What usually comes to mind as I think of my “best of” list are primarily books. This year I’ll include music and movie recommendations as well. Beginning with books, I continued reading Southern fiction this year, as my interest was piqued in that genre toward the end of last year. One of my favorite books of the year was Gap Creek by Robert Morgan. It came out in 1999, so I was quite late to this one. But I consider it a must read of the genre: a chronicle of the ups and downs in the marriage of a young couple. By turns heart-wrenching and inspiring, I love this story.
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt was a very different book than what I normally pick up. Not since I binge-read most of Stephen King’s books more than ten years ago have I come across a more suspenseful and scary story than this one. Black Spring is a picturesque town in the Hudson Valley. But it is haunted by the Black Witch- a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sown shut. What happens when a group of the town’s teenagers go viral with the haunting is the stuff of nightmares.
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in years. It was named Irish Book of the Year for 2016, and was in contention for the Man Booker Prize. Marcus Conway sits at his kitchen table and considers the events that took him away and brought him back home. His thoughts unfold stream of consciousness style, while he contemplates events of both local and world significance. This is a challenging and rewarding story.
Changing subjects, last spring I was thrilled to be able to see the Broadway musical, Once, based on the film of the same name. The film instantly became a favorite of mine the first time I watched it, after a friend recommended it to me not long after it released in 2007. So when I heard it was being adapted for Broadway, I knew I needed to see it if it came to a stage near me. And I’m so glad it did. The story follows an Irish vacuum repairman who moonlights as a street musician. He has a chance meeting one day with a Czech immigrant, who has her own musical aspirations. They connect on both a musical and personal level, and decide to record an album of original songs.
The movie progresses with a quiet, restrained power that drew me in and still has a hold on me to this day. The live show has those same moments of tenderness and pathos. But the humor is presented in a more lively and dramatic (for lack of a better word) way. By the time the company reprised “Falling Slowly” to end the show, I was in tears. If you’re a fan of musical theater, this is worth seeing. A word of caution: there is some language and off-color humor in this show.
La La Land was my favorite movie that I saw this year. It released late in 2016, but I am not usually attracted to movies that are hyped as much as this one was. So I avoided it for a while, before finally deciding I would take a chance and watch it. Similar to Once, La La Land follows two creative dreamers: Sebastian, a Jazz musician, and Mia, an aspiring actress. The movie tells the story of the struggles and triumphs of their romantic and creative lives. The big song from this movie, City of Stars, inspired a poem I published on my blog earlier this year.
Thanks for reading. And I would love to know what books, movies, music, and whatever else you enjoyed this year.