2018 has been the longest year on record.
As I compiled these little lists, I was shocked more than once about how far back the start of this year seemed to be—“whoa, that was this year?” ad infinitum.
Was 2018 the best year of your life? The worst? The middlingest? All of that is okay.
You are here because you are interested in what kind of 2018 I had. Onward!
The Best of the Books I Read in 2018
The first book I read was so good that it was basically downhill from there all year, but that’s an okay problem to have, really. Hanif Abdurraqib’s They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us was, as I have come to expect from him, full of correct opinions about things I didn’t know we were forming opinions about. It also invited me into his deep grief, which is a sacred space. He has a new book coming in 2019 and you can bet you’ll find it on that best-of list—if he wrote a book that year, it was one of the year’s best.
Though she wrote the book more than a decade ago, Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle changed my life in 2018. We all know that I am not about to dedicate my life to subsistence farming, but this book reminded me of the incredible blessing of my life in Northern California, where growing food and eating food grown locally is almost too easy. We built three raised garden beds in our backyard this summer and we have eaten whole salads that used to be seeds I held in my own hand! How is that even real!?!?!? I love earth.
I heard Stacey May Fowles interviewed on Rhea Butcher’s baseball podcast, ordered Baseball Life Advice before the interview was even over, and started to read it the day it arrived in the mail. It arrived in the midst of my reading drought, and is responsible for bringing me back to life. It made the 2018 baseball season even more enjoyable for me as a fan, too. What can’t this book do!?
The Best Podcasts I Started Listening to in 2018
Somewhat inexplicably, the Binge Mode: Harry Potter podcast is produced by The Ringer, a sports website. The concept is that Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion close-read the seven original Harry Potter books (though they make reference to the wider Potter canon [such a wide canon]) a few chapters at a time, and discern themes and lessons and make note of easter eggs and innuendos and cry about Dumbledore’s death (and like literally everything else) and speculate about forthcoming Wizarding World content. It is a truly deranged undertaking, as was my decision to basically listen only to the backlog of episodes (three or four books worth?) until I caught up with them. I do not even want to estimate the number of hours I have spent listening to them cackle, though I have enjoyed every minute of it. If you want to test your commitment to The Boy Who Lived, try listening to this podcast.
In probably like 2016 or something, BuzzFeed published a listicle of podcasts produced/hosted/etc by Latinas. As I am late to every party, I finally found a new favorite in Alicia Menendez’s Latina to Latina in 2018. She’s Latina (Cuban, from New Jersey) and she interviews one Latina (so many kinds, from so many places) per episode. Essentially, it highlights the myriad ways to be Latina, and the incredible life stories and work of Latinas across the US. I learn so much about so much!
I stopped listening to Dear Hank and John in 2017 (though it is still going on) and then in 2018 John began The Anthropocene Reviewed, a monthly podcast with a nearly opposite vibe. In each short, scripted episode, John gives two very human things—Googling Strangers and Kentucky Bluegrass, for example—starred reviews. That’s the best episode, by the way. Each episode is a delightful ~25 minutes, in general. I give it four stars.
The Most Memorable 2018 Episodes of Podcasts I Have Been Listening to Since At Least 2017
Through a very unexpected turn of events, December 2018 saw the commutation of Earlonne Woods’ prison sentence, and so change is afoot at Ear Hustle. There’s a great mini episode about his release, but the most memorable episode of 2018, for me, was The Row. Life inside a prison may seem homogenous to us on the outside, but Death Row is a mystery even to the general San Quentin population. Earlonne and Nigel were able to communicate with some of the men there, and I was riveted. If you, like me, are interested in working to abolish the death penalty, visit NCADP to find out what you can do in your state.
Obviously I would just recommend that you listen to every episode of my all-time favorite podcast, Call Your Girlfriend, every Friday. They interviewed some I N C R E D I B L E women in 2018, so perhaps start there: Hot and Bothered with Cecile Richards, Pay Caregivers Fairly with Ai-Jen Poo, A Woman’s Anger with Rebecca Traister, Be a Good Ancestor with Stacy Abrams, Rewriting Herstory with Alexis Coe, and Delicious Company with Samin Nosrat! Ugh, the Ladyweb is strong.
