It’s become a cliche that 2016 has been a horrible wasteland for basically everyone on planet Earth. When you really get down to it, who can say for sure that 2016 had any more loss or terror or heartbreak than any other year, but things seemed to coalesce towards some sort of breaking point through the vortex of inescapable social media.
In any case, it’s been a hard year for me personally in a lot of respects. I don’t want to dwell on it too heavily, especially with 2017 right around the corner (though 2017 doesn’t look to be shaping up to be much better…), but I will admit to this much. If 2014 and 2015 were years I focused on recovering my health and working hard to stay alive in the face of some pretty bad odds, 2016 often made me wonder why I had bothered.
I got low, but it wasn’t all lows. So, in the interest of faking it til you make it, here are the things that made this year worth it to me.
The Good Bits of 2016
The greatest thing to happen this year was the birth of my first nephew, Jude, the best baby in the history of all babies. (Plus, he’s a great excuse to play the Beatles.)
To be fair, Hamilton happened in 2015. But it’s not at all like I let it go in 2016. I listened to it more than is probably healthy. I bought the vinyl. I watched the documentary and LMM’s Drunk History. I got my mom obsessed. And then the mixtape happened. And then I got the Hamiltome for Christmas. So yeah, it just keeps on going.
My Favorite Murder.
I’ve been a true crime addict ever since I was a bitty baby watching Unsolved Mysteries in the 80s (and suffering many subsequent nightmares.) I’ve never been a big fan of podcasts, but when I heard about My Favorite Murder, hosted by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, it seemed right up my alley. And oh, how it is.
One of the best things about MFM is that it opened up a community so that suddenly I realized there are so many people out there just like me. I’ve had a couple of problems with the way Karen and Georgia sometimes express their thoughts (particularly regarding body shaming and mental health in a few episodes), but they are honest about being human and making mistakes and always striving to be better. Plus, they are able to take truly awful things and find humor in them.
My motto throughout 2016 has definitely been Stay sexy, and don’t get murdered.
Yuri!!! on Ice.
Yuri!!! on Ice almost single-handedly saved this year for me. I watched the entire series twice in the space of just a few days, and it makes me so damned happy. An anime about figure skating, anxiety, and true love, YOI is so sweet and funny. And the animation, particularly the skating sequences, is breathtaking. YOI has it all. Puppies. Sexy men lounging around hotsprings. A Canadian jackass. Excellent music (or at least- music that starts out corny but somehow becomes progressively more excellent each time you hear it). Pork cutlet bowls. Drunk pole dancing. A surly Russian teen with impeccable fashion sense. It is, basically, perfection, and I don’t yet know how I’m going to survive the wait for more.
Something I really miss about my twenties is all the concerts I used to go to. I only managed to make it to two live shows this year, but they were really amazing ones.
In February, I splurged on myself and drove all the way to Nashville to see the tenth anniversary tour for Jenny Lewis’s Rabbit Fur Coat. It was a really special celebration of one of my favorite albums [And Jimmy Buffett showed up!!!].
In October, I saw Kaleo with Bishop Briggs. I already liked Bishop Briggs’ single, but live she was so much more dynamic and incredible than I was prepared for. And Kaleo just blew me away. (Their album, A/B, was one of my favorites of the year, and one day they’re going to be superstars.) It’s been a really, really long time since I stood in the front row of a tiny club to hear rock and roll. It was a feeling I’d thought I’d forgotten.
Here’s one of Kaleo’s songs that I absolutely adore:
Books with my name in them.
When I was in first grade, my school published a “book” of stories written by the students, including two of mine. But whoever typed up those books made one crucial mistake….they spelled my name wrong.
I have been trying to correct that injustice for twenty five years. It may seem silly, but that typo in my name has been one of my biggest motivators to seeing my real name in print. I’ve had stories in online journals before, but this year, for the first time ever, I got to see my name. In. A. Real. Book. Look!
It was so fucking cool.
Now I just need to get my name on the cover of a book.
Books without my name in them*.
This is still a book review blog, if only in name, because I haven’t figured out what to do with it yet. So let’s make some space to call out the books that kept me sane in 2016. I read significantly less than I have in years past (as of this writing, it looks like I will top out the year at 97 books), but as always they were what I turned to whenever the world went pear-shaped.
Most of what I read was pretty good, tbh. But here were my absolute favorites, vaguely in order of when I read them:
Sarah Vowell- Lafayette in the Somewhat United States , Jhumpa Lahiri- The Lowland, Lily King- Euphoria
Roan Parrish- In the Middle of Somewhere, KJ Charles- Think of England, Marissa Meyer- Winter
Marie Brennan- In the Labyrinth of Drakes , Naomi Novik- Uprooted, N.K. Jemisin- The Fifth Season
Lyndsay Faye- Jane Steele, Tana French- The Trespasser, Cat Sebastian- The Soldier’s Scoundrel, Celeste Ng- Everything I Never Told You
*I give up on trying to format this correctly . WordPress what the fuck are you doing?
Well my lovely friends, that’s all. Have as happy a New Year as you can. My dearest hope is that all of my crippling fears will turn out to be unfounded. Only time will tell, but in the meantime keep enjoying books and all the other things that make you happy.