Once again, as it's December, I'm looking back over the last year. It's a different kind of list here on TRLS, though, mainly because I'm not a paid, professional critic, and I don't spend that much time reading quote-unquote real books, nor going to the cinema. My list, then, is of the best things that I read, saw, and listened to this year. In regards to the music, it's my opinion on the best of what came out this year. In regards to the books and movies, though, it's a sampling of the things that I experienced that were worthwhile. I'll be checking back in a few days from now with my end of the decade list of songs and albums, which will have very little similarity to some of the others I've seen. Without further ado.
Best Things I Read in 2009
White Teeth - Can't believe it's only been a year since I finished Zadie Smith's first work. Stunningly powerful, it influenced everything else I read this year.
An Abundance of Katherines - John Green's second book, better than Paper Towns, which I also read, but won't make this list, full of fun characters and an interesting quirk. I refuse to believe those who say they didn't see the twist at the end, though.
Too Cool to be Forgotten - Lots of press on this one, but it turned out to be just all right. An interesting idea that was certainly interesting in its execution, somehow the sum felt like less than the total of its parts. Frustrating, but worth reading.
The Loud Silence of Francine Green - After I read this book, I read a review on Amazon by someone who claimed to be a teacher, who said they didn't know much about McCarthyism, and who said they thought Francine was a dangerous role model. My head almost exploded at the irony. Read this book.
Harry Potter - While I was in Pittsburgh this summer, I read all of the Harry Potter books. They were magnificent. I know this has already been written, so I don't have much to add other than to say if you haven't read them, there's literally nothing worth waiting on.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh - Given to me by Kat while I was there, Chabon knocks another one out of the park. (Although, this was his first, right? So, I mean, I guess this was the first one he knocked out of the park.) I was so engrossed by his tale of semi-regular folk that I think I blazed through this one in a day. Get it.
Speak - In preparation for my class, I read this book, centering around the transformation a girl in high school undergoes after she's raped. It's incredibly powerful, incredibly well-written, and doesn't aim for anything grandiose; it tells the story in everyday language in a manner that any person of any age will be able to get. The best book I read all year, besides White Teeth.
Comic Books - This year was a weird year for me and my comic book tastes. I loved everything, but nothing stood out. While Blackest Night kicks ass, it's still ongoing. And Batman and Robin is great, but it misses Quitely's art when he's not there. The Flash: Rebirth mini has suffered from delays, as did seemingly every big book. The single best book that came out in 2009 was Adventure Comics, with Geoff Johns writing and Francis Manapul drawing, but my enthusiasm for this title has waned with the last two Gerry Ordway books and the knowledge that Geoff and Francis are departing imminently. What a drag.
Note - I also read the remainder of the Twilight books this year. They were terrible. However, I'm not going to ride the anti-Twilight bandwagon, because I firmly believe that any book that gets kids reading is a good book. I'm sure there were people who looked at me when I was growing up and saw my nose buried in comic books and thought I was wasting my time.
Watchmen - That's right, it's on my list. It's not a perfect film but it's a damn good one. In a year with no Iron Man, this stands out as the cream of the comic book movie crop.
The Class - Depressing in the best way. It really made me question whether I truly want to go teach in France or even if I want to continue doing it at all.
Away We Go - Man, what a great movie. Maybe my movie of the year? Just a super honest look at how people are doing things nowadays, with hardly a pretty, tied-up resolution in sight, and believable depth to all the characters.
Up - I know this is going to get many people's votes as movie of the year, and I'm not going to disagree with those people. A solid contender. Doing its best to make the claim that animation isn't just for kids anymore.
Star Trek - JJ Abrams is my Master now. 'Nuff said?
Moon - Not nearly as good as I wanted it to be, but deserving to be on this list mainly for its reinforcing of the idea that Sam Rockwell deserves more!
I also caught, for what its worth, from years past, Gran Torino (tops of the list), Fanboys, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (not nearly as bas as some people tried to make it out to be), and The Namesake (beautiful).
Things I Heard in 2009
In no particular order: BlakRoc by BlakRoc was one of the best, simply put. It's Blitz by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs seemed a little too disco at first for my tastes, but then I realized it was just killer rock. Dark Night of the Soul by Sparklehorse, Danger Mouse, and David Lynch. If you don't own this album, you missed out on 2009. Wilco (The Album) by Wilco the band - not nearly as good as Sky Blue Sky, but got more press - why? Jaydiohead: The Encore from Minty Fresh Beats was waaaay better than the first one, and Only Built for Cuban Linx II from Raekwon was as good as everyone billed.
The Ecstatic by Mos Def is the only album not on that list that might have a place, Phoenix's album was good but not great, Fall Out Boy will always have a place in my heart, but the album was uneven, and Jay-Z has no place on this list.
What'd I miss?