The Approximately Four Things I Watched On Screens in 2018, Which I Would Recommend
Holy forking shirtballs, you guys, I love The Good Place. I binged the first two seasons on Netflix with Jonathan in like...four days. I am still catching up on Season 3 (which just ended) on Hulu, so I won’t be current until Season 4 (which just got ordered). I am fascinated by how much TGP is like my other beloved Michael Shur project, Parks and Recreation, and how it’s unlike anything else going on on TV. It’s so smart—I mean, they go to Philosophy class half of every episode in S1—and I love every character’s absolutely bonkers terribleness. One of my favorite things that is not actually about the show is how many people on twitter thought that Blake Bortles was a made-up name for the show, not the actual quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Can you even believe that Black Panther came out in 2018? It honestly feels like 100 years ago. I loved this movie so much that I watched it on an airplane with closed captions because my dumb iPhone headphones don’t plug into the thing. It was like the fourth time I’d seen it and I just needed to pass some turbulent time. I digress! If you don’t like comic book movies or whatever, you should still see this one. It’s gorgeous, the music is fantastic, bad guys are vanquished, what more could you want?
As a general rule, I do not watch stand-up comedy, because it’s just...not for me. This year, though, I enjoyed two (two!) entire stand-up specials, and so you should know about them. John Mulaney’s Kid Gorgeous and Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette have nothing to do with each other besides being things I watched. You have probably read (or scrolled past) a thinkpiece or twelve about Nanette. It gets right at why I, as a general rule, do not watch stand-up comedy. Kid Gorgeous has perhaps changed my working life for the better, if only because our staff now routinely intones “the bread of bread is bread” at all available opportunities. Laughing is good for you, but be sure what you’re laughing at should be laughable.
The Best of the Things I Did for the First Time in 2018
If you are reading this, you probably are also subscribed to my fortnightly email newsletter, A Little Bit of Sunshine, which I launched in January. It is delightful (and challenging) to repackage all of the things I’m consuming into this format—someone to meet, something(s) to listen to, something(s) to read, and a closing poem—and stave off the apocalyptic news cycle we’re all already dealing with. It’s not incredibly consequential, but it’s a little bit of sunshine. The first edition of 2019 hits inboxes on Friday, January 4.
If you've been reading my writing for a while you may recall that I ceremonially announced my reading list in December/January and then in May I abandoned my reading list. That's not a thing I do. I do not mean to imply that I always finish everything I start. On the contrary, I often draw things out for an unnecessary long while and feel very bad about essentially quitting them. The "first" in this instance was that I dumped a project and refused to feel shame about it. Life is too short to read things you don't want to read when you could be reading all sorts of things you do want to read!!!!! Go read.
Jonathan and I bought a house! This is the wide open internet so I am definitely not going to tell you our address or post a virtual tour or whatever, but you are invited to visit us in Woodland, CA at your earliest convenience. Owning a home is one of the parts of the American Dream that seems the most unfair. We could not have done this without the generational wealth of our families, who generously contributed to our down payment. Everyone should be able to live safely and securely, and I intend to keep that in mind as housing regulations come through the legislature and onto my ballot—how are we ensuring that more people have housing, not just that our housing is worth more? I hope you are thinking about that, too—especially if you own a home.
The Best of the Places I Went in 2018
According to TripIt (an app you should be using if you travel even a little bit), I spent a total of 71 days this year traveling 32,313 miles to 24 cities in 5 countries. What a year!
On our honeymoon, Jonathan and I spent 4 days in the Italian city of Genoa, from which many delicious culinary inventions hail—Genoise sponge cake (known in Genoa as pan di Spagna), basil pesto, and dried pasta, to name a few! It's not just that the city of Genoa was among the best places I went in 2018, but especially A Small Kitchen in Genoa, where we spent half a day cooking and eating and learning with Enrica Monzani. I don't know if a trip to the Italian Riviera is on your agenda, but if you get the chance to swing through, Enrica will enrich your stay significantly.
In October, I spent a whirlwind week doing several holy things. I started by flying to Denver, meeting up with my mom, and driving to Grand Junction, CO for the ordination of my friend Ben. Then we drove to Fort Collins, CO for the baptism of a beloved babe, Hannah Christian. Mama K flew home, but I flew on to St. Louis, MO for the Episcopal Service Corps Program Director meeting. Over the course of those 9 days, I saw dozens of people I love who are doing incredible things for the world by their very lives. I also enjoyed two the sights and sounds of three communities that matter to people who matter to me. I am not, perhaps, recommending these cities for your next vacation, but recommending that you get in the car or on a plane to the people you love, when you can.
“That’s it. That’s all. That’s all there is.” —The Beastie Boys