Favorite Things in 2017
One of my favorite things about the end of the year is all the “best of the year” lists.
Well, I don’t have the authority to tell you what’s “the best.” But I did read, watch, play and listen to a lot in 2017, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites.
These items did not necessarily come out in 2017. For some, I just discovered them during the year.
It’s a fairly long list, but feel free to scan to the categories you’re most interested in and check some of them out.
How to Think
This is a short, yet powerful book. In our current political climate, this is a must read.
This was probably the most affecting book I read this year. It’s the story of a lawyer who defends people on death row, children sentenced to life imprisonment, and the like. It’s a powerful account of some of the injustices in our justice system. With its heavy subject matter, it’s not a fun read, but it’s an important one.
You Are What You Love
This one had the most affect on my spiritual life this year. It helped me see the importance of my habits in shaping my values.
I, like many of you, I’m sure, often feel unfocused, distracted, and generally unproductive. This book helped me to see why that is, and form better habits in my work.
Moonwalking With Einstein
This book was fun. And it really made me think about the power of human memory. It’s the account of a journalist who wanted to write a story on memory champions and ended up becoming one himself. It was a fascinating and fun read, and quickly shot up to one of my favorite books of all time.
The Kingkiller Chronicles
I read the first and second books in this series. (The third is still being written.) It’s an incredible story, with incredible characters, and incredible writing. I blew through the approximately 2000 pages these first two books contain.
I’ve heard some describe it as a hybrid of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Whatever it is, it drew me in and I loved it.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
My wife had been trying to convince me to read this for a long time. It’s one of, if not her favorite book, and rightly so. It’s a difficult story, beautifully written. A classic.
(Just as a forewarning, I only use Apple stuff. Sorry to you Andrioid and Windows people. You’re not really going to find much here.)
I started using this app for all my writing this year and it’s been great. It’s got a well designed, simple interface, with lots of great features. Everything from a podcast outline, to ideas for a class lecture, to a 20 page writing sample for a masters in philosophy application — it all started here.
If you make lots of outlines, I highly recommend this app. Every single one of my lectures this semester has ended up here. It makes it easy to rearrange sections when editing, collapse and expand when reviewing, and share to other applications if you’re planning on doing something else with it. It’s a great app.
I compulsively check the weather, and this app has been great for that addiction. The app interface itself is pretty good, but I really love it for its widget. It shows my most wanted information in a quickly understandable and visually pleasing way. And I can access it with just a swipe on the the lock screen.
I know, another weather app. It’s a bit crazy, but hear me out. Partly Sunny is what I use on the iPhone, but on my Apple Watch, Carrot Weather is the best. It’s got a bit of snark, which is fun and is kind of their thing. But it also is the best designed Apple Watch app I’ve seen. If you upgrade to their highest level subscription (which I don’t, yet), you can even get radar on your wrist, which is kind of insane.
The Weekly Planet
If you’re into comic book movies, you need to be listening to The Weekly Planet. These guys are hilarious. This quickly became one of my favorite podcasts.
Exploring My Strange Bible
I’ve recommended the Bible Project before, and I’d still highly recommend it now, but this is another podcast they started releasing. It’s a collection of talks by Tim Mackie, one of the guys from the Bible Project. And they are all brilliant.
Only the Good Stuff
This is a fun little jolt of happiness to your week. The premise of the show is that Stephen Altrogge, the host, talks to Christian authors, speakers, and others about things they’ve been enjoying. No grumbling, no complaining, only the good stuff. It’s a nice reprieve from the normal workings of the internet.
The movie is brilliantly crafted. It’s beautifully shot, has a great soundtrack, and is one of the most unique movies you’ll ever see.
The Last Jedi
I loved this movie. Incredible acting, beautiful cinematography, it was great. Personally, it and The Force Awakens are my favorite Star Wars movies.
(Starting here, there’s a theme with the rest of my movie picks — they’re all comic book movies. Personally, I’m 100% on board with their rise. I love superheroes, I love their stories, and I love pretty much all of the movies that have been released by both Marvel and DC.)
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
By far, my favorite take on Spider-Man. I love the budding superhero vibe, the humor, the villain. It was great.
This movie was hard to watch, but so good. It definitely did justice to the character, and Hugh Jackman went out as Wolverine with a bang.
With the exception of the poor casting choice for the villain, this was a nearly perfect movie. Gal Gadot was great, the action was great, the bits of humor were great. I loved it.
The first time I saw this one I thought it was good. The second time, I thought it was great. I have no idea why my opinion changed, but it did. I loved Taika Waititi’s take on the character. It was a blast.
Also, Korg made the movie.
(Notice, I didn’t say “the best.” These are my favorites.)
There are some real problems with this movie, most notably some weird CGI. But, I love these characters. So, for me, it was a ton of fun seeing them together on the big screen.
This is Us
Every time we watch this, I think, “How is TV this good?” The characters, while sometimes over-dramatic, are deep and interesting. The writing is superb. It tells meaningful stories, and it is constantly surprising.
Master of None
Aziz Ansari is hilarious, and Master of None is a brilliantly constructed show. Season two came out this year, and it was just as good, if not better than season one. It draws you in, makes you laugh, and (like This is Us) tells meaningful stories. Also, since it’s a Netflix original, Ansari is able to do things normal TV shows can’t. He’s used that freedom to do creative things no show I’ve seen has done before.
(Quick warning. Being on Netflix also gives him freedom with language and the like. So it’s not a show to watch with your kids.)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
After the very first episode this was my wife’s favorite show. It’s the story of a highly independent, hilarious woman and her budding comedy career. The characters are quirky, the writing is witty, and the story is dramatic, yet fun.
We enjoyed it so much we immediately started watching through it a second time.
(Also not a show to watch with your kids. The language is a bit rough, to say the least.)
Before this year, I couldn’t remember the last time I played a video game. I, for some reason, had a bias against the idea. Honestly, it was mostly pride, feeling good up on my high horse, not being one of those twenty-something year old guys who plays video games all the time.
But honestly, video games can be great for a persons mental health. Studies have shown a moderate amount of gaming can help with stress, depression, and help build community.
In addition to those benefits, I also liked the idea of playing some games I’d been hearing about which had really great stories. The benefit of video games is that those great stories can be even more impactful, because you’re not a distant observer, you’re taking part in the story itself.
Anyway, with the prompting of a friend, I took the plunge and bought a PS4. (Which could be a pick in itself. Not perfect, but a great console.) These are the games I’ve been playing this year. All of which I loved.
As mentioned above, I love superheroes. So unsurprisingly, the first game I bought was a superhero one. My wife and I have had a ton of fun playing this one. I also brought it on our family vacation, where we spent hours playing tournaments as a family.
Batman: Arkham Knight
I wasn’t a huge fan of all the stylistic choices in the game, but the mechanics and the story were great. I had a blast playing it.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
This would be my pick for game of the year. I’ve just recently been getting into it, and it’s wonderful. It’s a beautiful world, which makes it fun to simply experience it. It also has an intriguing story that adds to the desire to keep jumping back into it. Highly recommend.
Mr Sunday Movies
I mentioned The Weekly Planet in the podcasts section. This guy is one of the two guys on that show. He’s hilarious. If you’re into comic book movies, you should be watching his channel. So much fun.
This is a new channel Bobby Ross started just a couple months ago. His cinematography is beautiful and he’s a ton of fun to watch. He also happens to be a friend, and Sam and I appeared in one of his episodes.
I’d love to hear from you. What were some of your favorites from 2017?