My 2018 List
Ranking stuff is one of my favorite parts of December. That and Christmas, you know? I’m a total sucker for just about any list that counts down the best movies, the best songs— I’ll even entertain a lis of the best GIFs of the year. I guess I get pretty curious about people’s tastes.
Of course I like playing along too, so for another consecutive year, here’s my list of favorites from 2018! And I toss albums, movies, books, and other things all on the same list, since to me, they all count as storytelling, just in different forms.
I’ve found Seth Godwin’s insights consistently helpful. Akimbo is a podcast that gives him a chance to indulge a variety of topics, but he frequently lands in the realm of marketing, work, and creativity. The show lately has gone hand in hand with his recent book This Is Marketing, which I haven’t read yet. If his podcast is any indicator, though, it’ll be a great one to learn from.
On The Other Side Of Freedom by Deray McKesson
Caveat: I’m not that far into the book, and yet it makes this list. My confidence is that high based on what I’ve seen and heard so far. Deray’s appearances on several podcasts definitely hammered home my interest in his book. Deray is an activist whose work has been a driving force of the Black Lives Matter movement. Despite all the opposition and hardship he’s experienced directly in the past few years, this book is fiercely hopeful.
Ben Howard, Noonday Dream
This isn’t my favorite Ben Howard album. It’s a more somber and moody one and takes a little while to get into. Once it sinks in, though, it’s a real solid album. Ben Howard is a master at using sound to communicate feeling, even when the meaning of the song is kept pretty enigmatic
Boca Juniors Confidencial
Well this was a fairly upsetting year to be a Boca Juniors fan, with the Superclasico loss and the attack on the team bus a couple weeks prior. This insider series, though, serves as a pretty good consolation prize. The Netflix series follows the Argentine futbol team and offers pretty honest and vibrant look into the country’s extremely lively (sometimes too lively) fan culture.
The Daily Creative
I heard Todd Henry speak at a conference and instantly became a pretty big fan of his work. His podcast- still a pretty new project, offers one creative insight each day. The episodes are always 2-4 minutes in length, making it extremely easy to digest, but the bit of wisdom they carry is almost always really valuable. The daily release schedule is both admirable and the perfect rhythm for consuming these nuggets.
Kamasi Washington, Heaven and Earth
I love music that wrecks your concept of what a genre is, and Kamasi Washington does that really well, taking the roots of jazz into all sorts of creative directions. Heaven and Earth is bolder than his earlier albums, with more complicated harmonies and bolder textures. There are also hints of international influences all over this album, which I love.
Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
High Horse was possibly the most addictive song of the summer- tongue in cheek lyrics and a playful sound to boot. The rest of the album around that hit wasn’t a let down. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy an album with so much country influence as much as I enjoyed this one, but I absolutely did and here it is on my list.
Shea Serrano gained a whole lot of unprecedented attention after his fun, basketball-culture musings in Basketball and Other Things landed on Barack Obama’s summer reading list. What’s next? A podcast in which he analyzes the notoriety of villains from Hannibal Lecter to Regina George? Why not? It’s a wildcard concept, but he pulls it off well.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
An American Marriage is a book about a young, thriving couple being torn apart by wrongful incarceration. Lives are ruined, and it’s that simple. While the story’s plot is a simple unfolding of terrible events, the well-written characters turn it into a journey of empathy. I’ve seen it on a number of Best of ’18 lists and it is well deserving of that spot.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
I’ll be honest- even though Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat gained a ton of buzz very shortly after it arrived on Netflix, I was slower to embrace it. Mostly because I wanted to remember the title as one of the most practical and empowering cookbooks ever written, and I didn’t think it could translate into a mini-series that well. (Really, though, how do you adapt a cookbook?) It turns out that this journey to California, Japan, Italy, and Mexico is exactly how you do it.
The 1975, a brief inquiry into online relationships
For a long time, I’ve liked but haven’t loved The 1975’s music. It was good enough, but perhaps too strangely melancholic for me. Then suddenly they release a brief inquiry into online relationships, and it’s absolutely making an impression on me.
Leon Bridges, A Good Thing
Leon Bridges somehow just keeps getting better. This just might have been my most listened-to album all year, thanks especially to the tracks “Mrs.” and “Beyond.” I’m still dreaming of the chance to see Leon live someday.
