I’ve gathered my favorites from 2018 and I’m locking them in, “final answer”. I tend to categorize and collect in life, and that may be reflected below. But it’s also because I have such a bad memory, this list is basically a note to myself to remember later. If you’ve liked some of these too, let me know!
Books | Movies | Podcasts | TV Series | Music
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I finally caught up with the rest of you and your advice was spot on. Read this book!
- All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. An adoptee looks back on her identity as a Korean-American in a “color-blind” white family in rural Oregon. As she awaits her own child’s birth, she searches for her own birth-parents.
- Undivided by Vicky Beeching. The UK worship leader tells how she hid sexual orientation and then found peace.
- My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman. I expect to someday write a review on this book but instead, it’s writing its way out in everything I’m doing. It’s deep and thoughtful and I don’t know if I’ve even finished it because it tends to cause spontaneous journaling. A great introduction to him can be found on this episode of On Being.
- Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. A fun summer read, historical fiction in the early 1900’s New York and environs.
- Eighth Grade from A24. Awkward goodness. Read my earlier review.
- A Star is Born I was surprised by this movie, by Gaga, by Cooper’s direction, and by how affecting a retelling can be when you already know the story.
- Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Mr. Rogers came off so genuine in this movie, which was so thought provoking I wanted to take notes.
- Blackkklansman – Preach it, Spike, and still you made us laugh with some hilarious moments (like white phone voice).
- Bohemian Rhapsody – Followed by coming home and getting lost in YouTube versions of Queen’s 1985 Live Aid concert.
- The Nomad Podcast – Nomad is the granddaddy podcast (is that sexist? how about grandperson podcast) of new angles on old faith; rich interviews and the driest British introduction banter ever. If you’re new to it, try starting with Brian McLaren’s 2016 interview.
- What’s Good with Stretch and Bobbito – early rap DJ’s interview current and past influencers, including The Beastie Boys, Jonah Hill, The Root’s Black Thought.
- The Liturgist Podcasts The impact of Liturgist podcasts was greater in prior years – when it kicked off a series of open-ended faith conversations that played a key part in saving my faith (by letting it sway like an earthquake-ready building). But still enjoyable to listen to, especially now with so much laughter on the show. My favorite this year was the 4 part series on calling Christians Christians (start with Part 1).
- The Lonely Palette – “Returning art history to the masses, one painting at a time.” You can almost hear host Tamar Avishai’s eyes sparkle, as she animately discusses paintings and their historical context.
- The Bible for Normal People – notably their interview with Wil Gafney on Womanist Midrash (mind blown).
- The Bowery Boys – New York City History (great for falling asleep to)
- The Ezra Klein Show – Political deep dives (great for staying awake)
- On Being‘s 2016 interview with Eugene Peterson from his home in Montana. His voice is hoarse – he sounds old – but he also talks of his upbringing in the wilds of Montana and his discovery of the psalms as literature.
2018 was the year of of tv travel… though stuck in America, the wonders of streaming and a little $5 subscription to AcornTV brought me to New Zealand, Australia, and Britain’s best.
TOP SHOW: Ackley Bridge: Following the teachers and teenage students of a Yorkshire mill town, we see the rough but rewarding realm of a cultural crossroads. The school is a merger of a working class white and Pakistani community. Friendships spanning that cultural — and generational — divide are tested as the show brilliantly jumps between the public sphere of the school’s hallways, to the secrets hiding in homes lining the cobblestone streets. And the northern accents are memorably sing-song, each statement ending with a rhetorical question (“he said he loved me, didn’t he?) . Why I liked it: The honesty in the writing, as characters reveal who they are. I’m positively rooting for the kids to succeed, to pull out of their troubled homes and self-shamed hearts, and find their way.
800 Words: George Turner and his teenage kids escape to a small New Zealand town in search of surf after a death. George is a writer, a parent, and a wanna surfer. Need i say more?
The Detectorists: Two rural britons — one cranky, one quirky — search the countryside for ancient Saxon relics. Quickly correcting passers-by who ask if they are Metal Detectors (“No, these are metal detectors; we are Detectorists”), they and their 7-member club fend off a sleepy and immature rival Detector club for the best sites.
Babylon Berlin: Set in 1929 Berlin, this police procedural lives in 3 dimensions as Soviet agents and Communist revolutionaries mix with police above and below the law. Softening it all is the unlikely partnership between Gereon Rath and a office worker-cum-detective Charlotte Ritter. Both have their personal lives to hide from the station; both must keep secrets from each other. Late nights collide at the cabaret club where we see Germany’s underground take on the decadence and depravity of the roaring twenties. (rated Mature, like, for sure)
Broadchurch: Filmed along the beautiful cliffs of Bridport Harbor, UK, the sunset scenery is our worthy relief from this suspenseful whodunit. Each town member takes a turn at the end of our accusing finger after the murder of a young boy. Scottish DI Alec Hardy orders around his less troubled partner Ellie Miller — calling her “Milla!” (against her wishes) — as they work to solve the crime. Not many light moments here, but the suspense rivets us into full escape from the normal drivel.
- The Sinner: Jessica Biel directs and stars as Cora Tannetti – who ‘randomly’ murdered a man at a crowded beach. No spoilers there – this show tells us upfront who committed the murder, the ongoing question is why. Even she doesn’t know. Intense and enthralling.
- Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: but you already know about this one. : )
There was too much good music in 2018 for just one list. So I divided it into 3 moods: Adventure, Fun, and Groove. The Spotify playlists are below, unordered for Shuffle Play. My 3 favorite sources for new music are, 1. my kids, 2. The Lefort Report blog/instagram, and 3. KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic)
Adventure: Exploring new sounds, and trying to keep up with old man Lefort.
- Girl Pool
- Lush by Snail Mail
- Courtney Barnett
- Rex Orange County
- Thank you for Today by Death Cab for Cutie
- Cageless Birds
Fun: A great soundtrack for getting just about anything done.
- Hippo Campus
- Oso Oso
- Sure Sure
- (Yes, this was the year of redundant band names, so may as well throw in Now Now)
- And more individual songs in the playlist
Groove: The perfect playlist when music becomes your “dressing drink” before going out (because you know, we just go out soooo much these days):
- Jamila Woods
- Jorga Smith
- Daniel Caesar
- Jean Grae
I also have one album in the worship category, Audrey Assad‘s Evergreen.
I valued her honesty and hope. Listen to this interview with her, or just skip straight to the album. (I have to say though, her album cover picture is a little too freaky – like Weird Al mocking George Washington)
cover photo: Unknown surfer, photo by Zach!