Can we all admit that “Best” lists are kind of silly? After all, who gets to decide what is best? And what are the criteria?
That’s why we decided to create a favorites list from this year. Here’s what we loved from this year. (Note: These aren’t necessarily things that released this year.)
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance – Fantastically written and a real eye opener to the everyday realities of a huge portion of America’s population that it is easy to overlook or be biased toward.
Strong and Weak by Andy Crouch – As Crouch usually does, he offers a paradigm that will help readers with everything from leadership to parenting to being a better neighbor. It’s short, incredibly insightful, and practical.
I don’t remember. I think that sums up 2016 in movies.
The Lowe Post – Simply the best NBA podcast available combining real fandom with smart analysis and the best interviews
Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell does Gladwellian things, and that is always fantastic.
Vikings – It has nothing do with my favorite football team which is why it isn’t terrible. It’s a really cool fictionalized look at the conquest of the Vikings to take England and France as well as their own struggles for power.
Narcos – It’s a Netflix show looking at the rise of Pablo Escobar and the efforts of the DEA to bring him down. A bit rough and not for the faint of heart or conscience, but absolutely brilliant.
Amazon Fire TV Stick: – It costs $40 or less and puts my entire viewing experience in one place – Amazon Prime, Netflix, Sling, Sports, and movies.
The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson. I read this three times this year. One of the most important, original and practical books I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommended.
I saw Rogue One yesterday. I liked it. Otherwise, I just watched a bunch of movies I’m familiar with already this year. Like Barnabas said, that probably sums up how I felt about the cinema for 2016.
Common Sense with Dan Carlin – His political and historical commentary through this election year has been peerless. As a non-partisan guy, his thoughts have brought clarity and objectivity in an election cycle that felt like a messy divorce.
Stranger Things – Qualifications:
- I don’t watch TV shows much.
- I don’t like long TV shows (e.g. anything longer than 10ish episodes).
- There wasn’t a real new season of Sherlock released this year, otherwise, that would have been my pick.
That said, I rarely rave about a TV show, and I raved about Stranger Things. I loved it on every level.
I’m a huge fan of the Bullet Journal.
I tried it out for this year. It was amazingly helpful. I’ll probably write about my first year with it, and adjustments I’m making going into year two. In a digital world, I’ve personally found analog tools to be the most helpful for personal productivity.
The Songs of Jesus – Tim and Kathy Keller provide devotional fuel each day to get you studying and praying on your own through the Psalms. The reflections are the right blend of scriptural insight, personal reflection, and good news.
The Black Count – Tom Reiss tells the true story that’s likely behind The Count of Monte Cristo. It drops you into a corner of the French Revolution era that’s seldom visited with fresh, engaging writing. A perfect read for a summer afternoon that allows you to get lost in a real world not your own.
Doctor Strange – The entire movie turns on the line “It’s not about you.” It’s pseudo-spiritual, pseudo-scientific worldview is a muddle, but it hums with reality. It’s confined in major ways by the Marvel formula but it’s gloriously weird where it can be.
Hail Caesar! – The Coen brothers send up 1950s Hollywood and our modern world at the same time. It’s uneven in the best way—keeping you off balance as you run through genre tropes. The plot isn’t the attraction here, it’s the style, and style it has in abundance.
How I Built This (NPR): A podcast about the stories behind companies you know (like Patagonia and Southwest Airlines) could be boring but Guy Raz’ interview skills are the magic here. He refuses to let these founders get by on platitudes and pushes them to really explain the details of their business success. No interview is similar, as no founder is similar, and there’s something to be learned from that.
Peg + Cat – In the terrifying landscape of children’s television this show is a lifesaver. The songs are awesome, the animation stylish, and the humor surprisingly on point.
Designated Survivor – It’s often far too melodramatic, but when it’s good, it fills the hole in my heart created by 24, The West Wing, and CBS criminal procedurals. It makes up for a lot of its weaknesses with earnestness and hope, which is something our cynical age could use more of.
Windows 10 – Yeah you read that right. I’ve been successfully pastoring a church with young evangelicals while using a Windows laptop. Windows 8 nearly sent me back to my Mac but Windows 10 is surprisingly, shockingly, pretty good.
