TOpicks: The Best of 2019
What are the best books, movies and music you've come across this year?
Join our librarians on Twitter, Monday, December 16*, from 12 – 1 pm, and use the hashtag #TOpicks to share your favourites of 2019. We look forward to chatting with you!
(*CORRECTION: The date for the live chat was originally posted as Tuesday, December 16th, which does not exist this year. We regret the error.)
Meanwhile, here are some of our favourites:
2019 will be remembered by the world as the year I became a homeowner. Please note that after 6 months of being a homeowner I am still not a furniture owner, although I do own several bookcases and a lot of books. All this home purchasing and not settling down did not leave a lot of time for reading but the books look very nice on their shelves.
What I read in 2019:
The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman
An early classic of the graphic novel era, Spiegelman documents his parents’ experiences in the Holocaust as told by his father. It’s grim but an incredible story of survival.
The Book of M by Peng Shepherd
People around the world begin to lose their shadows and subsequently their identities and memories. Ory and his wife Max have been living in seclusion hoping to avoid the illness. When Max loses her shadow, she leaves to protect Ory, who follows her.
Bunny by Mona Awad
I loved this one so much and as a bitter outsider at graduate school, I could relate to Samantha’s experiences — at least some of her experiences. This book will take you to very interesting, occasionally creepy, places.
What I watched:
I resisted watching this for far too long. It’s a delight. “A Little Bit Alexis” is going to be the theme song of my next road trip. Emily Hampshire’s portrayal of Stevie Budd blows me away — not just because we both enjoy flannel shirts.
What I listened to:
Cuz I Love You by Lizzo
It gave me a lot of joy.
In 2019, all I wanted was to read books by and/or about angry middle-aged women like myself, and books about animals and nature. And I mostly got to do that, so in that sense it was a very good year.
Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Toby Fleishman is a Manhattan doctor whose wife, a high-powered publicist, has recently left him. An old friend watches, bemused, as he plunges into the world of online dating. Is everything as it seems? It is not.
Brodesser-Akner is one of the most exciting magazine writers out there right now. Her lurid world of privileged people behaving badly just barely conceals a devastating polemic about gender relations — that also manages, somehow, to be fun.
How to Catch a Mole by Marc Hamer
Hamer spent a year living out-of-doors as a homeless teen, became a writer and then a gardener, and finally devoted decades of his life to catching and killing moles, before deciding to stop and become a writer again. If the thought of finding out what being a mole-catcher in rural Wales is like appeals to you then, like me, you will find this book worthwhile.
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey
In a similar memoir-about-animals vein is The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, which was published in 2010, and which describes the relationship a woman with a chronic, debilitating illness develops with the snail that lives in her bedside terrarium. Enlightening.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
Did you read On Chesil Beach, by Ian MacEwan? Did you want to throw the book at the wall because the characters made stupid mistakes and never made the effort to sort themselves out? Did it all seem horribly unnecessary? (Was that MacEwan’s intent? Most likely. Still.)
Well, here’s the antidote! In Normal People, two Irish students, prompted by differences in looks, class, and other factors beyond their choosing, make stupid relationship mistakes again and again until, grudgingly, [spoiler alert] they more-or-less, kind-of resolve them. It’s riveting, sociologically acute, and immensely satisfying.
One thing I learned about myself this year is that I’m not very skilled at writing preambles, so please bear with me. 😊 2019 began much the same as every other year: with a list of personal and professional goals to accomplish, some of which were achieved, and others of which were pushed forward to 2020. Three of the goals I am proud to have fulfilled this year were:
- Ensuring I carved out enough time to read more.
- Really delving into the world of podcasts.
- Being unapologetic about my choices for said books and podcasts.
I found that this year, my experience with being a #twitterlibrarian has afforded me the opportunity to really showcase who I am and what I enjoy reading, music and podcasts I enjoy listening to, and the TV series, films and documentaries I enjoy watching on screen. It has also allowed me to interact with others who share many of those same entertainments, including my fabulous colleagues, @TPLBRNDN, @TPLMaggie and @TPLWendy.
Now, all that mushiness aside, here are just a few highlights of 2019
Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton
A fictionalized account of Truus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance who helped smuggle thousands of Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied Europe through the Vienna Kindertransport. A pre-WWII historical fiction of heroism that is heartwrenching, haunting, and beautifully written.