If this film wasn’t good, the idea of telling a story entirely through screenshots of phones and computers would have gone down as a gimmick. Instead, it’s an innovative way to unfold a plot without taking over from the heart of the story. John Cho turns in a really great performance, but nobody thought he’d do anything else.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Another read that I haven’t totally finished but feel totally comfortable ranking it and ranking it high. Austin Channing Brown’s book is a must-read in my mind. Read this with an open mind, a willingness to be challenged, and a desire to be a better neighbor to those living in different skins.
We Came To Win
It’s a World Cup year, which merits a second futbol related entry on this list. Gimlet releases some of my favorite podcast series, and We Came To Win was no exception, digging deep into some of the most exciting World Cup storylines from the past few decades. From the US Women’s Team’s fight for equality to the political conundrum the Congolese team landed in during the 1970’s, to Diego Maradonna’s journey from hero to villain to redemption, this podcast reminded me of why I love soccer.
Kim’s Convenience probably belongs on this list with a couple of asterisks, since it didn’t really debut this year. It’s currently in its third season on the Canadian Broadcasting Company, but it only became easily accessible to US audiences this past summer when it landed on Netflix. It’s a simple but smart sitcom that features a Korean-Canadian family without having to overexplain and exploit every cultural element. Appa is goals.
America Is Not The Heart by Elaine Castillo
This was the first Filipino-American novel I’ve gotten to enjoy and it was a good one. The story follows a student-activist in the late 80’s who ran into odds with the Marcos regime, who relocates to the United States in order to start a new life. Elaine Castillo’s debut as a novelist was a strong one and I look forward to where she goes from here as a writer.
Crazy Rich Asians
It’s hard to say something about Crazy Rich Asians and its importance that hasn’t already been stated. The triumphant feeling it gave audiences. The justice it served its characters. The heart filled performances by the cast and everyone involved. At the end of the day, it’s a well-told story built around the different ways to see a scenario.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor
This was one of the most moving things I’ve seen all year. Never underestimate the power of gentleness. In an era of anger, Fred Rogers’ legacy seems to be striking an especially important chord. Morgan Neville’s documentary does an especially incredible job of showing us how simple but important his message of being a good neighbor really is.
It’s been a while since I’ve loved a hip hop album as much as Oxnard. Anderson.Paak is a really talented dude on a number of different levels, and his skills as a lyricist, rapper, and singer are all on display here. Plus I detect some traces of OutKast inspired sounds and that always makes me happy.
Factfulness: Ten Reasons Why We’re Wrong About The World and Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling
I strongly believe that in spite of all the bad news you here, the world is overwhelmingly full of good things and ordinary people working hard to make life better for each other. In Factfulness, Hans Rosling literally dedicates his last days to proving this with data. (He literally wrapped this up on the ambulance ride to the hospital he would never leave.) It’s some of the most masterful storytelling I’ve seen done with data.
The War and Treaty, Healing Tide
This album is all heart. Reading the liner notes informed me that this album was a cry for justice and healing and loving like there’s no tomorrow. As soon as the needle hits, all that is proved immediately true. Playing Love Like There’s No Tomorrow at full volume doesn’t get any less stirring after doing so for months on end like I’ve been doing.
I’m sure you know why Black Panther is on this list. High on this list. That film was a triumph. Culturally rich. Visually stunning. Well performed. And Kendrick. Kudos to Ryan Coogler and Co. for capturing the world’s imagination.
How To Stop Time by Matt Haig
This book resonated with me on such a deep level. If you’ve ever found the passage of time to be a cruel thing, scary fast, or more sad than enjoyable, I think you’ll connect with this one too. And the plot is a fascinating one, featuring a secret society of folks who live a millennium and have to work as assasins to keep their identity a secret.
David Chang certainly had himself a good year. He climbed to the top of the culinary world by one of the hardest working and most talented chefs, as well as a great storyteller. Anyone who knows how to use food as a medium to tell great stories naturally draws my liking. A couple standouts from his Netflix series were the pizza episode (where he calls out celeb chefs for thumbing their nose at Dominos, then at a Dominos delivery man for inauthentically claiming that their pizza was the best period) and the chicken episode (where he connects fried chicken to race, then switches up the context in Japan.)