Spotify – I’m hooked on their playlists. Without Spotify, I’d either get nothing done, or I’d be way more productive, but I’m too afraid to quit it and find out.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – This is dystopian fiction my husband will actually read, too, which is saying something. It’s a beautifully written look at the importance of art and creativity as it follows a traveling Shakespeare company in a world left desolate by a deadly sweeping virus. Sounds strange, but it’s incredible.
Everything is Possible With God by Rose Marie Miller – Miller talks about her life as a pastor and missionary’s wife, her weaknesses, and how God changed her over time and gave her pleasure in the plans He had for her. Her transparency and willingness to talk about her sins left me encouraged and refreshed.
Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life – That counts, right? I guess this is technically a show but I can’t remember a single movie I saw this year. This was an incredibly satisfying return to my favorite show after a 10-year hiatus.
RadioLab’s “23 Weeks, 6 Days” – I don’t always love RadioLab but this one episode was powerful. In a year of the released Planned Parenthood videos and the subsequent insistence that abortion is good for women, this honest look at the complexity of life in the womb left me stunned and emotional.
Pop Culture Happy Hour – I listen to a lot of serious podcasts, but this one is fun and lighthearted and I always look forward to it on Fridays. In the midst of my not-cool mom life, it keeps me somewhat in touch with the movies, books, and music that people are consuming in our culture. It’s fun and silly and I love it.
This is Us – Guys, this show is so so good. It’s sentimental and intentionally tries to make you cry every week, but still, it explores love and family in new and interesting ways, and I’ve found it to be better than anything I’ve seen in a long time.
My Simplified Planner by Emily Ley – Despite many attempts on my husband’s part to get me to use iCalendar, I remain steadfast in my love for pen and paper. This is the nicest planner I’ve ever owned, and each day has its own page. If you’re into planners, this one is lovely.
One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson – This is quintessential Bryson: funny, insightful, quirky, gentlemanly, and hugely entertaining. It’s a deep dive into the incredible events that occurred in the summer of 1927, including Lindbergh flying over the Atlantic and Babe Ruth’s heroic 61 homer season. I highly recommend listening to this one.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi – An incredible documentary about a guy who has given his entire life to perfecting sushi. Sounds boring but it is AMAZING.
Reply All – This is, by far, the best podcast out there. Every week it’s a deep dive into the strange, entertaining stories that happen on the internet. You really need to listen to this one.
Homecoming – I don’t normally like drama podcasts, but this one was really good. Also, if you’re a Friends fan, this podcast stars David Schwimmer.
The Great British Bakeoff – This is, hands down, the BEST reality show ever created. It is so very peaceful, so very British, so very NOT like American reality TV.
The Onion – In such a weird, fractious year, the satire produced by this site makes me laugh so hard.
Witness by Whittaker Chambers- At the recommendation of a friend, I picked this book up over Thanksgiving and just finished it. Chambers, the classic witness of the espionage trial of Alger Hiss, combines personal narrative and courtroom drama in a masterful look at forces that caused him, along with others, to embrace Communism. Though the book is not overtly spiritual, Chambers repeatedly describes his journey as one that led ultimately led him, not only to a remarkable worldview change, but also to God Himself.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. Go ahead and mock me. I spent most of 2016 playing catch-up on all of the great books I should have read and didn’t get around to for far too long. Enger’s book defies description – both in terms of its fascinating plot and his masterful writing. I finished the book in a weekend and gave it to my wife, who read it the following week. It may be one of the few books I’ll ever read twice.
Elf – Sure, it’s not a 2016 movie, but as previously stated I’m a bit behind the times. I did recently watch The Accountant twice, and contrary to critic reviews, I really enjoyed it. But, Elf is one flick that never disappoints. For our family of six, it has laughs for all ages.
Revisionist History – Gladwell makes every trip enjoyable with his insightful commentary on the alternative explanations to commonly-held assumptions. Love it.
This is Us – At the request (or command) of my wife, I agreed to watch episode one and I haven’t stopped since. The story is compelling, even for a guy who tends to make fun of these kinds of shows, and the consistent twists and turns always catch me off guard. Though it pains me to admit it, my wife was right, and this show is a must watch.
Airbnb – We are 4 for 4 on better-than-expected stays using Airbnb. With a little research, I’ve found some great places for our family to make memories and enjoy time together. The personal touches of the hosts have made this my first stop when planning future trips.