Notes On a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig
A 2018 book that I re-read at the start of 2019.
In a world where we are encouraged to worry about everything, in a world where social media makes us anything but "social", where everything is moving at lightning speed and we are able to obtain things quicker yet dispose of them faster, it is no wonder anxiety is on the rise. Stemming from the author’s own experiences with anxiety and depression, this self-care read is both witty and practical. It is reassuring, inspiring, honest and engaging.
I’m going to round off my highlights with three podcasts that I thoroughly enjoy listening to each week (one of which has currently wrapped it’s first season) and surprisingly (or not for those that follow on twitter) they are based on my favourite guilty pleasure: Coronation Street.
A very in-depth, lengthy (in a good way), spoiler-free podcast reviewing the week of Corrie episodes. (Canadian viewers need to be wary of dates as UK episodes are about one week ahead at the moment) Michael and Gemma have a wonderful banter, humour and analysis of the show, including interviews with cast members, writers and directors, without being tainted by upcoming spoilers that is refreshing and witty with a rating system that often makes me laugh out loud (4 Carlary Connory’s , anyone?)
A humorous (and I mean I have literally spat out my coffee, I was laughing so hard) weekly review podcast featuring the delightful Gavin and Helen. Their nicknames for characters on the show actually had me in stitches. I'm hoping that some will eventually be referenced on the show itself (Vicky Jeffries as "Irish Tina" really needs to happen...). Their banter is wonderful, and their "moment of the week" picks range from warmhearted or comical scenes to heart-wrenching, dramatic powerhouse scenes.
This final podcast is not about Coronation Street itself. However, three of the show’s actors – Ben Price who plays Nick Tilsley, Jack P Shepherd who plays David Platt, and Colson J Smith who plays Craig Tinker – created this podcast of film reviews where they educate each other on the films they should have seen. Viewing a variety of films from Hannah Montana to The Godfather, the three rate and review the films with easygoing banter – which is needed because it can get quite tense every now and again when it comes to ratings. My taste in films are usually more in line with Ben and Jack’s choices, and listening to this podcast has introduced me to some films I’ve never seen before including Whiplash which I really enjoyed, as well as re-watching some of my absolute favourites including Goodfellas, and When Harry Met Sally. They’ve currently wrapped their first season but will have a special Christmas episode released on Thursday December 12 reviewing Love, Actually, which they viewed live in concert with a full symphony orchestra. Should make for some interesting commentary.
Below are a few of my highlights of 2019:
In 1858 the Thames river was festering with sewage under the scorching sun; it was called “The Great Stink”. Only when the fetid odour wafted into Parliament did the politicians decide to do anything. If there is a lesson to be learned from this book, it is that if you are designing a sewage system, double all of your calculations and you will create a system which is still being used to this day. This book covers the life of Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who only had previous experience engineering railroads; so perhaps that’s another lesson – skills are transferable. This is a fantastic book about innovation and the importance of sewage systems as a necessary component of cities.
I was first exposed to physicist Sean Carroll via the PBS series “Closer to Truth”, which explores the myriad ways humans can attempt to comprehend existence. Carroll's latest book explains the many-worlds hypothesis of quantum mechanics – that thousands of branching realities and versions of you are being created every second as part of a single quantum wave function of the universe. Yes, this means that there are innumerable copies of you, all doing slightly different things. It is a fascinating deep dive into the possible fundamental fabric of reality. Of course, in another reality you have already read this book, so perhaps recommending it is redundant.
Your brain deserves a bubble bath.
The Anjunadeep series of top-shelf deep progressive house electronic music helps keep me calm and centered during the most hectic parts of my two-hour commute to work. Each year I look forward to downloading and listening to each release in this series, as each composition takes me away on a journey through intricate electronic compositions and soundscapes, expertly mixed with one another to provide a continuous moment of zen.
Join the conversation!
Please join us for the #TOpicks “Best of 2019” chat on Monday, December 16, 12 – 1 pm. Follow #TOpicks on Twitter and share your favourite books, movies and music of 2019!
Not on Twitter? Share your favourites in the comments below.