5 Media Favorites From 2018

Unlike in past years, I didn’t keep a monthly media log in 2018. For that and for other reasons, I had a rather haphazard year of reading and watching. The PBS Great American Read inspired my reading selections, and Netflix largely dominated my viewing. In sum, I read 40 books and watched 20 movies, plus more TV series than usual. I also listened to many podcasts, but I’ve yet to find a reliable way to track my listening. Maybe in 2019 I’ll finally figure it out!

For now, here are the top five books, shows, and podcasts that defined my 2018:

1. Ru Paul’s Drag Race (Season 10 & All Stars 3)

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Miss Vanjie. Miss. Vaaaaaanjie. The most memorable media moments of my 2018 centered around Drag Race. From seeing the Season 10 final four at NYC Pride – just days before the season finale! – to screaming at the television when Trixie Mattel snatched the All Stars 3 crown (Shangela was ROBBED and we all know it!), Drag Race was the media through-line of my 2018. This show gave me so much joy this year – joy that continues on into 2019 with All Stars 4! YASS.

2. James Baldwin, in general  

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I started 2018 with Baldwin’s classic The Fire Next Time, then read Giovanni’s Room and Another Country, which was a PBS Great American Read pick. Although Another Country was by far my favorite book of 2018 – and now one of my favorite books of all time! – I extend this slot to my discovery of James Baldwin as one of my favorite writers. He is a master craftsman in the art of writing, and this year his work led me down paths of inspiration (me: “This! THIS!”) and despair (also me: “I will never be as good a writer as James Baldwin”).

3. Caliphate (NYT Podcast)

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In 2017, I was obsessed with S-Town. I thought nothing could possibly top the audio storytelling of that series until I encountered Caliphate from the New York Times. Wow. It follows journalist Rukmini Callimachi as she reports on the Islamic State, interviewing a former member of ISIS and entering war zones to rescue documents. I’ve never listened to anything quite like it. Both haunting and enlightening, it gave me a newfound appreciation of journalists like Callimachi who risk their lives to document the what, how, and why of terrorism.

4. The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix series)

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Speaking of haunting… how about a fictional one? The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson is one of my all-time favorite books, and so I approached this Neflix series with maybe more skepticism than the average viewer. It surpassed all expectations. Adding family drama to the atmospheric horror that makes the book so great was a wise direction. And they made/kept Theo queer (thanks Netflix!). I only wish that the ending wasn’t quite so tidy and optimistic. 

5.  David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones

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Please Kill Me! by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain enlightened me to the fact that I love oral histories. Go figure! So, an oral history about my favorite musician, artist, famous person, and starman David Bowie? I’m IN! Instead of reading David Bowie: A Life all at once, I snacked away on it over a few months, savoring the sections as they chronicled Bowie’s eras. Through interviews with Bowie’s colleagues and acquaintances, I came away with the sense of Bowie as an intensely disciplined artist. 

 Honorable Mentions:  

  • Maniac (Neflix series) was bizarre and beautiful, and Jonah Hill turned into a hawk.

  • Nancy Podcast Live! at the Museum of Science was my first ever IRL podcast experience! The podcast itself continues to be awesome.

  • Nailed It! (Netflix series) inspired my sister and me to make a unicorn cake! And it came out pretty good!:

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Nailed it!