self Defense Family revels in somber atmospherics and repetition for long midnight drives whereas Drug Church is the charismatic kid brother who crashes the family car midday while reaching for fallen Fritos. From his music and podcasts (Axe to Grind; Worst Possible Timeline) to his social media (@selfdfens) and comic books (Survival Fetish; Patience! Conviction! Revenge!), I’ve spent a ton of time steeped in Kindlon’s outspoken insights/incites and never tire of his humor and ideas (even when I disagree).
LP5000 by Restorations - This Philly band just keeps plugging away with great albums that seem to fall under the radar. The group's music straddles the line between punk rock and Bruce Springsteen as carves its own path. Jon Loudon has one of my favorite voices in rock -- equally ragged and melodic -- and he's a fantastic lyricist, too. {Bandcamp}
Everything’s Fine by Jean Grae & Quelle Chris - Wild production, dark humor, and biting social commentary by these two remarkable rappers. {Bandcamp}  

Michigan faves:
Evergreen by Michigan Rattlers - These Petoskey guys have relocated to Los Angeles but their music is steeped in Northern Michigan narratives. The title track sums it up: "And back to the place where I grew up / With stacks of books at the TV volume up / I always dreamt of a bigger place / Now I'm wondering why I wanted to escape this." I wrote about the band's Sonic Lunch performance back in June for Pulp. {Website}
Aftering by Fred Thomas - This album is filled with great songs and pointed lyrics, but "House Show, Late December" is the one that feels most like a sonic stab in the heart. {AADL}
The Open Sea Before Me by Joanna & the Jaywalkers - I wrote a lot about this album for Pulp. {Spotify}
The Book of Ryan by Royce da 5'9" - One of Detroit's -- and hip-hop's -- finest rappers returns with an album that addresses addiction and personal issues with raw candor. {AADL}
Heavy Music: The Complete Cameo Recordings 1966-1967 by Bob Seger and The Last Heard - Since Seger seems to hate his back catalog and refuses to reissue much of his fantastic pre-Live Bullet material, this legit compilation of his earliest recordings was a total shock. If you only know Seger through truck commercials and the abomination that is "Old Time Rock & Roll," you'll be shocked to hear him as a commanding garage-rock soul-man on these Cameo Recordings. {AADL}

I forgot to keep track of what I read in 2018 but it was mostly music bios, comic books, and Twitter. I now have the attention span of a fruit fly.

💟Pulp Life
➥I grew up in Michigan, left for 22 years, and returned in 2016. But it wasn’t until 2018 that I visited Frankenmuth, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Mackinac Island, each for the first time*. I am now Pure Michigan; catch me in camo 24/7. (*Family lore says I may have crossed over to the mighty Mac around age 3 but there’s no photographic proof; I think they’re trying to cover for our lack of family vaycays.)
➥As my reintegration into the Midwest continues unabated, I developed a bowling jones that borders on obsession. I spent more time and money at Bel-Mark Lanes than any other place in 2018. Bangarang!

Check out our staff picks for 2016 and 2017.